Tag Archives: Los Angeles

How Brainfeeder Leads The Charge For Esoteric Funk, Hip-Hop, Pop, & Jazz

Brainfeeder

“Brainfeeder,” the opening track on Flying Lotus’s 2008 album, Los Angeles, pulses with a sense of anticipation. Its flutters of static and sci-fi synths seem to telegraph the idea that something new—something weird, mutant, and markedly different from the hip-hop aesthetic of Lotus’s debut, 1983—awaits within. As the album unfolds, Lotus makes good on that promise, delivering a record so groundbreaking that it warped the fabric of electronic music in lasting ways, pushing the subset of instrumental hip-hop known as the beat scene to inventive new vistas.

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Hidden Gems: Zeroh, “0 EMISSIONS 2”

ZerohIn our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Zeroh’s greatest asset over the past 10 years has been his unique rapping style. He has a whirlwind of complex rhyme schemes that bleed from one bar into the next, with sudden explosions of vocal melody appearing without warning. His flow is marked by gymnastic patterns of syllables, the kind that require skill, focus, and creativity to execute.

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Album of the Day: Noname, “Room 25”

The older you get, the more you actually see the things around you. For some, that clarity comes around age 30, when you notice those first few gray hairs, and your knee makes a little more noise than it used to. Others, like Fatimah Warner—a rapper who records under the moniker Noname—have always seen the light. At 26, she unpacks societal ills with clear vision, dissecting a wide range of topics—like law enforcement, cosmetic drugs, and plastic surgery—with a confident gaze. Much like Kendrick Lamar and Nas, she considers these things with an author’s mindset, quietly absorbing the world as it scrolls past her window. She unloads it all—joy, pain, and stress—in a breathless, ruminating flow that requires deep listening to fully absorb. When Noname raps, she’s leaning in to speak only to you.

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Zackey Force Funk Makes Music For Lowriders

Zackey Force Funk

It’s easy to dismiss the platitudes of contemporary life coaches who preach about spirituality and the power of visualization, while simultaneously touting their Instagram brand partnerships. But when someone whose life has been as turbulent as Zachary Hose’s starts talking about self-actualization, skepticism has a way of vanishing.

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SoCal DIY: The L.A. Bands Mixing Traditional Latinx Music With Contemporary Sounds

Thee Commons

Thee Commons by Alejandro Ohlmeier.

Music made by people of Latinx and Spanish descent has always been a part of the cultural fabric of Southern California, but it’s often been confined to specific, tight-knit communities and neighborhoods. Lately, though, its begun to attract a broader audience, thanks to a strong and growing local DIY scene. This expansion stands in proud opposition to the current political climate of prejudice, and the constant threats to immigrants’ rights by the current administration. In this world, the rise of a band like Chicano Batman, a funky Tropicalía-inspired psychedelic soul group who has been playing in the L.A. scene since 2008, and who recently gained deserved attention for their bilingual cover of “This Land is Your Land” for a Johnnie Walker ad, feels all the more imperative.

The artists operating in this scene make music that falls under a wide variety of styles, and covers just as wide a variety of themes. Sister Mantos make ’90s-inspired dance music that addresses gay/trans rights and feminism, while punk band Generacion Suicida sing about living in El Barrio in South L.A.

Many of the bands on this list have been performing for years, while some of them are newer; they hail from a wide array of backgrounds. The thing that unites them is that all of them have been making their way into a direct line of vision in the local and independent music communities, and all of them mix styles like punk, soul, and rap with folk genres like samba, cumbia, and bossa nova. They’ve done this while staying true to a do-it-yourself aesthetic, which allows them the freedom to pursue whatever sounds and styles they so choose.

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Nite Jewel on the Highs and Lows of Being a Woman in the Music Industry

Nite Jewel

Nite Jewel. Photos by Patrick Gookin.

Ramona Gonzalez’s third album as Nite Jewel plays like a chilled-out tribute to ‘90s Top 40 R&B artists like Janet Jackson and Aaliyah. Gonzalez freely admits there are elements of both artists in the mix, even if their inclusion was more subconscious, but Real High is not a deliberate attempt to emulate her teenage heroes.

After consciously uncoupling with her label (the process kept her from releasing music for four years) and rediscovering the creative freedom of releasing an album on her own label Gloriette, Gonzalez found herself using music to channel frustration and sensuality in equal parts. The two ultimately end up complementing one another—from hip-shaking single “2 Good 2 Be True” to the meandering title track where Gonzalez transforms a slow-motion ballad into a meditation on the kind of love so all-encompassing there’s a temptation to throw it all away.

We talked with the Los Angeles-based musician/producer about why she opted to release her own music, holding her own in a male-driven industry, and why she’s happy to let her alter ego do the emotional heavy lifting.

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French Vanilla on the Los Angeles DIY Scene

French Vanilla

Photo by Adam Sandor Nagy.

French Vanilla are here to change your mind about Los Angeles punk. The forward-thinking, radical quartet are invite you to shake a tail to songs that make strong statements about the dominant structures of power that dominate both the mainstream and underground spheres.

Made up of vocalist Sally Spitz, guitarist Ali Day, saxophonist and bassist Daniel Trautfield, and drummer Max Albeck, and formed while Day and Spitz were students at UCLA, French Vanilla have steadily built up a fanbase with their uncompromising and thoroughly infectious music, which is just as much informed by performance art as it is by the post-punk music they set out to emulate (Day learned to play guitar specifically for the band and still doesn’t know basic chords.)

Though they didn’t plan it this way, French Vanilla are part of a new crop of LA artists making a distinct turn away from the garage and psych music that has dominated the city in recent years for music that is as much about the message as the medium. The band’s chosen subjects, ranging from global warming and feminism to the embarrassment of adolescence and patriarchal ideologies, may be challenging but their music is not, hallmarked by groove-laden, danceable rhythms, Day’s quirky guitar lines, Trautfield’s crisp saxophone blasts, and Spitz’s wailing, powerful vocals and whirling dervish live presence. Their new music video for “Evolution of a Friendship,” which we premiere here, was filmed in various  locations around Los Angeles, including famed DIY venue The Smell, perfectly encapsulates the band’s humor, visual sensibility, and connection to the LA underground music scene.

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GEMS Embrace the Mystical With Their Full Moon Singles Series

gems-by-edric-chen-600

Photos by Edric Chen

Every 28.5 days there’s a new full moon. That’s a fact that Cliff Usher and Lindsay Pitts of GEMS can offer up without consulting Google, having committed to releasing a new single with each lunar event. That tight production and release schedule has provided some unique challenges for the duo. (Usher cringes as he recalls mixing recent offering “Blow Out the Light” while lying sick on the floor thanks to a dodgy Korean sandwich.) But thematically, it was a perfect fit: their twilight pop is an appropriate soundtrack for moon’s waning and waxing. But perhaps even more importantly, the experiment satisfied the musicians on a very practical level.

“The project will probably come together as a collection of songs in some way,” Pitts says, seated at an outdoor café in downtown Los Angeles. “But for now we wanted to get back to the flow and momentum of putting a song out, interacting with people, and then putting another song out.”

But even with their eyes pointed toward the heavens, music has helped both Usher and Pitts overcome some very earthly concerns. As both explain, music has been one of the only things to provide a sense of stability while navigating both romantic snarls and defining their sense of belonging in an unstable world.

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