Tag Archives: Electronic

Olivia Neutron-John’s Playful, Pointed Experimental Pop

Olivia Neutron John

Photo by Jen Dissinger

“When you don’t fit into any specific category, you make your own,” says Anna Nasty, aka Olivia Neutron-John, over the phone. “I use language as it suits.” Nasty describes Olivia Neutron-John’s music as “post-bro,” and if that, or the project name itself, doesn’t give it away, they’re very interested in artistic playfulness. But while wordplay and being clever are important, Nasty’s music and artistry is serious. Olivia Neutron-John combines Nasty’s Casiotone—used for synth melodies and drum patterns—with incisive lyricism, and fuses noise, post-punk, and synth-pop into one singularly delightful sound.

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Album of the Day: Big Bend, “Radish”

Big Bend is the songwriting vehicle of Ohio keyboardist Nathan Phillips, who unveiled the moniker four years ago with the release of instrumental electronic album, Hunched. Now, he returns with Radish, a collection of tracks culled from largely improvised recording sessions featuring a revolving door of musicians—including Clarice Jensen, Laraaji, and Susan Alcorn—that hugely expands on the machinery-meets-the-avant-garde minimalism of his debut.

A daring arranger, Phillips assembles various sonic trinkets into stunning, nonsensical concoctions. Take the programmed, muscular percussion slaps that power “Before,” juxtaposed with delicate, wailing Eastern-style guitar. Or Shahzad Ismaily’s offbeat kick drum on “Can’t Get Around,” which is matched with some pretty piano chords. Nothing in these arrangements feels like they should fit, and yet Radish is completely compelling. Phillips has a created a patchwork of dueling patterns that begs you to deconstruct each track, so you can examine each and every component.

The biggest divergence from Hunched is the addition of sung vocals. Phillips’s singing voice actually sounds a bit like Sting—that is, if the famed Police man had fallen into a totally different line of work. The gentle vocal of “1000 Ways” flows as an internal monologue interwoven with sanguine metaphors for feelings pulsing deep inside: “When I looked I knew I had to find / Where it hit my blood I had to know.” Other lyrics skew more simple and sobering; in “Floating,” he frames life as the act of “Floating in a cloud and getting old.” But even when Phillips’s words scan as the thoughts of a fallen angel, his radiant arrangements pierce through the gloaming, rather than perpetuate it. The cover of Radish depicts a blurry figure, sure—presumably Phillips, about to be consumed with darkness—but this is an album where light eventually triumphs over all.

-Dean Van Nguyen

Suzi Analogue Doesn’t Want to Be Normal

Suzi Analogue

On the 2010 track “What U Look Like” (tucked in the first third of groundbreaking release NNXTAPE), Miami-based singer, songwriter, and producer Suzi Analogue established a sound and philosophy that hinted at the future of her work. Set to a dizzying instrumental flying by at 160+ BPMs, Analogue’s slick and understated vocal references Gucci purses, Purple Label Ralph Lauren, and a “minimal, modernist/Americana steez.” At first glance, the song scans as a fashion anthem for the contemporary young creative class. But its soaring chorus turns that assumption on its head, revealing a deeper, central theme of connectivity: “I’ve been to many places around the world / Seen the cream of the crop and the haves and the have-nots / We all breathe the same air now.”

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Scene Report: Electronic Music at Beat Hotel

Oasis

HAAi by Alec Donnell Luna

This past March the Fellah Hotel—a palm-lined, pool-dotted, argan-scented resort complex—was the site of a delirious musical experiment. Sub-Saharan folk met art pop; Ethiopian jazz collided with vintage hip-hop; minimal techno was augmented with choral arrangements. The inaugural Beat Hotel festival, held just outside Marrakech, Morocco, showcased electronic and globally-oriented music from artists who were primarily based in Europe and North Africa. 

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The Best 12” Dance Singles on Bandcamp: March/April 2019

Best-12-April-1244In this new column, Sean Keating goes crate-digging on Bandcamp, and returns with the hottest 12”s released during the previous two months.

The 12” dance single has been synonymous with clubs and DJs since its first appearance more than 50 years ago. That’s in part due to its practical nature: It saves the DJ from having to needle-drop their way through album cuts, and its spacious grooves and speedy RPMs make it, to some ears, the “loudest” vinyl format by a long shot. (You can argue your own opinion on that statement in the comments.) And while the digital revolution has resulted in DJs choosing to carry a tiny USB stick instead of crate-tons of vinyl, a large number of labels, artists, and fans remain dedicated to the format. Below are 10 of the most exciting 12” dance releases to hit Bandcamp over the past two months, ranging from eerie mystic house to misfit Miami bass, courtesy of artists and labels from Bologna to Calgary via St. Petersburg and beyond.

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Inês Coutinho’s Naive and Naivety Labels Help Open Up Dance Music

Naive

When Inês Coutinho was growing up in Lisbon, Portugal, she loved dance music. The problem was that she couldn’t see herself in it: not in the label rosters full of serious-looking white dudes, nor the record bins overflowing with pounding minimal techno meant to bang against warehouse walls. “No one like me was making music,” she remembers thinking. Or, if they were, they’d been rendered invisible, leaving her feeling like an outsider. “I thought I would never be cool or credible enough.”

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Hidden Gems: Silla + Rise, “Silla + Rise”

HG-Silla-1244In our series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

In recent years, diverse indigenous artists from all over Canada are transforming the country’s music scene—from the edgy Tanya Tagaq and influential Tribe Called Red to the irreverent Snotty Nose Rez Kids and defiant pop star Iskwē. Joining this club of hitmakers, who bring their folk-inspired beats and vocal prowess to genres as diverse as rock, hip-hop, and EDM, are the trio Silla + Rise.

The group—comprised of throat singers Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut, NU) and Charlotte Qamaniq (Iglulik, NU), and DJ, producer, and dancer Rise Ashen—first appeared in 2016, with a self-titled debut that paired the ancient vocal stylings of Inuit throat singing with ultramodern, seductive dance beats. The atmosphere of the record shifts from sexy to glamorous to menacing, and Pitsiulak and Qamaniq’s commanding throat singing feels deeply narrative. Each track is sonically breathtaking—rich and enchanting. On “Kuuq (Flood),” their voices float above Rise’s brassy percussion. “Atausiq (One)” is built for the dancefloor, with slinky beats, sensual synth lines, and halting vocal melodies.

Skeptical listeners may be tempted to write off Silla + Rise as a studio creation, but a quick glance at the band’s spellbinding live shows proves otherwise. Onstage, Pitsiulak and Qamaniq perform as if in a rap battle, challenging each other, responding, and switching up vocalizations in an instant. They pull all this off while remaining in sync the entire time, Rise’s beats making the floors quake with their rhythmic ferocity. This masterful debut was nominated for Canada’s Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year. Nearly three years later,  it still sounds light years away from anything else.

-Chaka V. Grier

The Transformational Darkwave of Psychic Eye Records: An Illustrated Interview

Annie Mok is a Philadelphia-based author-illustrator and musician. Here, she presents her interview with Akiko Sampson of Psychic Eye Records and Ötzi in comic strip form.

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