Tag Archives: Interview

ÌFÉ’s Otura Mun Explores His Divine Destiny

Ife

Photo by Mariangel Gonzales.

DJ, producer, percussionist and composer Otura Mun was born Mark Underwood in Goshen, Indiana. A drummer fluent in R&B and jazz (and the youngest member of the renowned University of North Texas drumline in his freshman year), Otura Mun took his first life-changing trip to Puerto Rico almost 20 years ago. He now calls the island home, and it’s where he and his ensemble ÌFÉ create electronic music that channels the musical and spiritual worlds of the African diaspora throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

The ensemble and the music they make are also connected to Mun’s desire to study the Cuban rumba—which led to his initiation as a babalawo, or Yoruban high priest. The perspective now orients both his musical and his personal life.

As Otura Mun explains it, he chose the title IIII+IIII for ÌFÉ’s debut because it marks “the beginning of a new era, a change in the guard, a spiritual awakening,” a path an individual can take on their divine destiny.

To talk with Otura Mun is to become caught up in a heady whirlwind of ideas about music that’s constructed with layers upon layers of aligned signs and evoked meanings. We caught up with the San Juan-based Otura Mun via Skype to get a glimpse of the wondrous, spirit-filled world that informs his music.

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Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell on the Healing Power of Music

Land of Talk

Photo by Matt Williams.

In 2011, Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell was writing and recording demos on her laptop for a solo album when her computer crashed and she lost everything. Deflated, Powell decided to take a break from music. Instead, she turned to creating visual art and, drawing on 14 years of classical training, got back into dance. When her dad suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013, her life was put on indefinite hold while she helped him recuperate.

As her dad’s recovery progressed, Powell felt her keyboard and amp calling to her. With encouragement from friends and family, and after reconnecting with original Land of Talk drummer Bucky Wheaton, her new album, Life After Youth began to take shape. Soon, Powell had a small team of people assisting her—among them, longtime friend Sharon Van Etten (the early days of their friendship are captured in an episode of La Blogothèque’s Take Away Show), producer John Agnello, and former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. The result is a curiously lush recording, energetic but never harsh—a tender comfort.

On “Magnetic Hill,” from Land of Talk’s debut EP Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, Powell sings, “Life’s long / Can’t tell.” Eleven years later, on Life After Youth’s “Loving,” Powell contradicts that statement: “Life’s not long, why don’t you live it?”

“You can’t take anything for granted,” she says. “Everything becomes more and more meaningful the more you realize that time goes by and doesn’t just stop for you.” There is undoubtedly life after youth, but you need to be around to see it.

We chatted with the Canadian artist about her journey back to music and the people who helped her along the way.

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The Experimental Electronic Netherworld of Basic House

Basic House

Whether making music as Basic House or running his label Opal Tapes, maverick producer Stephen Bishop has consistently charted his own path. A self-proclaimed fan of both dance music and pop, as well as the fringe stylings his own output favors, the U.K.-based Bishop has varied his approach over Basic House’s releases while retaining a semblance of techno and house music’s core foundation in traditional beats. Not so his latest full-length, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me, on which Bishop abandons rhythm almost entirely, in favor of creepy ambient spaces.

Fittingly enough, the album derives its title from artist Trevor Paglen’s 2007 book of the same name, a photo collection of patches from top-secret military “black ops.” But as bone-chilling as the new material gets, Bishop also sees the album as a commentary on underground music scenes and their codes. In the early days of Opal Tapes, for example, Bishop initially balked at selling digital versions of the label’s catalog, preferring instead to dub every single cassette by hand. These days, of course, he subscribes to a more pragmatic approach that offers the best of both worlds.

Case in point: The second Basic House album on Luke Younger (aka Helm)’s A L T E R imprint, I Could Tell You, is also available via Opal Tapes in an expanded NOYFB! box-set edition that features a bonus album, Puke Your Horizon, assembled from a blend of live performances and field recordings.

Bishop spoke with us about the new album and its intersection of themes.

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Barrio Lindo Builds His Own Sound, Literally

Bario Lindo

Berlin-based, Colombian-Argentine electronic musician and luthier Agustín Rivaldo, aka Barrio Lindo, speaks in quiet, measured phrases, punctuated by the occasional shy laugh. Like his music, his sentences are carefully composed, revealing an underlying sense of wonder and joy. His latest album, Albura, takes its title from the term for the youngest wood on a tree—wood that is very valuable to luthiers like Rivaldo. Its songs reflect the three years Rivaldo spent traveling the world, including his 2015  Varda Artists Residency where he built instruments and created music on a houseboat in Sausalito, California that was once home to Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts.

Albura features collaborations with a stellar roster of South American producers, including Ela Minus, Lulacruza, and Clara Trucco from Weste. It also incorporates a vast array of instruments—charangos, guitars, and a marimba Rivaldo built from older wood he’d replaced on the houseboat.

We spoke with Rivaldo about the recently-released album, and how Varda’s houseboat, instrument-building, and recent travels came together to create his magical, shimmering soundscapes.

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Adult Mom Navigate the Treacherous World of Intimacy

Adult Mom

Photo by Bao Ngo.

The world depicted in the songs of Adult Mom will be familiar to anyone navigating the choppy waters of intimacy. Their songs examine the fraught, sometimes traumatizing nature of serious relationships, and ask, “After all the damage, recovery, and growth, is it worth opening up to someone new?” On upcoming sophomore LP Soft Spots, the answer is a studied, delicate, “Yes.”

The songwriting project of Steph Knipe, Adult Mom began as a solo venture in a SUNY Purchase dorm room and has since grown to become a full-fledged band. Accordingly, the production on Soft Spots is a step up from Knipe’s early GarageBand bedroom recordings, favoring clearer, cleaner sounds and polished arrangements. Knipe’s witty, probing lyrics at times recall Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville—first single, “Full Screen,” asks, “Do you full-screen your porn? Do you think about me / As you watch her crawl across the floor?” Close your eyes, and it feels like the band is playing in the room with you—which is intentional. Rather than EQ-ing the vocals on Soft Spots, Knipe and producer/bandmate Mike Dvorscak used room mics to add an ambient, intimate mood.

We talked to Knipe, who identifies as non-binary, about Soft Spots, the ins and outs of booking a DIY tour, and teaching fractions at their day job.

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