An-Ten-Nae, west coast bass music producer, does something really unusual for “Raindrops On Roses (The Biggie Edition)” by doing a mashup of seemingly disparate elements that make sense in the logic of lateral thinking. He mixes together samples of childhood nursery rhyme songs, children singing Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” playful synth arpeggios and Biggie Smalls speaking words assembled together in the beat so that it sounds like he’s deftly referencing raindrops and mixing it in with mention of microdots. It’s a free association recontextualization of bits of music and ideas not unlike something you’d hear from Girl Talk or DJ Shadow but here more overtly psychedelic with Biggie living on not as a hologram but as the inevitable sample for the quality of his voice that brought to his own music a gritty authenticity. Sitting in the track as his voice does here it expands narrow notions of musical genre and really is this a hip-hop or EDM track? Too weird for either alone but something you could definitely hear in someone’s set when they’re chilling out for a moment before going hard again or whatever it is people say they do now. Listen to “Raindrops On Roses (The Biggie Edition)” on Soundcloud and follow An-Ten-Nae at the links below.
“43” rewards your patience as Dijomen builds the track from a melodic haze and fingers of tones flaring forth, voices heard in the middle distance and touches of sonic texture. It has a dynamic like slowly waking up in the early morning and a time lapse as full daylight is hitting and the outside world and the dream world overlap in your brain so that what could be the sound of a nearby playground and memories thereof triggered by those sounds blend together as a unified experience and a deep memory of being up in the morning excited for the day which too often isn’t the case in everyday adult life even though you wish it could be. But this song gives that experience back to you with its expansive energy. Listen to “43” on Spotify and follow Dijomen at the links below.
Colatura’s single “R U Content” mixes the gritty and granular sound texture with ethereal and introspective tones in an expansive dynamic that the trio augments with bends and accents. The result is a song that has a simple appeal but a great deal of variation that suits well the subject of the song which is the commodification of our lives in a very mediated age when most people with a modern phone or computer is on social media with the lure of instant, low rent gratification of engagement from friends, acquaintances and strangers. It’s not really living but the illusion, the projection of life. And that projection, the superficial data of our lives that we share knowingly or otherwise, is monetized and becomes part of a mass feedback loop and in another era would have been described in a way parallel to that of a psyop. The chorus of “Are you content, or are you just content, there’s no way of knowing, what are we doing?” speaks so well to a fairly sophisticated assessment to where so much of the culture is now in trusting large tech companies with the building blocks of our identity and allowing ourselves to be manipulated in ways we don’t full understand. The proof is in how conspiracy theories have spread in social media and how the algorithm can be set to prioritize content that is the opposite of what you might actually believe or need to see. And that question I the chorus of are we content as in satisfied with the situation as it is and can we consent for our lives to be content without compensation? Would we want it to be a product even if we could be compensated? Maybe if you’re an influencer you say yes but it has to be a bummer for anyone at some point. Colatura’s music is appealing in a broad sense of it being somewhere in the realm of shoegaze but with this song it’s like an experimental pop song in aim and execution. Watch the video for “R U Content” on YouTube and connect with Colatura at the links below.
Little Destroyer seems to invoke the loose structure and tonal strategy of “Kool Thing” by Sonic Youth on its song “hitman” with an undeniable groove with grit and a sense of menace flowing through it. In Connor McGuire’s video treatment for the song we see that rarest of devices in many cities now: the pay phone. But the song is told from the perspective of a woman who got beyond fed up with all the sexual harassment thrown her way through various means from verbal and not so verbal street assault and unwelcome DMs and attention from creeps who won’t take no for an answer. So what is a woman to do? Why be a hitman, of course, and that word specifically because she would invert the usual meaning a little and offer her services to take out the usual perpetrators of unwanted sexual contact or intent thereof. So people use the pay phone at Kingsgate Mall (in Vancouver, BC, presumably) to get in touch with the “hitman” who will take care of business because, the vocalist of Little Destroyer, Allie Sheldan, sings, “Everybody swears I’m the villain but everybody wants to hire a hitman.” While there is surely more than a tiny bit of irony in the story as a story but when clowns are out acting the fool someone should probably set that boundary in no uncertain terms sometime because, a wise, or at least hard boiled, man named Harry Callahan once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This song is punk in the way maybe an early riot grrrl band would be but more like something you’d hear out of L7 like “Shitlist” or “Fast and Frightening.” All in all ferociously elegant. Watch the video for “hitman” on YouTube and follow Little Destroyer on Spotify linked below.
Donzii is a bit of a favorite among connoisseurs of underground post-punk and its new single “Rightway Highway” with its retro style VHS glitched music video by Domingo Castillo is fine example of where the band is going with its forthcoming full-length debut (out on Grey Market Records later this year). Danny Heinze’s bent and clipped guitar lines dub style, Dennis Fuller’s minimal yet intricate and driving bass lines and of course Jenna Balfe’s nearly deadpan but theatrical and expressive vocals running through a backdrop of what looks like an amusement park in south Florida from which the trio hails. Fans of Bush Tetras will appreciate the way Donzii handles its rhythm scheme and mutant melodies as well as the poetry of the lyrics discussing a desire to escape from a wack situation where a person who wants to give back and not just take doesn’t fit in as elaborated upon and summed up with the line “if you can’t find the right way save it for another day, I’m just a runaway looking for the freeway.” It’s string of words that captures the sense that maybe until you have your plan for making your exit you can hold in your heart the sense that you are fine with being a weirdo in a place that isn’t so welcoming of them and your opportunity will come. Maybe that isn’t the actual sense of the song but music like Donzii’s resonates with that of bands like Suburban Lawns, Lithics and Ganser because it isn’t trying to fit into the confines of a narrow style and that in itself suggests it’s music for non-conformists in general with words giving comfort to their kind wherever the songs are heard. Watch the video for “Rightway Highway” on YouTube and follow Donzii at the links below.
“Mother Mother” was inspired by songwriter Ellie Madeland’s discovery of a collection of letters between her as a child and her mother written after her parents announced they were getting divorced. The resonating synth line that opens the track before Madeland asks “Mother, mother, where do I go?” establishes a mood of deep reflection. Gentle William’s production is reminiscent ever so slightly of Madonna’s 1986 song “Live to Tell” and its tone of resigned sorrow and loss. Madeland’s vulnerable and raw yet reflective vocal delivery helps the poetry of of lines like “black spots, regrets, I needed a friend in the end” hit harder as Madeland’s words create a powerful emotional memory of a childhood disrupted by the confusion of witnessing her parents split with seemingly not the level of emotional support she needed from someone she felt she could trust. The soundscape is gorgeous and that still doesn’t really blunt the pain Madeland evokes so well while tapping into primal memories that can linger for a lifetime but in exploring them and really feeling them and processing them creatively or hearing that ache in a song has a chance of uncoiling that knot in the psyche. Listen to “Mother Mother” on Soundcloud and follow Ellie Madeland at the links below.
Ruben Pol and his brother Matthijs Pol have with the single “Comme Ça” a fast-paced synth pop song reminiscent of early Depeche Mode and Re-Flex. Maybe a touch of Flock of Seagulls. The slight distortion on the main synth line and splashes of tone accented by a subtle bass line and a touch of reverb on the vocals make it sound like something from dance club circa 1984 before the music fully entered the mainstream over the following few years. Expert drum programming or sampling lend the track a liveliness that matches the emotional urgency of Pol’s vocals as he sings about not hiding from your feelings or covering them over with a pose to fit in or to conform to arbitrary standards of personal comportment and being willing to express them with a vital authenticity because it feels more right than living with a façade of cool detachment. Listen to “Comme Ça” on Spotify and follow Ruben Pol at the links below.
Alexx Artificial probably couldn’t have made the video for “Dorito 3D” in the 2000s with the same video quality and production. But the aesthetics of some of the video art of the mid-to-late 2000s is there and the song and the visual representation is ahead of the curve in tapping into that period of underground music and art. The music has distorted swells, a simple, pounding and bouncing rhythm, electronic xylophone and vocals that are both laconic with ironic distance and in the peak moments of the song distorted and delivered almost like a death metal song. But there is more than a touch of creative irony here with the main lyrics being: “I like to fill the void, I like to self-destroy, greasy powder in my veins, cheesy triumph on my brain, hooked on you 1-2-3, Dorito 3D.” We see the Doritos scattered throughout and up close being crushed by fingers and fists, animated clapping hands are punched into frame to accent the beat while Jesse St. Clair dances casually wearing mirrored sunglasses and another figure in a green, insectoid mask, presumably Alexx Artificial, playing a keyboard/synth/sampler and screaming vocals along with St. Clair. It’s a strange piece of work and somehow seems so obviously of the moment yet has the rough-edged cool of an old L.A. Vampires music video (think “Make Me Over”). Alexx Artificial cut his teeth in the Houston underground and most notably in Giant Battle Monster so maybe crossed paths with weirdos like Indian Jewelry/Studded Left, The Secret Prostitutes, Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness, B L A C K I E and the like. But Alexx Artificial is very much its own thing in the vein of hyperpop and industrial noise made accessible. Watch the video for “Dorito 3D” on YouTube and follow Alexx Artificial at the links provided.
Otoboke Beaver from Kyoto, Japan might loosely be described as a punk band but listen to any of its songs and like most of the best bands from Japan the music defies easy categories. The frantic pace of many of its songs and the irrepressible energy mixed with creative dynamics in even the shortest of the band’s songs suits the surreal quality of the music well. The single “YAKITORI” has a single line repeated in various ways through its one minute forty-four second length: “I’m sorry one day, your post box, throw into yakitori it’s me, destroy!” What does this mean? Does it matter? It works for a song and in the final twenty or so seconds of the song the Japanese lyrics sound like something a company would tag on at the end of a commercial with the disclaimers. And this is intentional. The band’s music and the tracks from its new album Super Champon (released May 6 via London-based label Damnably) are a send-up of traditional culture and the ways hypercapitalism tries to impose a boring conformity and uniformity on humans who aren’t all the same. And on the album the group addresses situations women and not just in Japan deal with regularly but it does so with a deliciously irreverent humor turning it into a chance to make commentary on sexism, consumer culture and the natural human desire to break free of such stultifying constraints.
It’s also obvious the group is having fun making this hyperkinetic and nuanced music and writing songs about whatever is on hand to inspire a song. Though it must be said that a band that can write songs and call them things like “Dirty old fart is waiting for my reaction,” “You’re no hero shut up f*ck you man-whore” and “I put my love to you in a song JASRAC” and perform them with the spirited energy heard across the album has to be honored. “Otoboke” means “feigned ignorance” and considering that meaning paired with “Beaver” and the multiple meanings of that word makes this one of more genius band names in music history. It is perhaps too facile to say that fans of Melt Banana, Shonen Knife and Deerhoof will appreciate Otoboke Beaver but so will fans of the likes of Napalm Death and Ganser.
Judah’s deft wordplay on “Roses” displays a keen ear for creative rhythms and nearly granular attention to dynamics. The chill beat with the deep, evocative bass line and melancholic, resonating tones in the melody provide the perfect backdrop to a song expressing a necessary Zen-like approach to life’s struggles when you’re trying to get by and the pitfalls that try to sink you while you’re trying to make a relationship you want happen or to keep it going with someone who shares your perspective of not getting tripped up on the chaff that is just part of the deal with living in America. The line “trying to pick these roses out of all these leaves” provides the central poetic image of the song that taps into cultural references that sketch the outlines of the context for Judah’s sensitive and personally insightful verses and self-aware observations. At times his rhyming is reminiscent of something you’d hear on a Cannibal Ox song and the mood of the song overall of that time in underground hip-hop when artists embraced not just classic hip-hop beatmaking with jazz and funk samples but also crafting their own electronic music composition. Listen to “Roses” on Spotify and follow Judah to be notified when he drops his forthcoming album Judah and The Lonely Kingdom.