august 1, 2014

in this week's update


Shabazz Palaces
Lawrence English
Hyperdub 10.2 (Various)

Washington Phillips
Studio One Dancehall (Various)
Tono Quirazco


Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle




Every Saturday Afternoon through August 30
Union Pool: 484 Union Ave. Brooklyn
Facebook Event Invite | Free Admission

Other Music is thrilled to be co-presenting this FREE weekly party with Union Pool, which takes place every Saturday afternoon through August 30th in the iconic Brooklyn bar's big backyard. This weekend, Other Music favorite Jessica Pratt will be performing along with Mike Wexler and C&C DJ.  The following Saturday, August 8, is another great bill, with Har Mar Superstar, the Sundelles, Weird Womb and the Cheap Shots dudes (of EVR fame) DJing. As always, every Saturday afternoon will be complete with brunch options from El Diablo Tacos and drink specials that will include offerings from Brooklyn Brewery, Jameson Black Barrel, & Kelvin Natural Slush Co. More details and band listings can be found on the Facebook event page.



Ace Hotel New York: 20 W. 29th St. NYC

We've only got four more weeks left in Other Music's annual summer residency at New York City's Ace Hotel, so come on down and catch one of our staff members DJing their favorite records and countless varieties of music inside the gorgeous bar every Monday evening in August from 8 p.m. to midnight. This Monday, August 4, Amanda Colbenson will be in the booth, followed by Daniel Givens on Monday, August 11, Mikey IQ Jones on Monday, August 18, and Pamela Garavano-Coolbaugh, who will be wrapping up the residency on Monday, August 25.



Le Poisson Rouge:  158 Bleecker St. NYC

In conjunction with Merge Records' deluxe reissue of the Rock*A*Teens' underrated masterpiece, Sweet Bird of Youth, the swampy Atlanta-based indie rockers reunited earlier this year and are performing shows again. The band will be pulling through New York City in a week or so, playing in Brooklyn at Glasslands on Saturday, August 9, and then the following night in Manhattan at Le Poisson Rouge on August 10, with Okkervil Rivers' Will Sheff opening. We've got a pair of tickets to give away to that LPR show on Sunday, and all you have to do to enter is email!

this week's update

Lese Majesty
(Sub Pop)

Sub Pop's first ever hip-hop signees Shabazz Palaces return with Lese Majesty, their second album for the label, and it's a psychedelic cloud rap masterpiece. Since their breakout release, 2011's Black Up, the duo of Ishmael Butler a/k/a Palaceer Lazaro (f/k/a Butterfly from Digable Planets) and Tendai 'Baba' Maraire have logged countless miles on the road, built their Protect and Exalt Labs recording studio, and helped establish a new era in Seattle hip-hop (check THEEsatisfaction and Chimurenga Renaissance). All this has enabled them to tighten their focus on spreading their myth-making music to the masses. But where Black Up found the duo blending the African and the urban into a singular future-funk fusion, Lese Majesty takes that spaceship truly out into the cosmos. Also gone is the tight and overtly pro-black/soapbox mythology, replaced here by a looser and headier stream of sub-conscious, multilayered sharpness. The character of Palaceer Lazaro is the astro-pharaoh-thug, thinking about the realities of America while staring down at the ancient pyramids from outer space.

Though the album is laid out across seven suites, the whole thing melds together into a hazy yet solid forty-five minute journey, with most of the eighteen songs averaging the two-minute mark. With a heavier use of synths and electronics, they sort of replace the earthly for an inner city among the stars. Filled with lots of layers of sounds that twinkle, shine, fly, drag, crawl, waver, thump, swirl, swerve, engulf, and embrace, Shabazz Palaces are homing in on something that's truly been missing from hip-hop lately: the galaxy. Their soundscapes feel like science fiction come to life. Imagine film classics such as John Sayles' The Brother from Another Planet or Sun Ra's Space Is the Place and their ensuing soundtracks -- yes, this is space music for urban environments.

With lyrical content that moves from slang's silliness and rhyme's playfulness to thought-provoking antidotes, along with a longing for human contact and expansion, Shabazz Palaces create their own world of attitude, pace, and dialogue. Song titles like "Black New Wave," "They Come in Gold," "Noetic Noiromantics," "Sonic MythMap for the Trip Back" and "Divine of Form" give you a glimpse of what they're working with. Think of the outsider yet futuristically urban hip-hop of past decades from Anti-Pop Consortium, Outkast or Cannibal Ox, to Divine Styler, Jungle Brothers or Afrika Bambaataa -- this is a continuation of that lineage, but it's also the next step forward and to the left, satisfying the need for not so much conscious, but rather an individual and imaginative expression from rappers. Shabazz Palace has all that, and their work exists on the edges of a genre that seems to be digging its own grave, yet it also feels like the perfect place for them, and it's somewhere I've found myself going back to again and again. Heady and vibey, subtly funky, oddly smart, equal parts weird and wonderful, if you like your hip-hop to sneak up on you and activate your brain, then here ya go. One of the best out there has gone even further, and they're only getting better. FYI: we also stock Shabazz Palaces' two pre-Sub Pop self-released EPs on CD and LP. For a limited time: double LP is pressed on colored vinyl.  [DG]

$12.99 CD ON SALE
$25.99 2LP+MP3

Wilderness of Mirrors

Lawrence English' latest excursion, the ambitious Wilderness of Mirrors, opens up a dark but engaging pool of unfathomable reflections, keeping one spellbound throughout its wholly enveloping forty minutes. The Australian composer and sound artist appears in full form here, merging the more classic avant-garde and drone sensibilities of earlier work with the blistering physicality of bands like Earth, Swans, and My Bloody Valentine. Instigated by an awareness of current political instabilities, English uses this shoegaze/drone vernacular to reflect on a constant, chaotic societal flux. Although the album explores intricate connections between noise, politics, and everyday life, English doesn't offer an overt political statement. Instead, he creates a mood and form of agency that is simultaneously ambiguous and transformative. This singular, poetic framework is also evoked through a reference to T.S. Eliott's "Gerontion," the poem from which he borrows the title for the album.

Wilderness of Mirrors presents sounds that are constantly reflected, or inverted, onto one another. Constructing complex arrangements in which "reflection after reflection" confuses aural perception, the album instills a sense of disorientation from which ultimately a new imaginary emerges. In this reimagined sonic space, it becomes possible to project, and potentially reclaim, images of a different future than the one we see currently unfolding. As such, this troubled, and at times abrasive music, points a way out of recent hauntological preoccupations. Instead of embracing by now omnipresent ideas of being haunted by futures that failed to happen, it forcefully redirects such affinities back onto themselves. As such, the album doesn't come off as aggressively as recent records by like-minded artists such as Ben Frost and Tim Hecker. Its self-reflexive "reflection after reflection" isn't so much a sonorization of a grim reality, as one can find in these other artists' work, but holds up a mirror to such cynical tendencies. Steering reality back onto itself, Lawrence English offers an invigorating sonic tapestry of seemingly endless possibilities, showing a way out of the abyss with mesmerizing, blinding, and constantly shifting modalities of noise. [NVT]

$17.99 CD
$23.99 LP

Hyperdub 10.2

Hyperdub is turning their 10th anniversary celebration into a yearlong event, releasing yet another great compilation spotlighting a wide array of talent who are expanding the parameters of modern vocal electronic-dance music. The label's roster of artists is pretty vast, featuring many producers and a handful of vocalists, and this comp sets out to connect the dots via its hefty selection of bubbling beats and sultry voices within a solid mix of previously released tracks and brand new/exclusive songs. Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland start things off, followed by Jessy Lanza with Jeremy Greenspan, Cooly G, DVA with Fatima, Ikonika with Dam-Funk, Terror Danjah with Meleka, Morgan Zarate with Eska and Ghostface Killah, and label head Kode9 with Copeland. DJ Spinn and Burial also contribute some vocal manipulations that bring the voices to the forefront with hearty rhythms rolling beneath. Overall, Hyperdub 10.2 is more accessible than its lengthy double-CD predecessor, and it comes across as an alternate reality to flavorless top 40 radio, even while getting pretty energetic and poppy by the end. This is a great primer from one of the forerunners of the current electronic music scene, and though you can hear how wide the influence of American R&B and pop has become, Hyperdub remains undeniably British. [DG]

$12.99 CD

Transitions I, II, III
(Young Turks)

London-based producer Aaron Jerome, p/k/a SBTRKT, returns with a trio of 12"s that are meant to serve as a bridge from his excellent 2011 debut full-length to his upcoming new album, set for release this fall. The Transitions singles are all instrumental with two songs per plate, and each of these tracks is exclusive to the vinyl -- in other words, none of these selections will appear on the forthcoming LP. Much like Martyn or Four Tet, SBTRKT makes music that's influenced by house, bass, and dubstep, while never really sounding like any of those genres. Similar to label mate Jamie xx, SBTRKT's great production work for vocalists Sampha and Jessie Ware ensures that his instrumentals retain a sense of melody and pop. Crisp and clean digital sounds percolate and bubble, synth lines arpeggiate and smear, emotions rise and fall, and thankfully, he never goes for the typical "drop" mentality that many of his contemporaries use. My favorite tracks are: "Gamalena" (from Transitions 1), with what sounds like bird whistles, backwards cymbals, darting bass drops and sharp lasers; "Kyoto" (off Transitions 2) with its Day-Glo high-register synths chords, speedy cymbals, crisp claps, and bouncy tempo; and "Highs & Lows" (from Transitions 3) with its cartoon trap bounce and neon sheen. Together all six cuts would have worked great as one EP, but split into three 12" singles, you'll definitely have to buy at least two to get the real highlights. The trippy 2-D animated package may sweeten the deal for some, while casual fans may just want to wait for the vocalists and the album. [DG]

$12.99 12"


The debut album from this Toronto five-piece is a bright burst of sunshiny pop. Full of hooks, catchy choruses and Molly Rankin's soaring vocals, Alvvay's sound is a tried and true formula that, if done right, can be truly exciting. And the band does a pretty great job with their debut for Polyvinyl! Album opener "Adult Diversion" is a Brit-tinged jam that gallops like a Shop Assistants B-side, while "Archie, Marry Me" riffs like a Teenage Fanclub tune with all the right hooks and melodic twists. C86 references abound; "Party Police," sounds like a post-Best Coast vision of the Wedding Present showcasing a melancholic guitar line, a driving pace, and emotionally vulnerable, moody singing. This record should definitely appeal to fans of Best Coast and said references as well as Bleached, Frankie Cosmos, and Rilo Kiley. [RN]

$13.99 CD
$16.99 LP

Nobody's Smiling
(Def Jam)

Though he may no longer live in Chicago, Common has been the city's faithful voice of conscience for nearly three decades. For his tenth album, the conceptual Nobody's Smiling, he reaches back into the rich and ripe culture of his hometown, offering a hand to its younger generation surrounded by struggle, along with up-'n'-coming voices from across the states. Beginning with a still timely sample of Curtis Mayfield's "Other Side of Town," Common, along with the return of longtime producer No I.D., paints a gritty, soulful, message-filled picture that speaks directly to and about the generation of violence that has become an escalating problem within the city, earning it the unsettling nickname "Chi-raq." Throughout Nobody's Smiling's fifty minutes, Common offsets his now-elder stance by embracing the harder-edged next school, not only in song but in the album artwork as well, giving the talent's a balanced platform to speak their piece. There are lots of standout moments from the handpicked guests that include Lil Herb, Drezzy, Malik Yusef, Vince Staples, Big Sean, Snoh Aalegra, Elijah Blake, Jhene Aiko, and Cocaine 80s (a post-Soulquarians type of super-group lead by No I.D. and Common, featuring many of the above).

Much like Kendrick Lamar's vivid picture of his Compton, Common creates his Chicago version, with a drier delivery, a more cerebral backdrop, and a dual-generation perspective. The album plays like a drive through Chicago's South and West Sides with various voices, soulful samples, a post-Yeezus edgy twitch and Common's solid stance and even-toned speech pattern holding the record together. This is a message to the next generation from a personality that "made it out the ghetto," yet realizes that he still has a role to play for those he left behind. Common even speaks about his pains with the loss of former producer/roommate J-Dilla. This may take his more neo-soul leaning fans by surprise, but it's a landmark album and I don't think Common has ever sounded better, and the younger talents only help him dig deeper into his own spirit to tell them exactly what they need to hear. An unexpected release from an often underrated, though consistent and conscientious, voice in hip-hop. [DG]

$16.99 CD
$19.99 DELUXE CD

Studio One Dancehall
(Soul Jazz)

Soul Jazz continues to mine the bottomless well of music made for the Jamaican Studio One imprint. This collection focuses on the late '70s, an era in the island's history which saw the rhythms get deep and heavy, the effects tastier, and the outcome more bombastic. Indeed, that's what you'll find on Studio One Dancehall, not to mention lots of exclusive and rare 12" mixes that make this one extra special. Alongside tried and true names like Sugar Minott, Johnny Osbourne, Lone Ranger, and Barry Brown, there are many lesser-known artists with some mind-blowing cuts. Featuring a solid mix of vocalists and toasters, dubs and instrumentals, it's a nice and varied selection with each track quickly becoming your new favorite song. Though Soul Jazz has released dozens of reggae compilations pulled from Studio One's vast discography, this one's track listing is unbeatable, and many of the songs are worthy of multiple rewinds. It all makes for one of the best collections I've heard this year, and the mid-summer release date is spot on. So grab your favorite drink, find a shaded patio and light one if you got one -- then lie back, hit play, and let the good times begin. [DG]

$22.99 CD

Jamaica Ska

Tono Quirazco was a Mexican bandleader who created a number of wonderfully eclectic and exotic albums in the 1960s and '70s that fused together a number of dance music styles that seldom crossed paths again, before or since. Four of those records have just seen reissue, and they're each well worth your attention if you dig vintage international funk/boogie/soul.

Quirazco's most infamous and head-spinning album is arguably Jamaica Ska, recorded in 1965 after a trip to the island nation, where he learned the ins and outs of what at the time was still a fresh and exciting new style to ears outside of that country. Quirazco's take on the style, though, is notable in that he decided to speed up the tempos a bit for Mexican audiences, who were more accustomed to the fiery rhythms of Perez Prado's mambo orchestras and such. The other key ingredient to the otherworldly magic is the employment of not a run-of-the-mill Latin big Band, but rather Quirazco's Hawaiian Orchestra; amidst these upbeat skanking rhythms are flourishes of Latin percussion and some white-hot Hawaiian steel guitar! I thought I'd heard it all at this point (or at least had come pretty damn close to it!), yet this record knocked me out not only on the strength of the tunes -- which are fun and groovy -- but also for the wildly eclectic mix of styles at work here. [IQ]

$15.99 CD

Ska Vol. II

Quirazco followed up the massive success of Jamaica Ska with the inevitable Ska Vol. II. There's not so much any expanding upon the vibe from the first album, but if you dig the crazed magic of Jamaica Ska and need another fix (and trust me... if you dig that record, you will!), this is a no-brainer. Quirazco's wild, fiery tropical ska delivers the goods once again!! [IQ]

$15.99 CD

A Ritmo de Boogaloo

Tono's next adventure was a bit more straightforward, but no less wonderful and kicking. A Ritmo de Boogaloo, made in 1967, sees Quirazco and his band flexing their way through a series of boogaloo tunes that fuse Latin roots with American R&B and soul influences, peppered with some color from his tropical and ska experiments as well. If you're down with the likes of Joe Bataan or Joe Cuba and their similar Latin soul excursions, grab this one post-haste; Quirazco's band is in top form, and there is nothing but deep, hot grooves happening throughout. [IQ]

$15.99 CD

Soul Makossa

The last album in the series of Tono Quirazco reissues is the early '70s platter, Soul Makossa, which as you might have guessed, sees the Mexican bandleader trying his hand at Afro-funk and totally nailing it! They kick things off with a cover of the infamous Manu Dibango tune, and work their way through a number of variations on the Afrobeat and Cameroonian funk sound. There are occasional Asian and American influences, with loads of Hammond organ, robust horns, and even a pinch of psychedelia thrown into the mix. All in all, it's the perfect end to a series of absolutely killer albums; each one is most highly recommended! [IQ]

$15.99 CD

What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?

Washington Phillips was a Texan gospel singer whose entire recorded output consists of 18 songs produced between 1927-29, though only 16 survived. What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? is Mississippi Records' collection of those rare 78s, many of which had been previously issued on Yazoo and other influential blues and gospel labels. Phillips' story is one of legend; he basically invented the entire 'gospel blues' genre on an instrument that sounds like a fretless zither, or rather a broken toy piano. This instrument -- which has also been variously identified as a Dolceola, a Celestaphone or Phonoharp -- has also been rumored to be a homemade instrument by Phillips himself. The recordings found here consist solely of this instrument and Phillip's ghostly croon, landing somewhere between an outer-space radio broadcast and a church sermon with a home-recorded cassette tape fidelity.

Thus begins the first part of the mystery that is Washington Phillips, a man who was wrongfully assumed dead at one point, then appeared at church sermons to sing in his fifties; one whose tombstone was unmarked and buried in the Cotton Gin Cemetery of Teague, TX, right next to another man of the same name. A definitive think piece by Michael Corcoran tastefully comments, "That the Washington Phillips who was gospel's great disappearing act would take his eternal nap in an unmarked grave seems about par for this course in music history."

Mississippi's collection, along with any presentation of his music, is absolutely one-hundred percent highest recommendation. I'm so happy to see this back in print, and it's unquestionable that What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?, with its crude paste-on sleeve and artist rendering of Phillips' oversized body bent over a toy piano, was able to intrigue and introduce an entire generation of young people to his excellent, bizarre, singular style. [RN]

$14.99 LP

now on vinyl

Perils from the Sea
(Caldo Verde)

2014 has been a whirlwind for prolific singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek, who's released close to 10 (!) albums, over the past two years. Benji, the latest under his Sun Kil Moon moniker, was championed early on as the best new record of this year, and its gripping, detailed portraits of desperation and 'real people' blues aesthetic is the kind of album you can't play as background music. Benji is harrowing in its straight-faced intensity and personal narrative, detailing the lives of ex-lovers, estranged family members, criminals and dead people. It's the good kind of over-sharing.

But before Benji broke out and infected the mainstream there was Perils from the Sea, a one-off collaboration with Album Leaf founder and mastermind Jimmy Lavelle. Now, taken in context, and finally available on vinyl, it's clear that Perils was a record which foreshadowed this fine-tuned vision of Benji through a series of similarly bleak narratives; it just didn't reach the same audience. The real difference is, here, Kozelek traded in his acoustic guitar for LaValle's minimal electronic production and focuses solely on vocal duties for most of the tracks (many of which he's been playing on the recent Sun Kil Moon tour with a full band).

On Perils from the Sea, Kozelek paints vivid portraits of various people and situations throughout the album's lengthy duration. And, like Benji, this record is ALL ABOUT the lyrics. For example, album highlight and live favorite "You Missed My Heart" details the story of a protagonist committing a crime against his unfaithful lover and reflecting through prison walls, until his untimely death allows him to existentially reflect. On "Caroline," Kozelek plays guitar over the song and sings about being on the road, walking through Chinatown, and life's tiny precious moments. Elsewhere, "Gustavo" is a masterpiece about Mexican migrant workers who are working to finish renovations on a house and get deported. And it's beautiful how he picks up on the subtle details of this experience from a first person point of view, and reflects on these singular moments in life. Kozelek croons: "Really I don't give much thought to Gustavo / I love to go out to the mountains, though / And in the fall, feel the breeze blow."

It's always great to hear Kozelek's resonant baritone, and this time around it really shines over the cold synthesizers and programmed drums. Again, this album is not for the faint of heart, but rather the lonesome enthusiast of all music down and out. And as with all things Mark Kozelek related, these vinyl copies will not last long. [RN]

$24.99 2LP

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