Tag Archives: Leaving Records

The New Age Spirituality of Producer Carlos Niño

Carlos Nino

Carlos Niño both attracts and exudes positivity. He can convince hardened skeptics to try communicating with the dead—a practice for which he claims to have a unique skill. As a musician, Niño’s work is graceful, promoting love and peace throughout the world. His New Age albums with LEAVING Records founder Matthewdavid and spiritual luminary Laraaji has given his solo offerings a cosmic bent, blending meditative jazz with pensive ambient movements and orchestral flourishes.

Niño’s latest album isn’t exactly a solo project. He’s created a group called Carlos Niño & Friends—a rotating cast that helps bring his creative vision to light. Going Home, Niño’s latest “& Friends” release, is an ode to the afterlife, a six-song odyssey that depicts what the spirit endures when the body expires.

“I think that the ‘& Friends’ concept is really about me doing whatever I want, with whoever I want. Just really freeing it up,” Niño says.

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Album of the Day: Swarvy, “Bop”

We last heard from Swarvy on the impressive DUE RENT, a gritty collaborative album on which he and rapper lojii examined everyday survival in capitalist America. Now, five months after its release, the Los Angeles producer is back with another stellar addition to his already-great catalogue. Like his other records before it, Bop both adheres to and completely eschews what we’ve heard from Swarvy to this point, which is what makes this 22-minute album so compelling and addictive.

There’s an organic, childlike playfulness to the producer’s entire discography (just listen to his fantastic Leaving Records release, Elderberry). Even his most fully-realized ideas are characterized by an endearing messiness, full of random vocal clips and repurposed bossa and jazz that somehow work together. In that way, Bop resembles DUE RENT’s dusty, sloppy-in-a-good-way aesthetic, taking sonic cues from Madvillainy and its co-architect, Madlib. Just as Lib pushed himself after what many consider his magnum opus, Bop proves Swarvy is doing the same.

Bop is an abstract painting brought to life with Swarvy’s favorite machinery, sewn together for a final product that’s both fascinating and addicting. “Astrognats” is drunk, hypnotic funk, and “Scrapplefromtheapple” could soundtrack a subterranean dance party. The album’s two singles—“Circles” and “Krunchrap”—couldn’t be more different; the former bangs with hard-hitting percussion and playful synthetics, while the latter boasts deep Southern bass, sampled rap ad libs, and blunted keys.

Swarvy has taken his fans to countless places over the years, but all of them have been nestled between jazz and hip-hop. While Bop tinkers with those sounds, it also shoves them into an experimental abyss. The album’s adventurous nature proves Swarvy’s got plenty of tricks up his sleeve, and there’s no telling where he’ll end up next.

Andrew Martin

Leaving Records is Dedicated to the Art of Curation

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In 2007, Matthew “Matthewdavid” McQueen was sitting in the studio of dublab radio during a Ras G show, when an artist named dak took over the session with an original beat set. McQueen, at the time an intern for both Plug Research and dublab, was blown away by the music he heard coming from the speakers. Dak’s unconventional sound, which blended glitchy syncopation with murky low-end production, got McQueen’s wheels spinning. As he listened, he began to realize that artists like dak were making music that was too experimental and adventurous to find a home at most record labels.

“Dak was a diamond in the rough,” McQueen says. “It was clear that if I did gain his consent and permission [to sign him and release his album] that it would be a very strong, new sound, from a new artist, to help launch a new label.”

That moment in the dublab studio marked the beginning of Leaving Records, a label rooted in Los Angeles beat music and ambient, but which has grown to become a sanctuary for musical free-thinkers. Co-founded with visual artist Jesselisa Moretti, Leaving calls its ethos “all-genre,” which indicates the label’s openness to the possibilities of music, and its aim of knocking down genre walls so that all sounds are permitted. Leaving is a place for Ras G’s Afro-space age beats, the innovative percussion techniques of Deantoni Parks, Julia Holter’s art pop, Laraaji’s ambient zither meditations, and Knxwledge’s dusty soul breaks. The label has few hard rules, but one of them is that Matthewdavid doesn’t sign artists that he has not befriended first.

In that way, Leaving is an expression of both Matthewdavid’s expansive taste and his social circle. The label’s first release was technically Matthewdavid’s Disk Collection, but the catalogue began in earnest with dak’s standthis cassette—a format that, in 2009, was still thought to be archaic. After that initial dublab session, McQueen and dak quickly became close friends, hanging out at dublab and trading beat tapes. McQueen says that dak, like many artists he knows, “doesn’t let everyone in his head” which he associates with the mark of a genius.

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Benedek’s Music Blends Hip-Hop, Jazz, and West Coast G-Funk

Benedek

The first song Nicholas Benedek ever released was a track called “That’s My Jam!”—a wonderful slab of throwback funk, the kind of song that summons images of summertime pool parties and choreographed dance routines. It features DaM-FunK, perhaps the pre-eminent modern-day purveyor of old-fashioned, top-down-cruisin’ California grooves. That last fact is significant: Benedek, an aspiring funk producer himself, managed to land an A-list collaborator and mentor for his first ever track.

On Bene’s World, Benedek’s second release with LEAVING Records, the producer steps beyond funk to blend elements of house, rap, electronic minimalism, and pop into his sound. Still, despite the broader sound, Benedek’s eyes are focused squarely on the groove, and the songs on Bene’s World are refracted through this lens. The album manages to expand outwards while still retaining its funky structure. We spoke with the L.A. native over the phone from his home in Highland Park to discuss G-funk, his departure and return to his hometown, and the evolution of Top 40 radio.

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Kiefer Might Be The Best Kept Secret in Jazz and Alt-Rap

Kiefer

Photo by Rob Klassen.

Kiefer Shackelford, a San Diego-born, L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist, can’t remember the first time he was perched up on a piano bench, because his brain didn’t have the capacity to remember anything yet. His father, a piano player and jazz enthusiast himself, introduced young Kiefer to the icons of jazz before he could do basic math. “My dad put me up to the keys when I was a baby,” Kiefer says. “There are videos of me standing on the piano bench when I was barely old enough to stand.” As a result, in middle school, he was more intrigued with the ins and outs of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps than the rise of Lil Wayne and Kanye West.

Kiefer’s recently-released KickinIt Alone, documents the months that followed the heartbreaking end of a relationship. At the age of 25, his work brings with it all the richness that comes from two decades spent learning how to craft music, drawing influences from nearly every end of the Black American music spectrum.

We spoke with Kiefer just after he finished giving a piano lesson—which he does at least twice a day, seven days a week. At the top of our call, I realize I forgot my notes and ran to get them. When I returned, Kiefer was humming a tune. Maybe it’s something he just taught. Maybe it’s a new composition he’s working on. It could be a deep cut from a Miles Davis record. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Kiefer just can’t escape music, but I don’t think he minds.

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As $3.33, Celia Hollander Creates Art Without a Concept of Time

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In today’s music industry, where fans want new music right now, Celia Hollander has built her project $3.33 to last. “I think of music as art—not as a separate category from art in general,” she says. That thoughtfulness and careful attention to craft turns up throughout her work, as is her willingness to expand her music into different disciplines. For DRAFT, her 2014 release, she envisioned a full-length corresponding video. The result, directed by filmmaker Miko Revereza, is a gorgeous collage of monochrome patterns, textures, and shapes. It accompanies DRAFT remarkably well, and when asked about her role in the video, Hollander’s answer is short: “It was left to Miko entirely.”

The video accompanies LEAVING Records‘ reissue of DRAFT’s, three years after its original release. As with any reissue, the central question is, “Why now?” For Hollander, though, the timing is less important than bringing her music to a wider audience.

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Deantoni Parks: Musicians Are Athletes, Too

Deantoni Parks

The list of athletes who have tried their hand in music, whether as serious musicians or novelty acts, is long. Shaquille O’Neal, Bernie Williams, Bronson Arroyo, the ‘85 Chicago Bears—all of them have dabbled in song to varying success. But when it comes to musicians forging side-careers as athletes, the list is considerably shorter (Master P’s stint in the Charlotte Hornets notwithstanding). Percussionist Deantoni Parks is hoping to change that.

“I’d like to see companies start looking at musicians as athletes as well,” Parks says. He’s speaking from Seattle, preparing to depart for a string of West Coast dates with alt-rapper Busdriver. Parks is a drummer by trade, and no stranger to revolutionary thinking. His debut album, Technoself, bucked genre convention by foregoing overdubs and loops. Instead, Parks’ physicality and precision as a drummer, honed through his career of collaborations with other world-class musicians like John Cale and Sade, are front and center. The result was a spastic mind-meld of bebop and live sampling, delivered at a revved-up pace—one man, two machines, minimal studio trickery.

“All of it is a challenge,” Parks says. “I was looking for a new way of composing to get a radically new result.” He calls his approach the “Technoself” method, a deliberate, carefully-crafted approach to electronic music that rewrites amen breaks in real time. Recorded entirely live, the rhythmic patterns of electronic music feel richer and more organic. Parks’ sample cache on Technoself moved beyond the standard library of well-loved funk and soul samples and into work by the Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Eminem, James Taylor, and Phish.

For his follow-up project, Deanthoven, Parks folds Beethoven into his technoself, to fascinating effect. The first single, “Magdalena” slows a disco beat to a sludgy crawl. Beethoven’s strings flutter around fat synth sounds; it feels a little like trap-rap without adhering to that style’s conventions. It’s equally recognizable and discomforting.

“I want to upset culture,” Parks says. “There’s a big stone that I’m trying to push over.”

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A Painter On The Drums: Jamire Williams Details His Artful Solo Project

Jamire Williams

If you like jazz, there’s a good chance you’ve heard drummer Jamire Williams, even if you didn’t know he was there. The Houston-born percussionist—known for his controlled, yet disjointed style—has worked with vocalist Corey King, guitarist Jeff Parker, and composer Carlos Niño. He’s played with jazz luminaries Dr. Lonnie Smith and Robert Glasper, and is currently in the studio with legend Herbie Hancock.

As his session opportunities have taken off, Williams the songwriter has taken a back seat. He’s released a few records with his full band ERIMAJ—Jamire spelled backwards—yet Williams has always played a role as part of a larger group. With /////EFFECTUAL, his Leaving Records debut, the musician steps out on his own with an avant-garde set of extended drum solos. An album’s worth of such compositions could be tedious, but Williams creates a moving opus of elegant instrumentals. Nothing feels forced; Williams and executive producer Niño balance multiple drum sounds and electronic triggers. The result is an organic experience for the digital age.

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