It is always good for the reception of smaller artists to associate themselves with some big names, just to get some attention and to open up peoples heads. So here are two for you, regarding Johnny Mackay aka Fascinator: He opened for Tame Impala in Los Angeles this year and his upcoming debut album “Man” on Spinning Top is co-produced by Darren Seltmann, formerly of The Avalanches. All Aussies, right? Well, Mackay is too, though he currently is residing in New York City. Like those two acts, his stuff is pretty psychedelic and a bit out there. Must be something in the water down under. Not as retro as Tame Impala, not building on samples like The Avalanches, but instead with looping bass lines, repeating horn and piano stabs and lo-fi beat boxing. To be honest, I am not too sure about his vocal skills, but check out the second teaser single for the album below.
Berlin vintage house upshots Max Graef and Glenn Astro are going to release their first 12″, called “Magic Johnson”, on the British label institution Ninja Tune next month. Both have put out fantastic debut LPs on Tartelet Records in the past two years and lots of jazzy house cuts on the vinyl-only label Box aus Holz. But still, Ninja Tune is a big step up and one can only wish them the most wide-spread reception possible. Check the A-side out below.
The most astonishing thing about HeTCA is the fact that frontman Kurt Wagner is known to work with his hands. He is a shirt-sleeved, baseball cap wearing former floor tiler: A prototypical man of the middle classes. On stage with his longstanding alternative country and indie band Lambchop, he promotes this not only via his clothes, but also by his unassuming and unpretentious demeanor. As if saying: I am making honest music for honest people. That, of course, is only halfway true, as he has long been one of the darlings of the more cultivated music critics, and you could not really imagine him having too many fans in common with, say: Springsteen or Dave Matthews. Wagner and Lambchop have always been a bit too odd or too complicated for the really, really honest man.
This week, Wagner will throw another curve ball our way via Merge Records, in the form of his new electronic project HeCTA. Some parts of debut album “The Diet” are so very much different from the slow, orchestral and quiet sound of Lambchop that long standing fans will be taken aback for a second or two. A hard beat and a shouting voice dominate the opener “Till Someone Gets Hurt”, and it takes a while for the song – and the listeners ear – to settle into it. But the song, and the album as a whole, soon reveal that Wagners strength lies in creating intriguing melodies and deliciously subtle chord changes – and that it doesn’t matter which genre he chooses to wrap them up in.
The beats on “The Diet” sound a bit hollow at times, and you can’t shake the impression that they tried to do the best with their dilettante knowledge at best. But looking back at the beginnings of Lambchop, that amateur attitude was part of the charm. And there is enough finesse to build upon here, so who knows to which heights of proficiency HeCTA will propel themselves in the years to come, should this turn out to be more than a one-time thing. They have done it before, and they can do it again. After all, Kurt Wagner is a hard working self-made man, if anything.
Listen to the pre-release stream below.
English producer Sam Shepard aka Floating Points will release his debut album “Elaenia” via Pluto on November 6th – and it is something else. So far, he has been one for sprawling, immersive deep house cuts with a jazzy touch, put out on DJ-friendly EPs. But judging by the first track “Silhouettes (I, II &III)” he uploaded last week, the album will push his jazz side up front and dial back on the electronics. It has a long list of contributors, including classical musicians, and word is that he will even sing on it.
Do your dreams include Marimbas and Panflutes, too? Korallreven‘s do, this author’s do, and so do Michael Silver’s aka CFCF’s – at least judging from the high point of his lastest album “The Colours of Life”, released two weeeks ago via 1080p. Although the album is one continuos mix and should be listened to in one go from start to finish, it contains twelve distinct parts or movements – and “A Real Dream” more than halfway in deserves to be called its climax. Not only this one dreamy “movement” has panflutes, xylophone, sax and generally cheesy CR-78 drum machine sounds: The whole album is one eighties TV movie soundtrack.
It is choreographed as to be a “Departure” from this world and a “Return” to it at the end – similar to a drift into sleep and back again. There is a name for that mental state at the edge of sleep, called hypnagogia, and you may remember the music genre named after this state – hypnagogic pop – which was pushed around several blogs a few years back. It turns out, hypnagogic pop held back its best work until now. Because Silver has been working on this album for four years, as he writes in a statement accompanying the album release. He claims to have been inspired by Phil Collins, of all people, to start working on it. The song he refers to, Hand in Hand from 1981, is a great peace of music and may be Collins’ best work. And yes, it is cheesy, but also very easy to underestimate because of it – and so is “The Colours of Life”. If you give yourself to it sincerely, it will reward you with a perfect, relaxing journey into your own mind.
Some things lure you out of hiding, and the loss of a beloved band project is one of those things: Sadly, the Swedish balearic pop duo Korallreven announced their break-up last week. Founded in 2009 and consisting of Daniel Tjäder (of the Radio Dept.) and Marcus Joons, they released two album and several singles over the course of the past five years. And even though last years “Second Comin'” was a mixed bag, they will be fondly remembered for their debut “An Album by Korallreven” and the A Dream within a Dream mixtape. The two of them offered one last track called “Here In Iowa” as a parting gift on Soundcloud and will play two last shows in New York and Stockholm.
Glasgow producer Rustie has chosen to stream his new album “Green Language” in a nowadays not-so-new, but still fun way – as a browser-game. You run through a nineties-style pixelated landscape and activate separate tracks off the album by reaching certain pylons. “Up Down” is playing while you have to jump from platform to platform, you fly to the track “Raptor” and have to find your way through a maze to “Let’s Spiral”. Every time you touch a new pylon, the last song stops and the next starts, and what seems like an annoyance first, is basically what the album itself is like. Fade-ins and changes, emerging sounds and rhythms, tries, errors and successes.
Just like with any soundtrack, it is hard to shake the images and the experience of the mini game from the sounds afterwards – which is extra value, of course, but it makes reviewing the sounds on their own that much harder. Anyway, if you know Rustie’s debut “Glass Swords” from 2011 or his BBC Essential Mix, you basically know what you are getting with “Green Language”, too: Everything. Sweet synth melodies, bass thumps, guest singers and rappers (including Danny Brown, below), experimental drafts, ambient sounds, 8bit bleeps and trap hooks. His first album didn’t invent anything new, and this does neither, but once again, he get’s the mix right. In a very charming way, “Green Language” doesn’t want to be more than it is, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and thereby is thoroughly enjoyable. It is the underdog among Warp‘s fall releases by Aphex Twin, Hudson Mohawke and Flying Lotus. But so far, I am rooting for the underdog.