Category Archives: trip hop

Digititalis – just what the doctor ordered for chilled out listening-while-working music

digitalis logo

Yesterday as I struggled to find some music to listen to that would help me get through my busy work day, I kept thinking about Robyn Hitchcock’s crazy story on Storefront Hitchcock where he’s in a lobby (and a hotel on top of it as well) with a hangover and asks the person at the desk if they can turn the Muzak down. “We can’t,” they tell him. “Why not?””Because it’s pleasing.”

Generally if I’m going to play music while I’m working, I need something mellow. Too mellow and it will just bore me and piss me off. Like Hitchcock says, there’s such a thing as “annoyingly comfortable.”

Finally I hit on something that was just what the doctor ordered: a SomaFM channel called Digitalis. It was playing music that I would place in the shoegaze category – chillwave, dream pop, glitch, etc. According to the website, the music is “Digitally-affected analog rock; laptop rock; screengaze: these are some of the names that people give this new style of indie rock that’s all about the shift of the recording studio into the laptop.”

It was just right. Not so attention grabbing that I got distracted, but not boring. I streamed it through my cellphone via Shoutcast and was able to move around the office and get a lot of work done.

In the process, I discovered several acts that I would like to hear more from:

Soley – reminds me a little of Bjork, and Lacrymosa.

Inu – really glitchy sounding stuff, melancholy vocals…

Ms John Soda – a really good indie band from Germany that I’m surprised I missed. Kind of Looper meets Ivy?

Styrofoam – really glitchy, kinda funky, a bit of  a New Order vibe…

And while I’m at it, let me recommend SomaFM as a whole. They’ve got a lot of interesting channels worth checking out. Played Groove Salad for a while and liked it.

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Filed under indie, music, shoegaze, trip hop, Uncategorized

Take a ride on a broken carousel with Japanese newgaze artist Ferri

Japanese musicians continue to inspire me. I just found an amazing new artist thanks to Mitsugu Suzuki, aka Cellz Cellar (mentioned in a piece I wrote about Japanese music a while back). Her name is Ferri. She composes, sings, plays keyboard, and mixes everything on a laptop. Her music sounds like a dream, with lush vocals and ethereal soundscapes. Sort of another take on shoegaze and postrock by the likes of Sigur Ros and My Bloody Valentine.

Ferri just released her first album, A Broken Carousel, in July. Cellz Cellar collaborated with her on one song (Zoetrope) and she will sing on a couple of songs on his next album, the soon-to-be-released follow-up to his debut 444. Can’t wait to hear that.

Here are a couple of outtakes you can stream and download for free via Bandcamp:

The digital album can be purchased through Amazon.com.

And check out this beautiful video for “Tomorrow Comes After Today.”

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Filed under music, postrock, shoegaze, trip hop, video, world music

Music genres – handles or pigeonholes? (probably both)

It’s a common complaint from musicians: “I don’t do goth/post-rock/folk/trip hop/indie/prog (or whatever). You can’t pigeonhole me!”

Same thing with fans. I’ve read a ton of forum threads complaining about genre names. “What the hell does post-rock mean? Aren’t bands still playing rock? Why isn’t it called post-rap? Post-rock isn’t a real genre.” And various other quibbles from people who hate seeing their favorite musicians get pigeonholed, or resent seeing musicians they don’t like surf their way into undeserved recognition atop some made up fad.

I totally get it. I’m the king of “you can’t pigeonhole me.” I’m 100 percent eclectic in musical taste. Politically, neither fish nor fowl.

I do think there’s a nasty tendency in some circles (*cough* Pitchfork) to use labels in order to dismiss a band or collection of bands. Like, “Oh yeah, we figured out what these guys are. Just another example of X. If anyone still cares about X, this is part of that whole X knockoff crowd. That scene is so quaint isn’t it? Moving right along…”

Just look at this list of genres: http://rateyourmusic.com/rgenre/

Drumfunk, Sqweee, Glitch-hop, Witch House and Turbo-folk are just a few of many genre names that make me scratch my head. Are these really real? Is somebody pulling our legs?

Who comes up with this stuff anyway? It used to be DJs and music journalists, but now I guess it’s mostly bloggers with a lot more hits than I get. Somehow the names catch on, silly or not. Shoegaze is one I use a lot that sounds pretty ridiculous (whatever you want to call it, I like it). It was originally a put-down for bands playing noise-drenched stuff who tended to stand on the stage and look down at their shoes, but now it’s so common that bands will claim the term.

Classifying music into groups will always be a messy business. There are some musicians (usually my favorites) who defy classification. There are musicians who get lumped into a group who sound nothing like their supposed peers.

Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) came from one of the original CBGBs bands, often touted as one of the first punk bands or even “proto-punk.” Yet to me its style has a lot in common with Magazine’s Real Life (1978), which came out just a year later and is considered one of the first postpunk albums. Can you really go from proto- to post- in just one year?

World music is a really messy genre. It can sound like anything, and isn’t everything part of the world? And speaking of the world, now everything has gone global. You have millions of musicians, talented and otherwise, making tunes on laptops and releasing them on the Internet. Anyone can be influenced by anyone. It was hard enough to classify things in the blues-R&B-rock continuum, especially when jazz and classical kept rearing their ugly heads. Now throw in influences from every country in the world and classifying anything becomes virtually impossible.

Yet we have to try. Why? Because if we don’t, we can’t find music we like, and we can’t talk about it.

I understand the principle of “it’s all music.” But don’t you think the average Chuck Berry fan would be a bit put off if you played a Godspeed You Black Emperor album said, “Here’s some of that music stuff you claim to like”? And suppose he had an open mind and even kind of liked it, but just never heard GYBE before and asked, “what is this?” Sorry, but I’m going to have to say post-rock, because he might then find and enjoy Sigur Ros. Post-rock is a clear case of “you gotta call it something.” Would you consider a Chuck Berry song rock? Definitely. Would you consider a Godspeed You Black Emperor song rock? Not too sure… Thus, post-rock.

I agree that genre names often suck, but they can be useful, even some “hairline distinctions.” For example, dark ambient. It bleeds into regular ambient (another term people argue over), as well as industrial (ditto). But there are certain groups that people who say they like dark ambient tend to like.  I like to give and get recommendations. How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pick a genre name? If I just ask for “music” recommendations, I could get anything from Beethoven to the Ramones. I like both of those, but they’re not going to help me find Coil, Lustmord or Voice of Eye.

A genre name might be a stupid word, but once it catches on and people start hanging ideas on it, what can you do? You’re pretty much stuck with it.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if people are still listening to this stuff hundreds of years from now? Are we going to get names like tenth wave Electro-acoustic-neo-post-psych-prog? Hell, that name probably exists already.

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Filed under commentary, dark ambient, indie, industrial, postpunk, postrock, progressive rock, psych, punk, shoegaze, trip hop, Uncategorized, world music

Dandelion Radio, awesome online station

Found something cool that I’ve been enjoying quite a bit the last few days, an online station called Dandelion Radio, inspired by the late British DJ John Peel.

The station plays a very eclectic mix, full of obscure indie music, world music, experimental noise, you name it. I’m not crazy about everything I hear (now and then he plays rave music. Blech.) but mostly I love it, and I’ve come across some great discoveries. In particular, I really liked The Crocodiles’ cover of Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart,” which puts a shoegazer Jesus and Mary Chain type spin on the hit. Barely recognized it at first. I was also impressed to find that they were playing “The Groupie Song” by The Venopian Solitude, the young Malaysian singer/songwriter I featured previously on this blog. In fact, that’s how I found the station. Did a web search and she turned up in his playlist. I figured that was a sure sign of good taste and an adventurous musical ethic.

Check him out when you get a chance: DandelionRadio.com

And get a load of The Crocodiles version of “Groove is in the Heart.” I saw some YouTube comments bashing them for sounding too much like JAMC, but I don’t think so. Kind of a surf thing going on in it that I don’t remember from that band.

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Filed under experimental, indie, indie pop, indie rock, music, rock, trip hop, Uncategorized, video, world music

Latest discovery – Ocote Soul Sounds

Just found another treasure the Goodwill thrift store – El Nino Y El Sol, a soundtrack for a non-existent movie by Ocote Soul Sounds. It turns out the group that created the album is based here in Austin and has roots in two groups that I already love: Grupo Fantasma and Antibalas. Grupo Fantasma is a non-traditional Latin group in Austin that infuses cumbia music with funk, dub, dancehall reggae, and more. Pretty fiery stuff. New York-based Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra picks up where Nigerian legend Fela Kuti left off, with a powerful mix of funk, African grooves and politics.

Ocote Soul Sounds, around since 2003, is the brainchild of Grupo Fantasma’s Adrian Quesada (guitars, bass, drums) and Antibalas founding member Martin Perna (vocals, saxophone, flute, guitar, organ, percussion) and has since expanded to seven members. It’s definitely funky, but is more atmospheric and dub-influenced. At times the music reminds me of a Latinized version of Air. Other times it’s a bit like Thievery Corporation, which is on the same label as Ocote Soul Sounds – Eighteenth Street Lounge Music.

I feel like I should’ve known about these guys already. They are definitely on my radar now.

Here are a couple of videos to give you the idea:

There’s also a nice DJ mix on the band’s official website: http://www.ocotesoul.com/

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Filed under acid jazz, funk, one you might've missed, psych, reggae, soul, thrift store finds, trip hop, Uncategorized, world music

One you might have missed – Humble Souls album Thoughts & Sound Paintings

The Humble Souls album, Thoughts and Sound Paintings was a revelation for me. A friend turned me onto it several years ago and I’ve determined it’s a lost classic. Right in between acid jazz and trip hop, they remind me a lot of my favorite trip hop group, Massive Attack. Released in 1993, I think Thoughts and Sound Paintings should’ve been as big as Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, which came out two years later. Every song on it is just killer.

It’s out of print, but you can find used CDs on Amazon. I think I got it used for like $2.

The album was on Gilles Peterson’s Acid Jazz label (which by the way is RIAA safe). I had a hard time tracking down a lot of information about them on the Internet, but someone on eBay took the time to share the info from the liner notes (which I could read myself if they didn’t use tiny print on a purple background – not enough light and couldn’t find a magnifying glass).

Personnel includes: Marie Jamilla (vocals); Anthony Clark, Simon Bartholomew (guitar); Edie Parker (flute); Ollie Moore (saxophone); Dave Priseman (trumpet).
Personnel: Spider, Hugh Brooker, Simon Anniky (vocals); Simon Bartholomew (guitar); Anthony Clark (acoustic guitar); Dave Priseman (trumpet); Cyril Maccamann (piano); Paul Gunter (congas).
Unknown Contributor Role: Hugh Brooker.
Arrangers: Hugh Brooker; Simon Anniky.

I’m going to have to do a post about Gilles Peterson one of these days also. He’s the one who came up with the term “acid jazz,” and he’s a renowned DJ and “rare crate digger.” He finds the coolest stuff you never would’ve heard otherwise.

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Filed under acid jazz, one you might've missed, trip hop