DJ Paypal – Sold Out

I haven’t listened to footwork this bracing since the first time I heard DJ Rashad.

That thought ran through my head mere minutes into this incredible set by DJ Paypal, the brief but incredibly energetic Sold Out. If you’re familiar with the Rashad and the wider genre at all, you’ll know how bold of a statement this is. The guy was the first genre superstar, and a true auteur. His sudden death in 2014 cast a pall over the relatively tight-knit community. Surprisingly, the first artist to step out of his shadow is not from Chicago but Berlin, Germany. Lacking a geographic one, Paypal still has a direction connection to the more well known artists: he met the rest of the famed Teklife crew, including DJ Spinn and Rashad, through a footwork Facebook group.

Here’s his debut album, Sold Out. It’s 37 minutes of light speed bliss that will have you hyperventilating.

I’m caught up, soaring over shattered landscapes on fast-foward, somewhere in the middle of second track Ahhhhhhh, when it hits me. I’m riding a crest of vertical samples, sharp points of horns and vocals, strung together with a piano solo, out of control and on my back. Hysterical. It’s the same inexorable rush that hits when you realize you’ve truly gotten carried away in the torrent of a great wild jazz tune. It’s that rare experience: behold! a gang of vital, angry, and independent pieces slam together in unthinkable clockwork precision.  This sort of rollercoaster used to be conjured by the likes of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan.

This album is another brick in the fortress of evidence that jazz never died; its simply outgrew its constrictive, recognizable forms. While it’s true that the fun stuff has seen a revival, thanks in no small part to artists like Kamasi Washington, reincarnating the structures of free jazz at its commercial peak, the real innovation is happening in unexpected ways. When DJ Rashad broke through half a decade ago, it wasn’t because he was the best, most skilled footwork artist. He brought visibility to the genre because he evolved it in unexpected ways, adding melodic hooks while setting the often rigidly hyperspeed template on its ear. He bent the known playbook. He played with our perception of time.

This is the exploratory heart of what makes the best free jazz so revelatory. It’s also what I’m hearing in a new album for the first time since Rashad died. Sold Out does more than stand on the shoulders of a great artist. The album earns my ecstatic response by leaping beyond, exploring past the horizons we’ve heard from Chicago so far.

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If you google DJ Paypal, you might notice that he seems like a very private person, to put it lightly. “I just don’t want pictures of my face posted everywhere, I’m opting out,” he told Meaghan Garvey in an interview for Pitchfork. He hasn’t given out his real name and currently enjoys an anonymity previously only known by Burial. I admire his humility, and his deference to the original Chicago footwork community, but he’s got to know, deep down, how special his work is. Continuing in the same interview about Rashad, after describing the day he died, Paypal says, “his role is not going to be filled by anybody else. It can’t be. So we’re gonna work harder, because it’s not going to be easy.”

The album just dropped on November 13th, so I’m a little late but hopefully not before everyone’s made their best of the year lists. I’ve got a feeling this might make an appearance on mine. You can pick up the vinyl or digital version from the Bandcamp page.

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.

DJ Spider – Upon The Gates Of The Great Depth

DJ Spider’s new album is a hot revelation, a refractory slab of noisy techno and deep house. Upon The Gates Of The Great Depth grabbed my attention out of nowhere this morning, leaping from a list of new releases with a sense of inevitability: “I’m going to be really into this,” I thought, seeing nothing more than the abstract cover art. As it wormed its way into my skull, lifting my cheeks in a smile, I realized that I was right.

The album opens throbbing with the sub-aquatic pulse of Drexciya, but quickly enters some outer space turmoil. This is compulsive, looping techno erupting into storms of noise and distortion, running light speed through an asteroid belt. It’ll give whiplash to anyone expecting a more traditional dance experience. All is not harsh, however: there’s a pervasive but slippery heart of deep house in DJ Spider’s work, a sense of belonging and warmth that says you belong nowhere more than here. It reminds me of spiritual embrace of my favorite DJ Sprinkles tracks.

There are moments where the addictive rhythms give way to peals of abrasive noise, like wind whipping over pixelized rocks on a blasted out digital tundra. The effect is more a gripping story than a collection of individual songs, replete with harder moments that give weight to the soaring peaks. The central dynamic pivots between an industrial  as it completes a mostly unspoken arc, rising and falling and exploding into new forms over its running time.

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Afrikan Sciences – Circuitous

It pays to heed recommendations. Today I clicked on an artist that my last.fm decided I should hear. Afrikan Sciences turned out to be a grand adventure, filling my Saturday afternoon with some kind of space-age techno funk. I fell in love.

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I’ll get this out of the way: I love this album, Circuitous, already. It combines so many favorite elements in a fresh way: weird jazz, alien techno, Afrofuturism, synthesizers, sci-fi atmospherics, and a radical approach to percussion and rhythm. Most of all, I’m reminded of a purely instrumental cousin of visionary hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces, one of my favorite projects on earth – and creators of the best album of 2014.

The titular single is easily one of the most approachable tracks on the lengthy album, but perfectly showcases the quicksand-shifting drum sampling and humming analog synthesizer patches. It’s only a hint of how far deep the material goes. Try for yourself; click play below:

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Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker The Berry

Kendrick Lamar is back and pulling absolutely no fucking punches.

Marching on an over-driven martial drumbeat, the new single from my favorite rapper stomps directly into your ears from the get go. After the scene’s set, Kendrick enters, all righteous anger and heavy swagger. This is hard talk, with a sudden shot to the gut before the outro rolls on a funk groove groove.

If this doesn’t get your blood pumping, raise the hair on your neck, I don’t know what will. This song hits the post-Michael Brown, post-I can’t breathe violent American zeitgeist harder than anything I’ve yet experienced. These lyrics will be analyzed for weeks going forward.

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I just want to get this out to all my music friends as soon as possible. Thanks to my friend Lou for the tip-off! Amazing surprise, coming home from work to find this. I can’t wait to hear what he brings us next. good kid, m.A.A.d. City is one of the best albums of the past couple decades. Can he top it?

Andy Stott’s Brilliant Boiler Room Set

Here’s Andy Stott spinning dark techno brilliance for almost an hour. I’m totally unsure of how I managed to miss this. Dropping two years ago – just before his stunning full length Luxury Problems – this live set mixes in a whole lot of his signature abrasive 4/4 monstrosities and searing vocal colors from Alison Skidmore. It’s a dark, sinewy construction, shambling its way through the back caves of your mind.

Basically, it sounds exactly how you’d expect Andy Stott to sound like live. Fans of Luxury Problems will be especially pleased around the 19 minute mark.

In typical Boiler Room fashion, the crowd consists of listless hipster types sipping on beers and occasionally tilting their hips. The real draw is the sound. Turn your volume up, and read something interesting while you listen. I suggest this illuminating treatise on the philosophy behind invisible prisons that shape our lives. It’s called The Black Iron Prison, a term birthed by Philip K. Dick in his final novel, VALIS. You should probably read that at some point in your life. It’s a transcendent (and partially autobiographical) dissection of sanity itself.

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I don’t have much else to say about this. Just listen. Or watch, too, if you’re in the mood to see people looking miraculously bored at one of the most intimate, brilliant techno sets I’ve ever heard.

Demdike Stare – Erosion of Mediocrity

This video.  This massive tune.

I don’t really have anything to say about this today.  Just…

Edit:  Ok, I will at least mention that this is one of my favorite moments from one of the best albums of 2012.  I will also note that this video is fucking brilliant.  You’re welcome.