Alice Coltrane – Divine Songs

This is a glowing gem known only to those who have burrowed deep enough into the inimitable catalog of jazz legend Alice Coltrane.

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“Divine music is the sound of true life, wisdom, and bliss.  This music transcends geographical boundaries, language barriers, age factors; and whether educated or uneducated, it reaches deep into the heart and soul, sacred and holy…” – Alice Coltrane

Released in 1987 on cassette only, Divine Songs is the purest expression of the spiritual drone jazz sound that Alice had been perfecting ever since establishing the Shanti Anantam Ashram in the decade prior.

Soaring into ethereal space, leaving only the faintest jazz roots visible, the sound here is birthed in minimalist Indian organ modes. The atmosphere cracks open with harp and strings, shining brightly around her transcendent voice. It might not be for the casual fan, but if you’re tuned in to the celestial vibe Alice developed in the years after her husband, John Coltrane, died, you’ll settle in perfectly here.

A bonus for fans of Flying Lotus, and his album Cosmogramma in particular: keep your ears open for fleeting moments where he sampled his great aunt directly. With such a heavy influence she’s had on his music, the cameos feel especially poignant.

Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me [heart stopping music video]

I’m seeing two children hop out of their caskets at a funeral and dance, running for the door. They’re grinning as they look back. I’m grinning as I watch. This is one of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced in a while, and it’s the best music video I’ve seen in years.

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My heart is full and I’m beaming. This is the definition of life affirming cinema. Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) and director Hiro Murai have rendered the joy of life on a grand scale, as only those who have lost it may experience.

As someone who’s recently lost his parents, Ellison is probably more interested in the subject of death than most folks. As someone in the same place, I can relate. We want to wrap our heads around what happens, where our loved ones have gone. We want to imagine new ways of being, new channels of experience, that might follow our journey on this plane. We try to picture what it’s like to realize you’re dead. Will I be confused? Will I be happy? Afraid? Will there be any subjective “me” at all?

None of these questions are new or original, but the music poses a cascading meteor shower of fresh replies.

The music on Flying Lotus’ upcoming album, You’re Dead!, evokes existential puzzling and euphoria without accompaniment. This video adds a gut punch that sends me reeling. Watch it now if you haven’t already. If you don’t feel at least a spark of joy, you might already be dead.

Check the album on amazon or itunes or probably spotify or just order the LP at Warp like I did.

PS: I’ve got friends who can relate all too well. I want them to know I’m thinking about ‘em.

Flying Lotus – Coronus, The Terminator

Just now, Flying Lotus dropped a second preview track for next month’s long anticipated album, You’re Dead! The song is titled Coronus, The Terminator, and you can listen right here:

After first single, Never Catch Me (featuring Kendrick Lamar) burst out of his studio, Flying Lotus’ longtime fans were both reassured of his musical wizardry and shaken by the first appearance of a full-on rap verse in his music. I’m smitten with the sound, a sort of hyperactive take on late 70’s psychedelic jazz marching to a stuttered hip-hop beat. Lamar’s vocals were suitably drenched in the alien atmosphere, the requisite Thundercat bass fireworks popped just right, and the ending shot off into that fuzzy space where Cosmogramma left off.

This time, a low slung beat eases us into a pool of languid falsetto funk vocals, splashing in phosphorescence. Thundercat’s presence is far more subtle here, dancing lightly around the wood-clap percussion. A traditionally “Flylo” shuffle beat materializes, driving an ascension toward the same astral plane he occupied on Mmhmm nearly 4 years ago. It’s a hermetic, relaxed little slice of space age spiritualism that works as a perfect foil to the frantic Never Catch Me.

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This preview pair might give us a nice hint toward the full breadth and scope of You’re Dead! but I’m prepared for bigger surprises, come October 7. Check out the Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! page at Warp.net and make sure to watch the dizzying video preview below, featuring visuals from one of my current favorite Japanese artists, Shintaro Kago. Warning: sorta NSFW. (Second warning: may induce seizures)

You watched it right? This is the beginning of an autumn full of brilliant music.

First Thoughts on Aphex Twin’s Syro

On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at some point after 7pm, Aphex Twin‘s first album in 13 years leaked. Syro is playing right now, and I have a grin as big as the one below.

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Just as I start typing well past the halfway point of this album, a sudden dynamic bloom splits CIRCLONT14 wide open. Wordless female vocals seem to come from below and around me, before erupting a cyberpunk break straight from future-Detroit. This is one of many moments so far to truly surprise me and dilate my eyes, and it’s the biggest so far.

Somehow time seems to be stretching forever. The songs appear to go beyond their track lengths. This is a wildly unnatural sensation. Fun times usually pass in a flash. I’m definitely having fun.

A boogie funk line just hijacked the proceedings. I’m now unable to think of what came before. Wait, no. Let’s jump back to the beginning.

It begins with minipops 67. We know how grand this is, how warm and sensuous it is, referencing the first Aphex Twin album and his boldest pop moment at once. Next..

Now I’m hearing a synth ghost chorus, high speed jazzy drum programming, and what can only be described at this moment as an equatorial oscillation. Maybe that should be a question? It sounds like nonsense. I’m not going for anything profound right now. This isn’t going to end that thoughtfully. I just wanted to lay my excitement down in words, as it happens. Gonzo style. Of course, I’m safe, alone, and in my apartment, but all the same: this is me experiencing an album I never knew I wanted so badly for so many years.

As the final track, aisatsana (Anastasia in reverse, incidentally) winds down in Gymnopédie-like ecstacy, I’m reminded of nothing so gentle and haunting as Virginia Astley‘s 1983 song A Summer Long Since Passed. I’d rather not spoil anything, so just listen to this song if you want a metaphorical preview of Syro’s ending.

I feel like maybe the title is appropriate, somehow.


I’m starting it over. Track two now, and I’m realizing how tactile this thing feels. I may get the cybernetic dream sequence feeling from Selected Ambient Works 85-92, but it’s far more alive. I can’t wait for the the arrival of my 3LP next Monday.

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The leak is out there. I won’t share links because anyone interested enough can find them. Besides: buy this. Buy it now. I did before hearing even the first single, and now I’m cemented in my belief that it was a Good Choice. If you’re a fan of the man at all, this is a sure shot. Check the Warp page for links to purchase.

Shabazz Palaces – #CAKE

Shabazz Palaces‘ new album Lese Majesty has wormed its way to the very core of me. It’s glorious, it’s freewheeling psychedelia, it’s a complete deconstruction of hip-hop forms and one of the best albums this year. Since my purple “loser edition” showed up a couple weeks ago, I’ve played it more than any album in months; even more so on my headphones at work, through the Sub Pop stream and then Spotify, where it’s streaming for free in whole: Lese Majesty on Spotify.

If you haven’t jumped on this wavelength, please have some #CAKE.

The second single, #CAKE, is the centerpiece of the album’s even-more-warped second half. An electro-jungle hip-hop riot erupts before leaping through a perfectly incongruous female soul vocal, taking flight with vintage Kraftwerk synth lasers as the tune ratchets up toward an unforgettable chant ending. It’s the type of multifaceted, twisty song that made their debut, Black Up, an instant left-of-center masterpiece.

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This piece is really indicative of how Shabazz Palaces (duo of Tendai Maraire and Ishmael Butler) appear to hold no affiliation to any particular genre or sound. The middle vocal bridge slides into the beat-driven first half like a glacier, overtaking all momentum. As the tune gathers steam for its ending, the krautrock influence bursts through as the vocals craft a towering a list of places from Berlin to Neptune. It’s pointed, it’s weird, it’s confusing, and it’s fun as hell. A recent review of Lese Majesty mentioned that they’re not “the future of hiphop, but a step to the side” as if it was a bad thing. I couldn’t imagine a higher compliment for a duo wholly unconcerned with trends in this meme-driven music climate.

Also, I feel obligated to share this amazing photo of Butler. It’s one of my favorite artist images in years:

 

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[buy Lese Majesty on 2LP vinyl, CD, or digitally via Sub Pop right HERE or Amazon or whatever]

Flying Lotus – Tiny Tortures (video featuring Elijah Woods)

This arrived today and it is beautiful.  Echoing Akira (and Tetsuo) and some of the brilliant, creepy videos from Aphex Twin, it’s a dark, cinematic corkscrew in psychedelic miniature.  There are few videos so evocative of their namesake, working as a perfect thematic foil to the song.  Now watch, as Elijah Wood has a fucked up night.

Despite the fact that I haven’t done a full “album post” about Flying Lotus‘ latest opus, Until The Quiet Comes is easily one of my biggest repeat listens of the year.  It’s the living, breathing incarnation of what I’d always kind of hoped his work was pointing towards.  Its growth from 2010’s Cosmogramma is more organic and inevitable than the sudden leap that album made from its predecessor, breathrough lp Los Angeles; naturally, it’s less surprising how radically good this is.  I feel like I took it for granted at first: “Of course this is good.  Well there it goes in my car to stay in rotation for weeks.”  Only a handful of albums have spent so much time as regular, near-daily listen this year, and if it weren’t for Kendrick Lamar’s new release, I could have, possibly, worn it out.

Thankfully this video came along today.  Not only my favorite track, Tiny Tortures was due for some recognition.  On an album crowded with standout moments between sublime guest vocals and dizzying synth work, its sparkling meditative cascade can be mistaken as a gentle interlude.  It’s more like a brief exposure of Quiet‘s spiritual heartbeat.  It reaches transcendence in the emotive dance of its guitar and bass (by second time MVP Thundercat) over a pulse hinting at great-aunt Alice Coltrane’s organ work on one of her masterpieces.  If you haven’t listened to the album yet, here’s your chance to embrace one of the warmest electronic albums in years, a possible masterpiece of jazz and electronic music.

Until The Quiet Comes Comes

Just because.

This has been out over a week and the leak for half that, but tonight, alone, listening to the proper stream on NPR, my excitement is reborn.  There are details, sharp edges and vocal snapshots bursting out at me, entire stretches brimming with instrumentation I haven’t noticed.  I listened to the leak ten times and haven’t heard the album like this.  My thought confirmed:  the vinyl leak is muffled, distant and compressed sounding.  Everything’s in there, buried then rendered in high fidelity.  I kept wanting to lean inward and focus on the elements I knew were inside.  It’s a treat to know that what I’ll be receiving in a couple weeks is even better than what fans have been going nuts over.

Stream the entire album here:

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

[NPR stream]

Thanks, NPR.  Also a question: why can’t your player embed?

Also here is the video for first single Putty Boy Strut.  Regardless of how you feel about this song, remember that with this man’s work, it’s all about context.

[Pre-order the album from Bleep, especially if you want the ridiculous collectors edition like I do.]