Gr◯un土 – Vodunizm

When I saw the name Gr◯un土 on a list of recently released albums, my first thought was to pass right on by. After all, there are countless indistinct artists with unpronounceable ascii-fun names. Then I saw the cover art and was intrigued. Something called to me. I found a stream of Vodunizm and a smile immediately crept across my face.

 

It’s a feeling I haven’t had so fast in a long time. Total buoyant physicality; my body had to move. Shoulder shrugs at the desk turned into dancing around my apartment, spilling coffee on my pajama pants and scaring the cats. Dancey, approachable music rarely hits me with such a visceral impact. The first phrase that ran through my head was, “interstellar rave music for a misty mountain jungle sleepover.”

After a bit of digging, I realized that sentiment wasn’t total nonsense.

Written in English on his Facebook profile, the artist’s own statement sums up the intention here pretty well. It’s earnest and guileless and I love it. He’s talking about the title track, “in which indigenous beats gradually permeate and resonate with the psychedelic overdub sounds, the festive sound world that freely runs through organic~cosmic~Balearic realms makes our brains totally shiver!” However cheesy that might seem, it paints a warmly specific picture in my mind.

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The music structurally reminds me of slow motion dub techno, but it’s far too active and bright to fit with Basic Channel or Deepchord. The mood leans into the celebratory tent, all neon strobes and moving bodies, yet the tempo is suited for the chillout room. I’m sitting here on my third listen, fourth cup of coffee at noon on a Saturday, and it sounds perfect. That says it all.

The deep, rubbery beats are sprinkled with a galaxy of tangible  instrumentation, whether sampled or recorded live. Songs erupt, cut through with traditional Japanese percussion, bells, and chimes. Obvious samples are rare, but at one point the classic Godzilla roar makes an appearance. The fact that it’s not jarring or dumb says a lot about the otherworldly context.

These tracks manage to dilate time, slowly expanding in a beat cloud of unknowing. I felt lost inside a mere 4 minute song at the center of the album, ping ponging between antique female vocal samples like a foggy hall of mirrors. At 77 minutes, it’s a long album, but it felt like waking from a dream at the end, the homogenous sound washing tracks together in memory. It’s a cohesive sound world that I want to be cocooned in.

Some time during my second go-round, I realized that this percussive, almost tribal atmosphere was reminding me of nothing so much as Boredoms’ magnum opus, Vision Creation Newsun. Both albums stand as futuristic productions built from the dizzying interplay of tactile, timeless elements. The unyielding beat, the blend of ancient and modern textures, the  sun-worshipping mood, these all connect the album to a time and place that seems long gone in our world. This album engaged my nostalgia center without directly referencing anything I’ve listened to, in the past or today.

Within minutes of clicking play I was scouring the internet to find out more. It seems Gr◯un土, aka DJ Ground, is from Osaka, Japan. This is, maybe not coincidentally, where my beloved Boredoms are from. He’s well known there as the main organizer for ChillMountain, an outdoor music festival that’s been going on for a decade, which really explains the time-stretching dynamic of his music. I can imagine floating on beats like this for hours amidst a sea of bodies and glowing lights in the thinned atmosphere.

Vodunizm is his debut full-length album, a fantastic introduction to this sound. It’s always flirting around the edge of familiarity before taking off down new paths, mining history and cinema for inspiration. It feels like an utterly complete artistic statement.

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The album is digital-only for now, and you can get it for 1800 yen on Bandcamp. Google tells me this is roughly $15, which makes sense. I’m emailing to ask about a possible physical release, but until then I’ll enjoy it right here.

Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt

I’ve been listening all week and I can tell you that Freddie Gibbs‘ new album is sublime.

Shadow of a Doubt is a beyond-worthy follow up to last year’s best music of 2014 list-making Piñata, where he paired with prolific beat scientist Madlib. While he comes with a bevy of producers this time, the sound is surprisingly cohesive and tightly wrapped. This is one of the best hiphop albums in a year full of strong material.

Since the album is releasing today and I’m working too hard to spend time on a proper review just yet, I’m leaving you with the haunting video for first single Fuckin’ Up The Count. Sporting a thematically spot-on sample from everyone’s favorite drug drama, The Wire, it’s a tense but spacey jam that sets the mood for the rest of the album pretty well.

It also seems to place the album cover into context, shadows obscuring Gibbs’ visage, as a slow motion chain of events spiral ever darker.

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The album is out on itunes and Spotify of course, and you can buy the CD edition from Amazon. Not sure about a vinyl release yet, but I’m hoping for it. The last album had superb packaging. I’d love to have that evocative artwork writ large on a 12″ sleeve in my collection.

If you’re not already listening, stream the whole thing below:

The Best Music From Fallout

We’re in the final stretch, guys. Fallout 4 will arrive in just three days. The hype train is barreling full steam ahead, and I don’t mind feeling caught up. The last two games in the series are easily the most played in my adult life. Also, have you seen that launch trailer?

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The above screenshot is from my last play through of Fallout: New Vegas. My character is a hard-nosed woman named Scotch, who often travels with a flying eyebot and a cowgirl who chugs whiskey. I’ve got 234 hours logged, according to Steam, and I’d be happy to double that if there weren’t so many other great games to play.

I’m avoiding replaying the old games in this final stretch, but not in an effort to cultivate a fresher experience. Instead, I’m trying to finish Witcher 3 in a last-ditch weekend effort. This game is easily the best open world I’ve experienced since the last Fallout game, a universe more rich with storytelling than any game before it. Sure, the world is massive and full of things to do, but it’s the sharp writing and rich sense of narrative that makes this game special. If you’re a literary type who enjoys games, often lamenting their shortcomings in this area, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I mention this game only to show how high the stakes are. Bethesda could release the same old game in a new setting and it would be fun, but 8 years since their last developed Fallout game, the world has changed. A handful of games have shown that even chaotic, open ended structures can yield moments of beauty, insight, and wonder. I remember how wrapped up I got with Fallout 3 and New Vegas and think, they’re going to nail this. I have high hopes that the sequel to the only other open world I’ve been totally drawn into will deliver on the storytelling front.

Because I was ridiculous and ordered that Pip-Boy edition, I’m even looking forward to wearing an actual, no-shit Pip-Boy on my wrist one single time before probably putting it on display at the office. If any coworkers are reading this, consider it fair warning for your inevitable eye rolling.

I felt like indulging in a bit of nostalgia today, listening to some of my favorite songs from the last two games. I’ve got to seriously credit the former for getting me into Billie Holiday, now one of my favorite vocalists of all time. I always enjoyed hearing her, to be sure, but I never understood the stark beauty of her music until hearing it in that game. Billie’s heartbreaking laments soundtracked my often aimless wandering through a desolate, bombed out wasteland, the most striking juxtaposition of music and visuals I’d ever known in a video game.

The seven following songs are my very favorites from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas:

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Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

So Oneohtrix Point Never has dropped a huge single today in the lead up to his new album release next month. The new song is called Mutant Standard and it’s one of the best tracks he’s crafted yet.

Don’t worry about the grey “no video here” backdrop, the song will begin as soon as you click play. I suppose that’s Oneohtrix, aka Daniel Lopatin, having a little fun with the youtube-as-audio format.

What I love about this 8 minute juggernaut, cresting the center of the album’s running time, is that it finally cracks open that experimental edge of Lopatin’s sound and reveals an earnest dance beat, if only for a moment. When I reviewed the upcoming album, Garden Of Delete, I wrote the following:

“Mutant Standard bursts out clad in minimal techno, snowballing into a close cousin of last year’s kaleidoscopic (and near-perfect) Syro. The tune expands, bursting at the seams with a ragged midi arpeggio before fading into new age bliss. It wasn’t until the song ended that I realized it’s the most straightforward “dancey” track Lopatin has ever recorded.

The song reaches a skidding, frantic momentum that reminds me of nothing so much as the most mind-shredding moment from Aphex Twin’s noisy classical/techno masterpiece, Drukqs. I’m thinking Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael’s Mount. The ending quivers and bows out, shuffling offstep like a particularly warm Autechre song.”

I still feel pretty much the exact same way, so there’s that. Enjoy the tune! The album drops November 13, 2015, and you can preorder from Warp already. Since it leaked nearly a month ago, a lot of us have had time to become very familiar with the sound, so this monster of a tune might not be news. If that’s the case, I hope that if enjoy it like I do, you’re paying for the real deal when it’s out. It’s important to encourage progressive, adventurous music like this.

Joanna Newsom Has Returned! New Single: Sapokanikan

I absolutely love Joanna Newsom.

I was just talking with friends the other day, sharing our hopes that Newsom would return possibly after winter, early next year. Her last album, the monumental triple-disc Have One On Me was not only a masterpiece; it sustained enough soul-chilling moments to last us the past half-decade.

So expectations are kind of high for her upcoming album, Divers. Announced today along with this video, it’s coming a week after my birthday: October 23, this year.

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I Think It Is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too

Because sometimes it feels like this.

My mom would have been 65 today. She liked Black Moth Super Rainbow, said it often sounded pretty, reminded her of The Beatles, “but way weirder.”

This tune always felt oddly touching. The combination of sweetly nostalgic melodies and an alien vocoder masks the deep sadness of the lyrics. I feel like my mom would wish the singer felt better.

Sitting in the humid blur of the summer, on a day that’s stormed twice between bouts of unflinching sunny splendor, this tune hits the spot in a way nothing else can.

I don’t want to live through winter
I can’t stand to see everything ending

I’ll just stand on the meadow
I’ll be taken by sunbeams
So goodbye

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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.