The Frightnrs – “Nothing More To Say”

frightnrs

The Frightnrs – “Nothing More To Say” available on CD & vinyl.

Dave S. SoDo

As we cross over the threshold of winter’s frosty, unforgiving doorway, the collective attitude surrounding us is one of deflation and an impending dormancy in which many of us lie down, defeated, wondering if we can lick our wounds, decompress, and restore ourselves enough to bring any semblance of order and solace into a new year on this planet. Fortunately for us, there is still music, and all of the comfort and courage that it instills in and provides to its listeners. Enter, New York’s rocksteady revivalists, The Frightnrs, with their recent powerhouse debut full-length, “Nothing More To Say.” With it comes a deep breath of satisfaction – an exaltation, however fleeting, of having found a true sonic wonder as refreshing as it is authentic in capturing the brilliance of Jamaica’s prized roots reggae past.
The sheer soul and passion at display perfectly compliment its Daptone Records home, as evident in songs such as the album opener, “All My Tears”. You would be hard-pressed to find such genuine facets of songwriting in virtually any contemporary reggae act; tight production with no gimmicks or excessive novelties, majestic bellows of pristine harmonizing lead and backing vocals, all amidst a singular, intensively evocative tone. Each song stands on its own, confidently, showcasing a relatively young band deserving respect and acclaim for its definitive grasp of legitimized reggae nostalgia. Upon listening to these songs, you would not be in error in thinking that this is a remastered classic album from the likes of The Heptones, Delroy Wilson, or The Mighty Diamonds. Masterfully recorded and performed, this album does, indeed serve as “a testament”, as its press release suggests, to a time when lyrics and rhythms coalesced so remarkably well there was a tangible, visceral spirituality cast into its musicianship.

Bittersweet melodies engulf the senses as vocals and instrumentals surf confidently downstream songs that describe love, its pining, its loss, and its reflection. Consequently, it is difficult to adequately dissect this album without touching upon the dismay felt at the band’s lead singer and songwriter passing away from ALS just a few months before the album’s release. While driving down the road listening to the album, recently, I wondered if a follow-up album, with a new singer at the helm, would prove healthy for a band having released such a cohesive statement album as flawless and well-timed as “Nothing More To Say,” let alone necessary.
The album’s closer track, “Dispute”, seems to hint at a willingness to learn from mistakes and try again, with one’s newfound hindsight and experience, albeit ambiguously. There is uncertainty and discomfort at parting ties with someone you once loved and having their image remain as you take what you have gained from their love and filter it into a new relationship. The unclear haze of mood set by the nuanced piano keys paired with the shadowy chorus of “Don’t Wanna Go / But I Can’t Unknow / What You’ve Shown To Me” makes for a mystifying and certainly unique emotional comedown for an album that set out from the start to wear its heart on its sleeve.
Perhaps, the album’s closing sentiment is a meditation on life – that there is no definitive emotional catharsis, but a marbled amalgam of thoughts, experiences, and decisions that lead off endlessly in various directions with consequences that both help and hinder our future selves. Whatever various meanings can be drawn from the album, one thing is for certain: it is possible to take the sanctity of the old and not only recreate, but revitalize it in a contemporary context, for a new audience. In this rare feat, with “Nothing More To Say,” The Frightnrs have unequivocally done so.

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Bullion “Loop The Loop”

bullion

Bullion “Loop The Loop”

Dave S. SoDo

With less than a month of summer remaining, I would be completely dropping the ball if I omitted coverage of one of the season’s greatest musical testaments and landmarks in Bullion’s fantastic, long-awaited, formal debut album, “Loop The Loop.” The journey Bullion (London-based producer Nathan Jenkins) has embarked on, sonically, is nothing short of remarkable, and seamless, at that. Having seemingly abandoned his initial trademark sound of sample-based, hip-hop-inspired breaks (showcased with the captivating mash-up statement album, “Pet Sounds In The Key Of Dee,” which married samples of the Beach Boys’ iconic “Pet Sounds” with J Dilla, aka Jay Dee’s equally impactful “Donuts,” as well as subsequent L.A.-beat-scene-referencing EP’s and singles that touched on off-kilter rhythms atop lush vocal samples and hard-hitting beats), his course soon changed direction – dramatically. Opting just some years later for a tongue-in-cheek, nostalgia-drenched approach, he has since created an infectious 1980’s pastiche of anthemic and progressive rock meets hazy, psychedelic pop. This updated, bolder Bullion shows growth rarely seen by producers associated with U.K.-based, bass-blasting dance culture. Propelled further along his current trajectory by a prevailing wind of whimsical, lyric-based song structures and engaging, billowy synth melodies, he manages to be simultaneously squirrely and, yet, unquestionably tender and emotional.

It is easy to consider “Loop The Loop,” out of its discographical context, as a cute and silly synth pop excursion. But with further examination of his progress towards this great work, it becomes clear that the trip has been carefully mapped-out and expertly navigated. This foray into a melange of 1980’s electronic nostalgia is immediately noticeable in the curation and creation of his own record label, Deek Recordings. Contributing production, mixing, and mastering duties to nearly all of its releases thus far, it is obvious he has a fresh palette of sounds and vibes he is re-branding with for his record label as an attempt to exhibit his newfound interests and tastes he’s acquired in the ever-changing electronic music community. Ideals of sheen, nuance, and unabashed admiration for the campy sides of the musical spectrum are embraced and pronounced in the fun-loving efforts such as his debut Deek Recs. LP, “Love Me Oh Please Love Me,” Rooster EP, and most acutely in the Elmore-Judd collaboration album as “Blludd Relations.” If passé music styles of twenty years ago can be celebrated and re-contextualized in the form of mellower, albeit goofier takes on conventional dance music, are we turning our backs to, or actually reestablishing our relationship with said culture? This conundrum is explored, in depth, in the impressive thirteen-track effort that is “Loop The Loop.”

Bullion integrates a polyphony of styles, ranging from cheesy yacht rock homages to moodier, more contemplative song structures that incorporate African high-life rhythms, R & B, 1980’s synth pop, and a slew of other masked and mixed electronic and considerably radio-friendly styles and atmospheres. With this album, Bullion has made perfectly clear that he stands by his musical decision-making and has committed himself to learning more about how distinctive sounds do not need to steer-clear of one another, but that true innovation and sonic advancement in the realm of dance music can form organically out of their synthesis. The textures and moods touched-upon throughout the album eschew the rules of dance music, let alone the club, loosening themselves up in truly new ways. Imagine the frenzied intro theme song to Pee Wee’s Playhouse simmering in a sonic bouillabaisse of quirky, original bedroom synth pop and neon Day-Glo-adorned pop rock stylings of the 1980’s; if that sounds like a party you’d like to be invited to, Bullion has provided a one-way flight there. While, debatably, yacht rock can be seen as the musical touchstone of the late 70’s and early 80’s summertime chill-out soundtrack, Bullion has undoubtedly established a personalized sound for the sun-kissed season which one might consider private plane pop – clever, cool, and intrinsically palatable tunes emitting contrails of palpable, attractive, unwavering groove.

Goldmund’s “Sometimes”

goladmund - sometimes

Dave S. SoDo

My first encounter with Goldmund’s entrancing piano ballads came in late 2005. Months after his debut release, “Corduroy Road,” a slow-paced stroll through the vast fields of a reflective, sentimental mind of a man and, almost exclusively, his piano. In the years following, he went on to create a few similarly cerebral, yet indescribably relatable and nostalgic works which placed a magnifying glass on the piano and its timeless ability to convey wide-ranging emotion and build powerful, distinctive narratives. By eschewing lyrical explanation and large-scale ensemble arrangements, Goldmund came to rely, time and time again, on a single instrument to deliver stories, moods, and sketches of sound that appeared superficially devoid of personality and purpose. However, as with books depriving us of sight or silent film depriving us of voice or its tone, we are provided a blank sheet of dots which we are asked as listeners to connect, to illustrate our own distinctly recognizable, personal forms.
With his newest work, entitled “Sometimes,” Goldmund has managed to create what I would consider to be the spiritual successor to Jon Hopkins and King Creosote’s five-year-old masterpiece and achingly beautiful ode to autumn, “Diamond Mine.” While a newer generation of neoclassical talents, such as the aforementioned Jon Hopkins, as well as Ólafur Arnolds, Nils Frahm, etc., have been known to integrate the majesty of thought-provoking ambience with their predilection for beat-oriented, bass-driven dance music, soundscape veterans like William Basinski, Wolfgang Voigt, for instance, have continued to expand on their minimalist admiration of the instruments and techniques they hold so dear, and have done so with astonishingly brilliant results. Goldmund seeks to follow in the footsteps of the latter group of artists, expounding the dynamic folk instrumentation of “Diamond Mine,” replacing its serene, sepia-toned landscape with a drenched, grayed-out grandeur, evoking many of the feelings and imagery I personally receive from the wet, wonderful city in which I reside. This album is the quintessential rainy day rover – a slow-burning, murky and sensuous journey through the marshes of one’s soul; if ever there were an official soundtrack to the lush nature of this gorgeous state of Washington, this is it.
Wandering through a sprawling wilderness of cool, refreshing foliage, we are made mindful of each piano key that drops, like a water droplet onto a canopied leaf above us. With a track such as “Getting Lighter,” we ambulate the forest floor, occasionally pausing to catch our breath, cherishing the moment and appreciating all that surrounds us, just before crossing paths with another – pioneering sound-designer and composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, for the following track, “A Word I Give.” This brief instance of collaboration seems inconsequential, but as its chords fade out into an echoing haze, we become aware of the dual vulnerability and splendor that comes with solitude and personal journey. The album continues to drift through dense patches of fog and damp beds of moss unwilling to resolve or provide closure for its listeners. Instead of explanation and direction, we are left to navigate forward, with the only compass being the vague hints of song titles given: “In The Byre,” “The Hidden Observer,” “The Wind Wings,” “To Be Fair & True,” and, “Vision.” Such track names serve as chapter descriptors along our walk – never a conclusive, identifiable landmark, but, somewhat of a means to an end, or, simply, a deep, inner meditation on an imagined idea or place.
“Sometimes” does not provide a profound statement or denouement for its listener’s adventure through the wilds, but serves as a hallmark for wonderment, curiosity and one’s own introspection. We may not know where we are going or what we will accomplish upon getting there, but it is obvious Goldmund seems to want us to appreciate every step we take alongside every thought and breath we expense, en route.

SCNTST’S “Puffer”

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Dave S. SoDo

Gentle, therapeutic, hypnagogic…three words that certainly do not necessarily epitomize the vast catalog of music that the Berlin techno label Boysnoize have set out to rock the club with for the past decade. However, with SCNTST’s new breathtaking effort, “Puffer,” it is clear that not only has the label stepped progressively left of the conventions of minimal techno’s dance floor comfort zones, but the producer has issued an honest, intellectual statement of independence, achieving something much more sophisticated and nuanced than an album comprised of straight-laced bangers and booty-shakers. With this new effort the 22-year-old producer, born Bryan Müller, has ventured out extensively from his contemporaries absorbing the compelling, profound facets of the most spectacular aspects of music genres not at all associated with his homeland of Germany, not to mention the technoverse, therein.
Over the course of the album’s effervescent diffusion through lush soundscapes a couple solid conclusions can be drawn as to what the mission, or more precisely, the destination of this body of work is: SCNTST seeks to bridge the gap between a number of neglected or shunned peripheral music styles to that of modern day German/minimal techno and house. Unabashedly carving out previously untouched plots of land and adjoining these disparate zones of new age, ambient, and left-field bass music. Not only that, but in geocaching these various, typically isolated genres, he deliberately chooses to buffer the serious hyper-intellectualized roots of booming dance music with occasional strategic breaths of non-linear gags which appear, most often, as vocal samples. Thirteen seconds into the album, as a hazy ambient synth flows in, you hear SCNTST faintly utter, “Yo…” greeting his listeners with a strangely out-of-place playful acknowledgement that at first seems completely alien and pointless in the context of the rest of the album. Two tracks later, listeners are given a mountainous bass blast, with “Hygh 2k12,” where a vocal sample repeatedly advocates they, “Get high,” and, again later, past the album’s half-way point listeners are given a hilariously bleated greeting during “Flight,” hearing a, typically all-too-scripted, female flight attendant uttering, “Thank you for your attention, we wish you a pleasant flight.”

As listeners, and passengers, on what I can only describe as a remarkably smooth relaxing, albeit intrinsically quirky, flight with ‘Puffer Airlines’, one can begin to make out their own home in the distance, below, as they glance out their window seat with one of the album’s most down-to-earth tracks, “UV Houzz”, a four-to-the-floor slow-burner, that is as much after-hours deep house as it is an observably meditative ambient charm. The serenity of its synth fades away in its final seconds, as one final exhalation is made, almost preparing the listener for the harsh reality of the journey nearing its end. So many sonic lessons and subtle breakthroughs can be observed as the closing track deploys the album’s landing gear and the ears are finally reacclimatized to the earth, when “H8 Drop” chugs its way in. In one of the more bombastic beats on “Puffer,” it becomes painfully obvious that the trip has run its course and we must now exit the plane. As the beat tromps along and harps pluck with a delicate, but stern sentiment, forcing listeners to leave the comforts of the album (or first class seats on the plane, as its come to be recognized, by this juncture) and return to their daily lives. So much can be said about the value placed on each song’s titular significance within this magnificent world of music on “Puffer,” but I keep returning to its fourth track, “Gletscherspalte”, a compound word in German translating in English to ‘glacier cleft or crevasse’. It seems even more meaningful to me that crevasse holds both literal and figurative meaning as a physical crack in a glacier, or, more appropriately, in this particular case, as a “discontinuity or ‘gap’ between the accounted variables and an observed outcome”. Such a definition serves as the perfect summation of this new album by SCNTST – a set voyage that drifts away casually into the unknown, soaring above the topography of extravagant landscapes of various musical elements which then, both, connect the dots and blur the lines between standard and unconventional dance music.

Decibel Festival Preview

Decibel Line-up

Dave S.

This year marks the twelfth installment of Seattle’s premier electronic music festival, Decibel Festival, and its plethora of top-tier showcases and events are not to be missed! Each year, the festival rolls out the red carpet for some of the best, most exciting, new and veteran electronic music acts from across the globe alongside those making a mark locally. Dazzling, visually-oriented performances, chilled-out DJ sets, and bumping after parties are sprinkled throughout the downtown area for a series of nights guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

Kid-Smpl

Starting things off the night of Wednesday, September 23rd at Re-bar, local heroes, Kid Smpl & Raica will both be performing audio/visual sets before, Warp Records legend; Richard Devine takes the stage for a modular-based audio/visual set that will certainly raise eyebrows and moods alike. Hours later, over at Showbox Market our city will see just what all the hubbub is about when Nicolas Jaar takes the main stage for one of his highly touted DJ sets.

Clark

The following night, a slew of killer talent takes to multiple venues, with one of the most thrilling producers alive, Clark, and grade-A entertainer extraordinaire Dan Deacon place live audio-visual sets at Showbox Market. If perhaps, you prefer a bit more left-field and diverse showcase then Re-bar is the place for you. There, local talent, Bardo:Basho will cook up a spellbinding ambient stew before New-Mexico-via-Montana producer Experimental Housewife entrances with mesmerizing psychedelic techno, before Brooklyn’s Young Ejecta, Portland’s Natasha Kmeto and one of Planet Mu Records most inventive new footwork-inspired producers hailing from Indiana, Jlin, enchant the building for what is sure to be one of the best nights of music offered at the festival this year.

Autechre

Friday, September 25th packs a monstrous wallop, with Russian-based Dasha Rush taking Neumos attendees of the Lucid Dream showcase on a journey into the subconscious, before Recondite lays it down for a live performance not to be missed; but that is not to say that Showbox Market does not demand your attention when an, ultra-rare, U.S. performance from a pair of the most notable, frenetic sound technicians, Autechre, headline a Resident Advisor showcase. If you’ve ever yearned for a clone of yourself so that you could partake in two festivities, simultaneously, Friday night might just be the nudge you need to finalize such medical breakthroughs… though, it might be a tad easier to simply line-up an Uber ride to accommodate both outings, instead.

Dasha Rush

Saturday night brings Dasha Rush back to the lovely Triple Door, as she and Tim Hecker conjure up live audio-visual spectacles that will leave you both speechless and inspired. Later, you can choose to mellow-out at Showbox Market for chilled-out live sets from Bellingham-native Manatee Commune, L.A.’s multitalented producer responsible for some of the more lush and alluring acts occurring at the fest this year. Taylor McFerrin, finished off with a delectable dessert DJ set a la Britain’s Bonobo. If you’re looking to trade-in your elegant eclecticism for a more forthright, four-to-the-floor Berlin techno onslaught, then look no further than the Kompakt-curated showcase, when Dauwd, John Tejada and Agoria accelerate the BPM as they raise the roof over at Neumos.

The brilliance of Decibel Fest does not just lie in its perfectly-curated line-up or its multi-venue accommodations and array of performance options, but in its desire to cater to as many different music appreciators and their given taste predilections, regardless of their affinity for electronic music as a whole. Whether you prefer mellow ambiance to banging, stupefying rhythms, or unique takes on catchy pop over mind-altering experiments into the extreme and earth-shaking tumults of noise, Decibel Fest always seeks to give its attendees a chance to take what they know and love and offer-up umpteen opportunities to expand one’s musical tastes and comfort zones. This year promises to season the town with vibrant flavors of new and old, with temperature options ranging from cool, mellow refreshment to the zestiest of flaming-hot sensations. Your minds’ and ears’ appetites have been growing, steadily, and in just a few weeks, it will be time to feed them well! Checkout www.dbfestival.com for a comprehensive rundown on the festival program, tickets, information and more!! #dB2015 #dBfestival

Jib Kidder’s “Teaspoon To The Ocean”

Jib Kidder

David S.

Crashing through countless swells of riptides along his, almost decade-long journey through psychedelic-tinged rock and electronic experimentation;Jib Kidder’s newest release, “Teaspoon To The Ocean,” finds him washed up on the shores of a seemingly endless, desolate beachfront. Snapping out of his stupor and finding his long-lost sonic bearings.After sojourning in spells of spastic glitches of IDM, freeform noise rock, sunburned twangs of warped country, boisterous syncopations of sound collage, inebriated, hazy, and downright majestic drones, and even jubilant amalgamations of Middle Eastern melodies paired with raw hip hop sample breaks. His latest offer scoops up all of these disparate fever dreams, into one beguiling, wildly inventive, and altogether concise statement of rock music that, still intangible, drips elegantly downward into a pool of sheer exquisite songwriting.

What can only be described as psychedelicate, songs such as “Appetites,” “World Of Machines,” “Dozens,” among others demonstrate his process of modeling head-scratching, fragmented concepts and augmenting and contextualizing them to form a beautiful mosaics of harmony and instrumental wonder. Lay out your beach towel, pitch your umbrella and bask in the gentle embrace of these meditative grooves, as this serene masterwork is sure to satiate your anticipation of the summertime and all of the good vibes it promises.