Tag Archives: Album of the Day

Album of the Day: Dent May, “Across the Multiverse”

In just one sentence on his new record Across The Multiverse, Los Angeles musician Dent May travels from Hollywood heroism to complete fatalism. Over a wash of bright piano, strings, and a delightful bass groove, May croons, “I’m gonna live forever until I’m dead!” This is, in seven words, the story of his remarkable new album: it’s about the indulgences of life and the inevitability of our destruction, buoyed by pillowy melodies and eclectic, retro sounds.

Originally from Mississippi, May moved to L.A. a few years ago. Across The Multiverse uses a rich sonic palette to explore the existential side of California glam: a collage of disco strings, crystalline guitars (with the occasional harmonized fuzz solo), and bright-eyed piano chording. Over the ‘80s pop thrum of “Picture On A Screen,” he ponders our affection for digitized incarnations of people we may never meet, while the echoey, barroom-piano shuffle of “90210” finds him adapting to his new West Coast home. “Face Down in the Gutter of Your Love” brings plucky funk riffing and a string-driven, stomp-and-clap boogie breakdown to the fore.

May wants to engage earnestly with cotton-candy poptimism just as much as he wants to poke holes in those same enticing, falsified structures—and in doing so, he weaves a playful, warm soundscape over which to ponder our mortality and loneliness. Throughout the record, we’re teased with the torturous hope that we might overcome our bleak realities. The magic of Across the Multiverse is that May doesn’t have any easy answers, but the pop hooks lure us in, inviting us to suss out these universal ambiguities right alongside him.

Luke Ottenhof

Album of the Day: Dwight Trible, “Inspirations”

It’s one thing to have a powerful voice, but Dwight Trible has the kind of baritone you tell people about. He can stretch a note, then round it off neat; he enunciates clearly and declaims with range; he is equal parts strength and supplesse, and zero parts smarm. You imagine it comes as the result of great experience, which it does.

He’s worked with late legendary bandleader Horace Tapscott and current tenor-sax torchbearer Kamasi Washington. He sings mantras with Pharoah Sanders, format-breaking compositions with Nicole Mitchell, and electronic cut-and-paste with Mark de Clive-Lowe and Carlos Niño. His new album was made in England with trumpeter and producer Matthew Halsall, far from the fertile musical groundswell of Los Angeles. But it does find him in the taproot of his jazz endeavors—it’s a straightforward, straight-ahead showcase for his earnest interpretations.

It’s called Inspirations, which could well apply to his repertoire choices. Spiritual concerns are considered in “Heaven & Hell” by Dorothy Ashby and “Dear Lord” by Alice Coltrane. A single pedal point on “What The World Needs Now” and a wholly-committed essay on “Feeling Good” chug along at an even pace. The standard “I Love Paris” and Donny Hathaway’s commentary “Tryin’ Times” deliver equal intensity to different ends. Folk song “Black Is The Colour of My True Love’s Hair” and spiritual “Deep River” connect to longer histories. It’s all clearly executed with full-throated investment, which makes it easy to believe he’s inspired.

The setting, however, is more a blowing session than a syncretic collaboration. The bulk of Inspirations takes place at relaxed or slower tempos. The rhythm section of Taz Modi (piano), Gavin Barras (bass), and Jon Scott (drums, chiefly) is tactful and propulsive as necessary, but generally unobtrusive. Similarly, Halsall solos with restraint and ample space—he certainly doesn’t upstage his guest. If you know what else the leading men are capable of, perhaps you’d be looking for a deeper synthesis of big ears. Then again, there’s not really a bad way to hear Dwight Trible meld a familiar song into his own.

Patrick Jarenwattananon

Album of the Day: The Doppelgangaz, “Dopp Hopp”

Over the course of their career, New York rapper-producers Matter Ov Fact and EP—aka The Doppelgangaz—have spun their discography into an inside joke of sorts. Within their verses, Fact and EP conjure up dingy, non sequitur vignettes, taking close-ups of demented deadbeats on benders, holed up in roach motels and decrepit nursing homes. The rappers wear black cloaks for no apparent reason, other than to conjure up a cultish flair.

On Dopp Hopp, their recently-released sixth full-length album (excluding a handful of instrumental LPs), Fact and EP have turned this bewildering barrage into a massive manifesto, but it’s also just another chapter in their long-running gag. That the Doppelgangaz don’t take themselves too seriously is obvious; that they never let up on their bit is the real accomplishment.

Until recently, the Doppelgangaz pushed a smooth-around-the-edges style of boom-bap, using dusty beats as the backdrop for tortuous plots. Dopp Hopp confirms a recent and still developing turn in which they lean nostalgically into smooth R&B and G-funk without sacrificing the shock value of their tongue-in-cheek horrorcore. “Strong Ankles,” with its pristine synths and bubbling bass, might be a sultry banger in another MC’s hands, and while Fact and EP turn it into a love song of sorts, their barometers for attraction are morsels of lovey-dovey repulsion. “Shorty sneeze guacamole and when she’s bleeding it’s ragu,” Fact quips at one point, never letting on that a joke has been told. “Rapamycin,” named for a non-recreational pharmaceutical you won’t hear anyone else in the rap game brag about, is a mission statement on debauchery and gourmet tastes alike.

Then on “Roll Flee,” EP strings together enough exotic rarities to trigger a dozen new Google searches. That skin condition of his you can’t stop looking at? It’s not mites, it’s a form of herpes called zoster. His four-legged companion? A Madagascan mammal called a fossa. The dinner bill they’re dashing from? An extravagant sushi lineup from New York’s famous Masa. All this in a few grinning, spectacular bars. It sounds random because, well, it is, but the Doppelgangaz revel in this type of weirdo world-building.

Baffling vocabulary and clever lyricism allow both rappers to say a lot with a little. Then again, even once you’ve sussed out a meaning, you might still wonder what the hell these guys are talking about. There’s no setup or post-joke wink in a Doppelgangaz verse. There’s no punchline at all. They’re just shining their spotlight into the darker crevices of a shared imagination.

Jay Balfour

Album of the Day: Dzang, “3G”

Dzang is both the recording project of Los Angeles-based musician Adam Gunther and the name of the label he runs. His compositions, and the label itself, serve multiple purposes: to make the avant-garde more accessible, while pushing the limits of pop music. On 3G, Gunther’s third LP as Dzang, the multi-instrumentalist crafts dance-indebted rap, gorgeous piano ballads, and everything in between.

Gunther uses 3G as a showcase for L.A.’s up-and-coming singers and songwriters, allowing vocalists like Maria Minerva and Olivia Kaplan to shine without obstruction. Minerva and Kaplan are featured on two songs apiece, and their voices mesh perfectly with Gunther’s slinking psychedelic romps and minimal, pop-oriented melodies. Elsewhere, on “So Young,” an alt-R&B tune with massive percussion, Gunther enlists L.A. mainstay Maxim Ludwig, whose floating hums wash in from a celestial place. Conversely, on album opener “My Name (Nana),” Gunther gets help from rapper Don Christian, who spits double-time flows over an austere dance beat and pitch-shifted vocals. This and other tracks speak to Gunther’s equally thrilling and off-kilter sonic world.

Though Dzang is a project based on collaboration, some of 3G’s strongest moments come when Gunther performs alone. “Supercomplication” is a warm, electro-shoegaze anthem, blending the astral progressions of M83 with the low-end thump of Flying Lotus’s early beat scene forays. The album’s final track, “Take You Down To,” begins with hypnotic looping before descending into free jazz. Its thumping, four-on-the-floor bass drum keeps the song rooted.

3G’s most impressive trick isn’t the album’s diversity, it’s how seamlessly this multitude of influences blend into something entirely fresh. Dzang can be tricky to grasp, but once you understand the concept, it pulls you in even further.

Will Schube

Album of the Day: Powerdance, “The Lost Art of Getting Down”

The contributions of Luke Solomon to house music culture worldwide since he started DJing in 1990 could fill books. His connections to U.S. heroes like Derrick Carter (they founded Classic Recordings together) kept the U.K. scene anchored in the roots of club culture, and to this day he easily spans deep underground and mainstream dance culture through his A&R role at Defected.

After so many years and so many shifts in the scene, it’s impressive that he hasn’t become jaded. His Powerdance project crackles with undimmed love of the whole ritual of nightlife in all its technicolor glory. The Lost Art of Getting Down is, very simply, a fusion of early house music with disco at its giddiest heights. Every song is about dancing and clubbing, and rides a steady four-to-the-floor pulse. But within that is so much depth and variety. Most significantly, the deeper roots of disco—in LGBT culture, in gospel, in psychedelia—are celebrated at every turn.

The lyrics likewise both serve immediate function as exhortations to dance, and reach out to something more universal. References to the club as “A Safe and Happy Place,” and the plea “let’s love like innocents, let’s sing” are reminders that dancing can be a sacrament, a social glue, a savior for those who otherwise struggle to find their place in the world. This isn’t hippy-dippy hey-wow-let’s-come-together rhetoric—the deeply-rooted psychedelic high camp edge makes sure of that. It’s hard-won wisdom by and for people who really understand the power and value of the groove.

Joe Muggs