Green Velvet and Carl Craig – Unity [full album streaming]

Detroit techno legend Carl Craig joined forces with Green Velvet to drop a surprise collection of hard-edged tech-house dance tunes last week. As a gigantic fan of Mr. Craig who’s unfamiliar with the latter, I couldn’t have been more curious.

It doesn’t attempt the timeless artistry and elegance of Craig’s best work, instead aiming for something more directly club oriented. Set your frontal lobe on autopilot and let your hair blow back? This unassuming, low-stakes set is built, as far as I’m concerned, for invigorating night drives and house parties.

Unity

From the outer reaches of the galaxy come two captains from two worlds—worlds that hold traditions which shape the branial particles and molecules of the munchkins, who will and have come to dominate the not-so-distant future with multiple galaxies and intercosmic cosmo cities,” states a voiceover intro on the first track. I don’t know what all that galactic imagery is supposed to mean, but this out-of-nowhere collaboration is at least worth a try.

When Flight of the Conchords Met Michel Gondry

This is Carol Brown, an ode to girlfriends from the past. In typical Conchords fashion, it’s a contradictory mixture of romantic bravado, undercutting irony, and incredibly catchy melodies.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and dozens of the best music videos of all time. His films unfold handcrafted psychedelia like no other visual artist around. From Björk’s first video onward, he cultivated a style that’s equal parts homespun charm and cosmic mind-bender.

I also possess an abiding love for the geeky, short-lived musical comedy Flight Of The Conchords. If you’re not familiar, it’s a show about a pair of broke musicians from New Zealand, proud losers jobs, relationships, and life, busting into incredibly catchy and accomplished song several times an episode. When Gondry directed an episode, pure magic happened.

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That’s a building, not a bus!

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar‘s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly, is out by surprise a full week ahead of time. It’s for sale digitally and streaming in full on Spotify. Click play below. Right now.

I’m sick. I woke up today too ill to even go to work. But then this happened. I’m feeling a bit elevated right now.

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I don’t have anything too meaningful to say yet. Here’s a couple comments I made with friends during my first and only listen:

  • I don’t care about what anyone else has to say on the first day of an album like this, that’s going to have a lot of discussion flying around. I like to hear it “pure” as can be, I suppose. So uh, after 2 tracks I’ll just say that I’m really enjoying this, and the dark swirl of production tics is reminding me of D’Angelo’s latest (Best of 2014 album by the way), in a really positive way. Old and new sounds mixing for something vintage but not dated sounding, maybe?
  • Almost at the end. Loving the thick jazz sound. Not quite jazz-hop in that Digable Planets way, it does remind me of their masterpiece Blowout Comb in a very slight way… which is a good thing since that’s a top 10 album of the 90s for me.

There’s no need for a lot of discussion the moment something as important as this hits our collective ears. Just listen and absorb it. We’ll talk later.

Edit:

Second listen observations: thinking that this evokes the warm but gritty production of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, the sprawling, psychedelic structure of Shabazz PalacesLes Majesty, and the free jazz embrace of Flying LotusYou’re Dead. It’s no coincidence that all of these featured on my Best of 2014 list. I’m linking it again for emphasis – if you like this, there’s a lot of fun music streaming on that page. This album is hitting me with a deep and immediate connection.

Oneohtrix Point Never will release his Magnetic Rose score on Record Store Day

So, this is more of a news item than music that I’m sharing, but I’m too excited to keep it to myself.

Last October, Oneohtrix Point Never (aka Daniel Lopatin) recorded a brand new score for the astonishing 1995 anime film Magnetic Rose, premiering it live along with the film itself at a live event in the UK. I obviously and regrettably did not attend. However, good news is afoot!

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Today Lopatin announced that he will be releasing a follow-up to last year’s Commissions I 12″ on Record Store Day, surprisingly titled Commissions II. The new release features selections of his suite inspired by the video game scores of Manabu Namiki, Bullet Hell Abstraction, on side one. The bigger news for this fan, however, is that side two includes music from his re-imagined soundtrack to Koji Morimoto’s aforementioned anime short, which was originally part of the Memories trilogy.

You might recognize Magnetic Rose as the film gracing this very blog’s headliner – that decaying future piano resides at the heart of the mind-bending film. I consider it a sort of psychedelic cousin to the original Alien.

The release is over 30 minutes long and boasts more minimalist cover art from Robert Beatty. Hopefully that blue X is another die-cut detail like part one had!

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So, fellow Lopatin fans, keep an eye out on Record Store Day 2015, which hits Saturday, April 18.

Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love: one of the best music videos ever

This song always makes me feel like I’ve been shot out of a cannon.

It’s a shot of pure adrenaline, that irrational rush of falling in love for the first time. Three whiplash minutes to express the insanity that throws into the atmosphere, leaving responsibility and real life below.

The forces of order try to capture the young lovers. A daring chase through the woods ends at a mysterious party, bursting with lights and color. The jig is up, but our heroine has a plan. Slapping handcuffs on her and her lover’s wrist, they take flight into the dark as the song spirals away.

The camerawork, the costumes, and the urgent sense of drama make this one of the best music videos of the 1980s, and all time as far as I’m concerned.

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I’ve been in love with Kate Bush for a long time. Her music reached its pinnacle with the album Hounds Of Love, a weird mutant of operatic ambition, entrenched firmly within an 80s pop production framework. It’s as daring and progressive as anything she ever recorded, yet reaches the apex of pop perfection several times within its first half. The second half, subtitled The 9th Wave, takes us out into the open ocean before erasing any boundaries between the reflection and the stars.

I’m going to have to follow up with a post about her Running Up That Hill video.

Classic Video Game Music: River City Ransom

I decided that my friends would be a great resource in collecting the ultimate list of classic old school video game music. To start us off with an example that’s been bouncing around my head for probably 25 years now, I present the music of River City Ransom.

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River City Ransom was the first game I fell absolutely in love with. It’s a hybrid beat-em-up RPG that plays like Final Fight but lets you spend calmer moments in shopping districts, enjoying meals or steam baths between battles. You can raise your stats by eating noodles and asking for smiles from the burger shop waitress. It’s got a hyper-cheesy plot about high schoolers Alex and Ryan fighting hundreds of local gang members on the way to face Slick, who has taken over the town and kidnapped Ryan’s girlfriend.

The best part is that this game works far better as a two player affair. I spent days upon days teaming up with my stepbrother, Greg, and completing the game in one go. To be fair, we had to; the only “save” system was a three-line code you could write down with pen and paper to give yourself updated stats when you restarted. It was less of a pain in the ass to just play it all over, mostly because the game is incredibly fun.

The game was the perfect two player, co-op game. While fun on its own, RCR is an utter riot with a partner. Some of my favorite gaming memories involve sitting on the basement floor with Greg first thing on a Saturday morning, not getting up until Slick was defeated and all of the noodles were devoured.

The most memorable aspect of the game itself is the music. I can unspool any of these tunes in my mind just by thinking of the game. What I would love is for you to comment with your favorite 8-bit or 16-bit era game scores. Leave youtube links for any particular songs if you want. I know everyone (of a certain age at least) has a few absolute heartwarming favorites they’ve loved for years. Let’s share! I will be making more posts with more of this music as long as there’s interest.

Roxy’s Theme
Upon which our heroes find Slick’s girlfriend blocking the path. She wants to help, to warn us. It’s dreamy.

Main Theme
Here’s my childhood.

Shop Theme
This song will always make me feel comforted and hopeful. We made it to the town. We can eat, and gear up for the next fight.

It’s been 3 years, mom.

Three years ago today, my mother died suddenly.

There was no warning, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t get to say goodbye. My sister and I are still picking up the pieces.

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Here she is, teaching me videogames and the art of biting one’s tongue in concentration.

I wanted Tears Are In Your Eyes, by Yo La Tengo, played at her funeral. She loved this band. I wrote a lengthy ode to my mom, but couldn’t read it myself, crying too hard. Turned out, the pastor was too choked up to read it clearly either. And then this song came on, washing over us like a tidal wave.

This is one of the most deeply felt songs in my life. There’s a titanic gravity attached to this song now, but it was always one to gut me with this one specific line. A line that my mom said thousands of times to her kids, in varying words, throughout our lives. I’m going to share it below.

Although you don’t believe me you are strong,
Darkness always turns into the dawn.