Mr. Mitch Redefines Grime’s Boundaries

Mr Mitch

Photo by Piotr Niepsuj.

Born from malleable periods of experimentation, the possibilities in newly-formed genres can be thrilling. Later on, though, a clearly defined sound—and the purists who come with it—can stifle creativity. Mr. Mitch (aka Miles Mitchell), has faced this issue head-on—coming through the grime scene formed in London’s early ‘00s, he’s consistently tried to find his own particular take on the music. Part of a younger crop of DJs and producers on labels like Local Action, Butterz, and Different Circles, looking to widen grime’s horizons, he’s long nudged the scene’s boundaries outward.

His first album, Parallel Memories, dove into the softer side of his preceding EPs. Released in 2014, he tapped into the same slowed-down, melodic approach in evidence previously; most notably, on the Peace Edits—a series of serene, meditative remixes intended as antidote to 2012’s then-trend for aggressive war dubs—released on his own Gobstopper label. Combining glassy, pliable synths with sharp, drum machine cracks, pitched down from grime’s rapid-fire, eight-bar norm, it was an engrossing debut built on a warm, endearing feeling of melancholy.

His new album, Devout, sees big, emotive melodies splashed brighter than before. Bringing several collaborators on board (including vocal spots from his two kids), it sees Mitchell expanding his palette. Sketching a vision for a bigger, grime-influenced spectrum of pop, it’s an atmospheric remodeling of his R&B and synth-pop influences. We spoke to Mitchell about positive images of fatherhood, establishing recognition for grime producers, and the ever-evolving future he sees for the music.

Continue reading

The Rich, Meditative Essence of Brother Ah

Brother Ah

When Brother Ah comes to the door, he extends one hand to shake and carries an autoharp in his other. “C’mon in,” he says, smiling broadly. He is remarkably spry for an octogenarian, eager to explain the ritual he was engaged in. “I was just playing to the plants.”

We’re at his house in Takoma Park, a largely residential neighborhood in the northwest corner of Washington, D.C. There are several potted houseplants in a sunny alcove of his living room; he says he can tell when they respond to the sounds he makes every day. He later tells me he also plays for animals and insects, often during early mornings in the forests of Rock Creek Park a mile to the east. He’s also played for his late dog, or for the robins which took up residence above his front door. Brother Ah plays to connect with, amplify, or complement the naturally-occurring frequencies found in nature, and for his own meditation, circulation and self-healing.

“People feel as though they’re superior, or separate,” he says. “We think we’re the only ones with a higher consciousness. We have to realize that we don’t have the intuitive understanding of many of the other aspects of nature. They’re far ahead of us.”

Continue reading

This Week’s Essential Releases: Art Punk, Celestial Jazz, and Hip-Hop

7 essential

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

Continue reading

Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth on Songwriting and Side Hustling

Wooden Wand

James Jackson Toth’s career has been one of constant restlessness. At age 18, he began making Jandek-influenced psych-folk tunes and eerie noise recordings under the name Golden Calves. Then came his Wooden Wand moniker, and collaborative work with The Vanishing Voice, a staple of the “New Weird America” scene along with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, and Akron/Family.

Frustrated by the constraints of that freak-folk style, Wooden Wand’s subsequent recordings took a more traditional alt-country approach, albeit one that has continuously evolved using subtle experimentation. Myriad collaborators and backing bands have helped Wooden Wand vary his sound from badass outlaw country music, to softly haunting folk ballads, to semi-improvised Crazy Horse jams.

While this restlessness has long fed Toth’s extraordinary prolificacy, Clipper Ship arrives after the longest break ever between Wooden Wand studio albums: exactly three years to the day since 2014’s Farmer’s Corner. “It feels increasingly senseless to continue to release albums in the traditional way, given both technological and cultural changes as well as the general mood of the country,” says Toth. “I began feeling guilty about adding to the glut, especially at a time when most people are rightfully far more concerned about losing their health care than they are about hearing a new batch of Wooden Wand tunes. Promoting such a thing seemed very suddenly vain, oblivious, disrespectful, and unnecessary. That said, I am an artist—that’s my function in the world—so I reasoned that as long as my contributions remained positive, they might continue to serve as some kind of balm or respite from the madness.”

Continue reading

The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: April 2017

Best-New-Jazz-April-600

Spring is fast approaching and excellent new recordings have begun sprouting up everywhere in the new jazz section, ample proof of the rich, diverse range of sounds and styles to be found in the modern jazz scene.

Continue reading