Nosaj Thing - Drift

i've been hearing about this for the better part of a year now, so when i heard that a remix album was coming out (it was released yesterday), i figured it was time to see what Nosaj Thing was all about. as the saying goes, "better late than never."

my expectation were high for three of reasons. for one, Nosaj Thing (24-year-old Jason Chung) is loosely tied to Flying Lotus and he rest of the L.A. glitch-hop scene. second, the album came out on Alpha Pup, the Daddy Kev run label that rarely puts out anything short of great. finally, he's been receiving accolades from the likes of BBC, as an artist to watch because of his first place finish in L.A.'s prestigious Project Blowed beat battle. as much as i try not to buy into hype, i couldn't help it this time.

regardless, this album far exceeded my expectations. Chung is a skilled producer. where Flying Lotus' music is a dense hodge-podge of samples competing for space, Chung's is spacey and ambient. there's a lot going on, but it doesn't feel crowded. Drift sounds more like what's happening with London's dubstep scene, than what his laptop wielding L.A. peers are doing. his main tie to glitch-hop is his belief that drum sounds can come from everywhere. besides the obvious handclap, there's the ripping of duct tape and jingle of pocket change ("1685/Bach"), and water leaking onto various surfaces ("IOIO").

the overall sound is that of music being made in a murky cellar, spacious and echoing, filled with drippy synth lines. that isn't to say it's in any way dreary or depressing. no, this is a celebration of the fun that can be had in dark, dank spaces.  the only low spots come when he drops his dark minor chord facade in exchange for a cheerier one on "2222," and on "Lords," an otherwise brilliant track made less brilliant by the inclusion of human voices. they're brief hiccups, and i use the word "low" loosely, as everything on here is fairly exceptional.


Nosaj Thing - IOIO
Nosaj Thing - 1685/Bach
Nosaj Thing - Caves


Avey Tare - Down There

while most of the indie world was (and still is) holding it's breath in anticipation of Panda Bear's follow up his critically acclaimed Person Pitch, Avey Tare (David Portner) quietly recorded and released his own solo album, Down There. dark and dense, it's an album that Portner clearly made during a time of intensely negative emotions. the "there" that the album's title refers to is hell. way down there.

his hell isn't the fiery hell that normally comes to mind though. the hell that the Animal Collective songwriter has envisioned and recreated here is damp and dreary, complete with swamp sounds and bog beats, not to mention the alligator head featured on the album's cover (and in his press photo). this hell more closely resembles Hades, the underworld of Greek mythology, one with 5 rivers including the river Styx. in the opening seconds of "Glass Bottom Boat" a warped voice asks "Hey, do you know how to get to that cemetery over there?" to which another replies "Sure, I can get you over there. Just step into my boat here." this second voice is Charon, the river's ferryman.

the album begins with "Laughing Hieroglyphic," a song that, halfway through, states "My heart is a nurse / But my tongues in a blender / Now its become something creative / I know it's not much but just let it right into your gut." this, to me, serves as the album's thesis. over the course of the writing process, Portner has dealt with the death of his grandmother, his sister's battle with cancer, as well as a break-up with his wife. this underworld is his innerworld. later in the song, Portner says "The lion in your dreams, the lion is good for your dreams." this is likely a nod to the song "Lion in a Coma" off of AC's latest Merriweather Post Pavilion, a song written and sung by Portner, and a possible sign of things to come.

other standouts include "Oliver Twist," a foot-stomper that feels like it shouldn't be so danceable, and "Heather in the Hospital," which describes the scenery in the hospital in which his sister Abby overcame her fight with cancer. Abby is fine now, by the way, and created the video for "Lucky 1," below.


Avey Tare - Laughing Hieroglyphic
Avey Tare - Oliver Twist

Animal Collective - Lion in a Coma from Merriweather Post Pavilion

Flying Lotus - Pattern + Grid World

Steven Ellison (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) is a busy fella. his third full length, Cosmogramma, hit shelves in May. it's a challenging record that incorporates his usual video game beats while straddling the line between hip-hop and avant-garde jazz. a risky dichotomy to bring together, but the risk paid off, and the end result will likely end up on several top ten lists this year. Cosmogramma is dense and, at first listen, messy, but with multiple listens you begin to scratch the surface and the broader picture comes into view.

the jazz element shouldn't surprise us too much, by the way; Ellison is the nephew of the late jazz pianist, harpist, and vocalist Alice Coltrane.

but i digress. Cosmogramma is Ellison swinging for the fences, an effort after which most artists would sit back and chill. somehow, in the time when he's not remixing songs or running his Brainfeeder label, he's managed to produce more music. a mere four months later we have Pattern + Grid World, his newest EP, proof that FlyLo is not most artists. brevity is the only EP thing about it. despite being barely 19 minutes long, it feels like a full length album, partially due to Ellison's ability to pack a lot of sound into a small space, but mainly because he truly is an album artist.

not one to sit in one place too long, Ellison seems to have already forgotten his jazzy new approach, leaning this time on angular beats, squelching synths, and obscure samples. "Jurassic Notion/M Theory," as the name suggests, is FlyLo at his most primitive, an ancient tribe celebrating a successful hunt. on the other hand, "Physics for Everyone!" is the music of a hadron collider.

despite it's grandeur, Cosmogramma isn't an ideal place for first time FlyLo listeners to start. it's long and, honestly, a bit tedious. i'm not saying it's not a great album, but i recommend this EP as an introduction piece.


Flying Lotus - Pieface
Flying Lotus - Jurassic Notion/M Theory
Flying Lotus - Physics for Everyone!


unofficial halloween mix

Salem went ahead and did everyone throwing a halloween party a favor by releasing their newest LP King Night in late September. Salem (an appropriate name for artists in the subgenre "witch-house") combine elements of industrial and goth music with shoegazing guitars and the syrupy, chopped and screwed hip-hop conjured up by DJ Screw and others in 1990's Houston. the resulting music is simultaneously creepy, beautiful and danceable.

Salem's vocal duties are split between Heather Marlatt and John Donoghue. Marlatt is used instrumentally, her voice cavernous, ethereal, almost heavenly amidst the lurching beats. Donoghue's parts are what really give Salem their unnerving edge. he cover grizzly subjects like torture so nonchalantly it makes one wonder if he's done it before.

stand out tracks on the album include the leadoff title track, which features a melody lifted from "O Holy Night." "Sick" utilizes both vocalists in what may be the best track on the album behind "Release da Boar," on which Marlatt's moans are suspended in a in a misty void. "Killer" evokes A Place to Bury Strangers in its sheer volume and shoegaze attack. not for the faint of heart.


Salem - Sick (mp3)
Salem - Release da Boar (mp3)
Salem - Killer (mp3)


birth of the cool

first post. i doubt i'll be introducing anyone to Miles Davis today, but this being the birth of my blog, one whose song i hope elicit the adjective "cool" once in a while, well...it felt appropriate. 

Birth of the Cool, so titled because it marked the transition from bebop to cool jazz, came out in 1957, and is a compilation of songs from three sessions in 1949 and 1950. the Miles Davis nonet, featuring Mike Zwerin on trombone, Bill Barber on tuba, Junior Collins on French horn, Gerry Mulligan on the baritone sax, Lee Konitz on the alto sax, John Lewis on piano, Al McKibbon on the stand-up bass, and Max Roach on drums, was literally "too cool for school." the "school" in question is that of bebop with it's aggressive tempos, and limelight virtuosity. the beauty here is the detached elegance, never getting to heated, despite its rhythmic skips and hops. also remarkable is the ability of the band to never sound like a nonet. the record is intimate, as if they are playing to you and not for you.

below are a couple of songs from the album. "Venus de Milo," a track you're likely to hear in any jazz lounge in the world, was composed by Gerry Mulligan, and features a bold solo from Miles, followed by a short, but potent bit of Mulligan's baritone sax. interestingly, "Boplicity," is credited to have been composed by Cleo Henry, the only song in Davis' repertoire to be credited as such. Cleo Henry is actually a pen name of Davis, the son of Miles and Cleota Henry Davis.


Miles Davis - Venus de Milo (mp3)
Miles Davis - Boplicity (mp3)

p.s. please leave comments!