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.

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:

Oneohtrix Point Never “Ezra”

This is the final bit of Oneohtrix Point Never news before the new album, Garden Of Delete, drops tomorrow.

OPN, aka Daniel Lopatin, has finally released the first real song, Ezra, as a single on Soundcloud. I really want to share this with everyone because it’s not only a great introduction to the new sound; it’s a layered world of sound unto itself. Enjoy:

Please allow myself to quote… myself here:

“Ezra, the first proper track, leaps from the midi-fired dreams of the previous album, reaching speed behind sheets of Philip Glass-like shrill arpeggios. It appears to crest before the two minute mark, suddenly projecting the nanomachine-clogged cyberpunk future of 2000’s Deus Ex in silhouette. Maybe it’s a sample?”

I think it is a sample. Decide for yourself.

Speaking of this game, the original Deus Ex is both an action-RPG masterpiece, and a definitive work in the cyberpunk canon. It’s the precursor to modern games like Fallout. It’s got a great soundtrack too. Sounds like Lopatin might have played it, too. It’s about $7 on Steam if you’ve never played it.

So I’ve written a lot about Lopatin’s work lately, partly out of excitement for this work, and partly out of a desire to connect with what I see as the most forward-thinking, interesting music being made today. If this is the first piece on the site you’re reading, you might want to see these:

Review of Garden of Delete

First single: “I Bite Through It”

Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Mindbending “Sticky Drama” Video

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Garden of Delete drops tomorrow! It’s his first full length in 2 years, so be sure to check the album out on Spotify or wherever, if you’ve been a good kid and ignored the leak. I’m just hoping that gorgeous 2LP vinyl arrives on time.

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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Rubber Johnny, the most bonkers of all Aphex Twin videos

I just needed to share this right now.

I forgot for the longest time. I had somehow missed the opportunity to share this infamous and absolutely captivating music video on Optimistic Underground for a long, long time. It’s based on one of the final songs on Aphex Twin‘s spastic genius monument, Drukqs, and it’s one of the most unforgettable videos you’ll ever see.

There’s not much to say about this, other than make sure to pick your jaw up after it’s over, and try not to be upset if it takes you outside your comfort zone!

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Enjoy!

CFCF – You Hear Colours [incredible video]

“This seems really poppy/upbeat for you. Of course I’m always imagining you listening to weird post breakbeat Croatian footwork jazz with Russian metal and Japanese house influences”

The above works were spoken to me by a friend as I shared this fantastic video for an old CFCF track.

While the artist has evolved into something far more weirdly specific and perfect for my tastes (see his last album and Night Bus mixes, which have obviously influenced my own mixtapes), this is the song that started it all. I was immediately hooked and never looked back.

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I don’t really have anything else to say. Ed said it best. Enjoy!