Author Archives: Editorial

“I Hustle From Sunup to Sundown and Even Then I Need a Night Light”: Hezekiah’s Remarkable Comeback

Hezekiah

2016 was a tough year for the U.S. as a whole, marked by political unrest and the loss of many beloved public figures; for Philadelphia-based rapper, producer, and singer Hezekiah, it was just as eventful on a smaller scale, replete with professional triumphs and personal tragedy. His funky rock outfit, Johnny Popcorn, dropped their catchy, hard-hitting, anthemic opus Totem Poleand Hezekiah was struck with a sudden brain aneurysm that hospitalized him and (very briefly) limited his musical output.

For the past 20+ years, Hezekiah has been working to refine his own brand of soulful, progressive hip-hop. In addition to his solo work and Johnny Popcorn, Hezekiah is a co-founder of Beat Society, a legendary live beat event that was one of the first of its kind. In the early part of the 2000’s, Beat Society played host to then-up-and-coming producers such as Kanye West and Illmind, with a young Diplo serving as the in-house DJ.

Currently recovering from the aneurysm, Hezekiah is gearing up for the release of his newest, star-studded solo EP, GODS. We sat down with him to talk about his career and get insight into what his future holds.

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The Dark Sonic Evolution of Grails

Grails

Grails is a band shrouded in mystery. That’s not because of some great promotional effort, but because the seldom-touring and geographically far-flung outfit changes their style as they please. At various times in Grails’ discography, fans could point to the band as an experimental noise group, a heavy metal band, a free-jazz collective or a classical orchestra.

To hear co-founder Emil Amos tell it, that un-boxable and ever-shifting sound—Grails’ central mystery—is what has sustained his band for the past 18 years. The group’s latest album, Chalice Hymnal, trades some of the band’s darkly claustrophobic tendencies for majestic wide-open spaces. That’s about as fine a point one can put on an LP that dabbles in everything from krautrock to smooth jazz. Amos points to Italian and British “library music” as a prime influence for the album.

Still, the band continues to evolve. Its current modus operandi is propelled less by muscle than by a legitimately moving sense of sonic scale. “The way you transmute anger can become very subtle as you get older,” Amos tells me via telephone. He’s walking the streets near his home in Bushwick, the M train occasionally rattling by above him. “You start to perceive that there are other ways to be angry, and there are other ways to be impossibly dark.”

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The Best New Jazz on Bandcamp

Best New Jazz

Nothing quite signals the start of a new year than those couple of excellent January releases that already have you thinking ahead to end-of-year lists. January of 2017 is no different. And in a year when it seems like the worst of us is taking center stage, it’s a helpful reminder of the beauty humanity is capable of.

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Music for Relaxation: A Meditation Journey

meditation-600-3

Nicole Ginelli

This was supposed to be one of those eight-hour nights of sleep. You were in bed by 10pm, but now, as you reach for your phone for the third time, the device stoically informs you that it’s 12:46am. Maybe you flick open a popular meditation app (it rhymes with deadspace) and wait for the man with the ever-so-slightly British (or is it Australian?) accent to talk to you off the ledge. But this time, he’s not helping; neither is your brain, which continuously presents you with items to add to your daily to-do list, offering worst-case scenarios for the stressful day that’s now just a few hours away.

Sound familiar? In this era of non-stop connectivity, the constant barrage of information is nearly impossible to tune out. Your phone, which is likely the culprit of your anxiety, is, in a cruel twist of fate, also your alarm clock. We have become a well-connected society of masochists who are unable to relax.

There’s no choice, then, but to turn to the experts: The composers and musicians in the business of making music specifically designed to help you disconnect, unplug and, eventually, calm down. These are the people who have found enough peace that they can share it with others. They make spoken-word guided meditations, 30-minute ambient tracks, songs with Tibetan singing bowls, meditation for aligning energy, sleep aids—the list goes on. After spending a few weeks rooting around in the meditation tags on Bandcamp, I’ve discovered that there truly is a path to peace for everyone.

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Album of the Day: Lawrence English, “Cruel Optimism”

A little bit of advice when listening to Lawrence English’s new album, Cruel Optimism: turn the volume way down before track three kicks in. Considerably louder than anything that comes before or after it, “Hammering a Screw” is a palate cleanser spiked with cyanide. It’s noise that’ll knock you out.

There’s a method to all this madness—English is making moody protest music with such new and old friends as saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, two key members of Swans‘ current lineup (guitarist Norman Westberg, percussionist Thor Harris), cellist Mary Rapp, and pianist Chris Abrahams. That’s the plan on paper, at least. Liner notes aside, it’s difficult to discern who did what here, as disembodied voices point the way to Popol Vuh (“Somnambulist”), church bells and chimes ring out through the night (“The Quietest Shore”), and muffled brass melodies slide across soupy winter atmospheres (“Exquisite Human Microphone”).

In many ways, Cruel Optimism serves as a compliment to the abstract score English and Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart performed as part of David Lynch’s contemporary art retrospective in Australia. Ominous but never overwrought, it’s as if the titular fog in John Carpenter’s 1980 film returned in the middle of the night and strangled the sun for the next 60 days. Or as English puts it in a press release, “the storm has broken and feels utterly visceral.”

—Andrew Parks