Category Archives: Music

Afrocubism

Last week I stumbled upon an album. An album that was supposed to have been made some 14 years ago. In its stead Buena Vista Social Club was born resulting in a decade of solo albums, a grammy, and eight million copies. The original intention of fusing Cuban and African tunes was delayed due to visa delays and after much anticipation (and I’m sure regret and disappointment for not having done this in the first place), AfroCubism was born. Released this month and the center of a whirlwind of media attention and international touring, prominent and painstakingly talented players from both worlds have joined and made a most tearfully good album.

While listening to this album I didn’t associated AfroCubism with AfroCuban. I actually forgot that afrocuban existed as a genre. I drooled over the prospect of listening to Eliades Ochoa’s husky voice and country strumming alongside Toumani Diabate’s angelic kora and Bassekou Kouyate’s ngoni and Kasse Diabete’s tickling vibrational voice. Listening to it for the first time I was greeted with the familiarity found in listening to BVSC and the African’s instrumental masterpieces. It always brought about a sense of comfort, calm, depth, soulful & heartfelt eagerness, and genuine beat-to-the-heart jamming. Listening to any individual player’s albums over the last couple years I’ve learned plenty about my own preferences in music and how it completely reflects my mood or sentiment at any given moment. Whenever I listen to these guys my mind is at ease, it’s at peace.

AfroCubism mindbogglingly fuses the two worlds together, who’ve been of much influence to each other for decades and every other song is focuses on some regional or historical classic. The most moving song for me is Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta, a typical guajira with soulful & earnest voiceovers and a mix of instruments from both cultures. It’s so damn fucking good. How Ochoa’s words lingers for a few more seconds than perhaps intended gives me goosebumps, then only to be followed by Kasse Mady Diabete’s singing with that same lingering is divine. And reading the lyrics, a simple one about the suffering of farmers, gets me overtly pathetically sensitive and makes me tear.

Also of note is the album design. The crude singular drawings with the color scheme and jarring geometric cuts are modernism all over again. I’m attaching the pdf here so you can save and admire. There’s plenty information about each song as well. I highly recommend you put these songs in your ear as soon as possible and tell me you love it too.

Digital Booklet – AfroCubism

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An Ode to Calle 13

The first time I heard Calle 13 was in a car with an Angel on our weekend escape to Rosendale, NY. The song was Sin Exagerar and I was instantly intrigued by its sound. It was an appetizing mix of crisp and creamy flow of Latin rap, playful and dramatic accentuation of words (which to me are just a progression of sounds), and a rhythm that is both festive and mysterious. Mysterious might be too strong a word. Mysteriously sexy might be a truer description. The electronic drum sound that repeats from chorus to chorus immediately got my hips to sway and wet my pants a little. The upbeats made with repetitive pounds of a piano chord was supported by staccato bursts of trumpets. Combine all these elements and you’ve got a sampling of the magic and genius that is Calle 13.

In subsequent days and weeks an Angel showed me music videos that this duo produced and my bedazzled eyes and enchanted hips were in love. Actually I soon became obsessed. Four days ago I downloaded all three albums created by these messengers of a higher power and they have not left my ears alone for a single moment. Another example of their pure brilliance is the song La Jirafa. I am completely enraptured by both video and song:

Bass drum beats have always intoxicated me. Add on the ever nostalgic accordion, a string orchestra, and the chorus chanting “ella eeeee” with the dreamy lyricism of Residente’s raps and what results is the glorified song of the year (the song is actually a few years old, but it’s #1 in Joann’s 2010 list). I printed out the lyrics in determination to memorize and lipsync the song and used my friend Google Translate to figure out what he was saying. It made no sense. It was a pure play of words and rhymes. Something about planting your feet on the ground, painting the sky with blue crayon, looking at you giving me tickles like ants on my skin, stirring the dough and wanting four cups, the fate of coughing colors and your name on all three scorecards, nutella, and acapella. Unless I’m completely misinterpreting, mistranslating, this is evidence of dadaist experimentation, a chance encounter between words that rhyme, coming together to paint a nonsensical yet beautiful picture. The music video includes inexplicably random images of a birdman, musicians in red adidas sportsgear, and a rapper as ventriloquist. He draws a landscape, dilly dallies with a girl in a makeshift shack in the middle of a desert and watch as the musicians and birdman duel at dusk. For me, this song is magic in its true essence.

Calle 13 is comprised of two step brothers, frontman rapper Rene “Residente” Perez and shy and reserved beatmaker Eduardo Jose Cabra “Visitante” Martinez. I am infatuated with Residente. There are stars in my eyes as I gaze at his face, his wide sexy mouth that curl at one end as his serenades ever graceful verbal leaps, his childish and playful face and its spastic wide-eyed expressions, his perfectly round and fuzzy head exquisitely designed with lines and shapes, his studded and tattooed torso and arms which he willingly shows off at any given moment, and his perfectly exaggerated gesticulations during performances, movements in perfect harmony with mouth spurts. I want to have his baby. Unfortunately I am no match to his wife, the ever beautiful Miss Universe. Visitante is none the less intriguing. A hipster alternative to the hip hop latin cheese, Visitante flaunts arm tattooes of flowers and is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He is influenced by music the whole world over and is bearded and braided. His timidity shines reserved intelligence and I would be honored to be greeted by his conversations. Fantasies of Residente in bed, fantasies of Visitante in a cafe.

Ahem, OK, back to the music. Listening to all three albums, there is not one song or message or video that is alike. Flamenco, Bossa Nova, Reggaeton, Hip Hop, R&B, electronica, world fusion, even alternative rock, it’s all there. Messages range from political independence and rebellion, cultural pop mockery, perverted lovemance, and senseless satirical comedy. It is no surprise to me that Residente attended Savanna College and received an MFA in illustration and design. It makes perfect sense to me actually and is probably why I am CONVINCED the band epitomizes perfection. Each video presented differs from one to the other, costumed and concocted with visual artistry. Allow me to exemplify:

You’ve already seen La Jirafa and it’s calm and dreamy eccentricity, above is the video for Atrevete te te. Creepy 50’s American Dreamy stepford wife zombies shaking their booties as the newspaper delivery boy preaching to these lame-os to be free to express, to kill, to admit, to let go and let wild. More than anything it’s the incessant rhyming that tells me Residente is a pure poet.

Suave starts with Residente in some twilight zone scene, being injected with a huge needle by a midget blonde which takes him on a joy ride inside an old school 70’s convertible and he then progresses to naive foreplay with two girls the latter of which is chased by a giant version of the midget blonde. O and then there’s the scene with him half naked, sweaty with a dirty apron, swoon. I think the song itself is probably perverted. Google translate makes it all so dada, something about pure strain subjected to arepa, i know you like my elephant coughs, you and I will pocket disbursement, drunk bear with your broth, take off his lock on your slit, salsa kicks and sweaty soy sauce, sex destroyers and Marlborough cowboys. Trippy.

Cumbia de los Aburridos depicts a version of American Idol held inside a poor rural town’s gymnasium with all the losers and bored pathetics gathered in a dance competition. Dudes in neon leotards, fatties in tutus, granny milfs in ballet gear, and over energized breakdancers, moderated by Residente as cowboy attired obnoxious judge. Lyrics are hysterical, and again, so dada. Something about peacock as pilgrims, the feet of boring and depressed in motion, those who smell like old man piss, sneeze shakes and breakfast throw ups, dancing with shadows and teaching fried food, asthma attacks and raw steak. Goddamit I can’t get enough.

Electro Movimiento may not be my favorite song by Calle 13 but it’s probably my favorite music video of all time. Harking back to the 80’s, the song and video is an ode to the time of fluorescence, glitter, foglights and clashing patterns. It’s a love song of how much they are a match, how they match like bread and butter, rice and beans. He’ll do whatever for her, fight 300 ninjas from Korea and fish 500 dolphins across the Andes in skates. This video alone confirms that the band is not your everyday reggaeton hip hop band, at all whatsoever. They are kind of fucking awesome.

Beso de Desayuno gets me a little wet because there are sexy women and food mingled together. Bossa nova melodies blanket this love song about walking on your hair, from navel to ear and a kiss for breakfast. I will have your kiss over breakfast any day my love.

La Perla is a dedication to La Perla, a barrio governed by drug dealers and super exclusive and protective to its residents. In collaboration with salsa guru Ruben Blades, the song is celebratory and prophetic.

And this is where Calle 13 gets controversial. Early in their music career, you see Residente at his most raw and impassioned, crying out hours after the death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, leader of the PR Revolutionary group Los Macheteros, who was killed during an FBI arrest. As a supporter of PR Independence Movement from US colonization, this song is a protest against FBI’s actions. This is kind of the first time reggaeton pulls a political stint, resulting in Calle 13’s fame as a representative voice and cultural reference.

Since then Calle 13 has won numerous Latin Grammys and are making their way to US fame. Their controversy is talked about all over the place. They played at Coachella this year and received welcomed success. Diplo hung out with them and loved them.  Oh and did I mention, they have a fucking documentary movie about their travels to Latin America, exploring its people and culture, in conjunction with the concerts they hosted. AND, Residente is totally on twitter. Please read this post, come to NY and kiss this frog so I may transform into a beautiful Latin princess and replace that Miss Universe as your lucky love.

OK, I think I’ve digressed into a very very very long post about Calle 13. This is mere proof that they are an amazing band. Their message is clear, their talent is true, and the gods are in no comparison to their art.

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Support Above Ground Episodes

Artist and musician Joshua Wise has started a project called Above Ground Episodes. Combining elements of sound, art, and video he will create limited edition LPs with hand designed covers alongside DVDs of instrumental music and experimental visuals including paintings and live performances. The project is an integrative means of artistic experience, combining multiple sensory receptors to engage and enrapture an audience.

The project is yet to come to fruition, it needs funding for such an adventurous and promising project. The kickstarter page goes into detail about how this project will be produced and what they need to make the magic happen. There are 16 days til a couple thousand is raised. I highly urge everyone to take a moment and donate $10, or $1000, to this beauteous project. The $10 alone will guarantee you a copy of these LP’s, which I look forward to receiving and experiencing. I’m curious to know what the live performances will be like, combining music with video. I should suggest to get some food in there as well. Ha

Joshua is a member of the band French Kicks whom I love and know through a dear friend. The recording sessions for the project will be held in the band’s studio in Brooklyn. I’d love to be there just to see it all happen in action. A non-performance performance.

Below is a video teaser. It’s creepy and sexy at the same time. Hopefully you’ll donate your time and money, surely you won’t regret it.

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Music Videos with a tickling for Art

I rarely ever watch music videos. I don’t know why, I just don’t. I’d be curious if you know the music video of every band you listen to. Recently I’ve been bombarded by a number of videos featuring pop music’s grandest representatives: Jay-Z, Rihanna, Lady Gaga & Beyonce.

Lady Gaga & Beyonce’s new hit Telephone is nothing but a girlfriend grieving her jealous over possessive boyfriend who checks up on her one too many times when she goes out. That’s it. Nothing more. The music video however tells a whole other story, something about two Bonnie & Clyde via Pulp Fiction figures taking a ride on their Kill Bill Pussy Wagon poisoning an anonymous black man and the entire diner they lunched in. In the midst of it there are advertisements for Wonder Bread and Virgin Lines. The first four minutes or so shows Gaga in her expected overindulgent fashion flair walking into an all women’s prison, hot and half naked and she’s constantly interrupted by a phone call, which leads to her bail and killing rampage. It has absolutely nothing to do with the song. That boggles me. Why make it more than what it is?? Nonetheless it’s a pretty rad video. And I will admit the robotic flamboyant super-performing does not fit Beyonce. It’s expected of someone not as hot and graceful as Gaga but not Beyonce. She’s too pretty, she’s too elegant, she’s too beautiful and otherworldly. The Wonderwoman outfit, the eccentric bizarre and uncanny behavior was rather unbecoming. But still, a pretty rad video.

Better yet, here’s the unofficial official Telephone music video. Hysterical.

I’m simply astounded, blown away even, by Rihanna’s music video for Rude Boy. Again, it’s a song about a girl teasing a boy to get his thang on/up. The video however makes it more than what it is. At least there’s some relevance to the fact that this is a video following a song. There she is flaunting that ass, beatin’ them drums, grinding some oversized speakers. But the references to art so seamlessly and pristinely put together, not to mention her direct manifestation of them. There’s Basquiat, Warhol, and most prevalent, Keith Haring. I learned of Grace Jones through Nicole’s post on the same video and can’t really say who beats whom in the ultimate body as art as performance, but I’m impressed.

Lastly, there’s the one and only Jay-Z. My crush for him seems to only increase and this is the cherry on top. I can only salivate all over him at this point. This video is all black and white, highly produced, conceptual and abstract. There’s Hirst’s diamond skull blanketed by white paint, which I take as a rebellious act, the cords acting as visual signifiers of sound (there’s a word for it I don’t know what it is), the jesters, the European androgynous model boys, and that odd ominous three striped symbol. I love this video beyond anything.

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Get your music on

When it comes to finding new music, awesome up and coming bands, and local must see shows, I am uninformed. I know less than 10 locals bands, I don’t keep up with who’s playing where and most of my music is downloaded from a dubious Russian site. I steal music from friends who know better and depend on them to take me to shows in and out of Brooklyn. I am far from being a knowledgeable resource for music, and I am sorry about that.

This is where my dear Peter comes in and introduces me to some amazing websites that offer list upon list of new music, awesome music, freely downloadable music.

the whhhat speaks very few words, posting only album covers and a media fire link to save albums. This is where I’ll get OCD and NEED to download EVERYTHING made available to me on this site. I’m starting off with Atlas Sound and I hope to discover more gradually, slowly, at a steady and conscious pace.

effort is hard provides brief descriptions so it’s a bit easier to navigate and offers the same free downloads.

silence magnifies sounds goes even more in-depth with short descriptions of each band. And their website is pretty.

Of course you are most encouraged to support these bands by buying their merchandise, going to their shows, etc etc. But now I feel that much less lost. I now feel like I am part of the in-crowd, those who know a little better about the ins and outs of this magical foreign world that is music.

I feel better now. But I should ask, where do YOU find good music?

**Update**

My dear Joshua sent me these following links that are just as awesome.

200 troubled teenagers go through tracklists with videos and descriptions to help aid your discovery.

a-fluor is not in english but who needs language when you’ve got music.

a viable commercial focuses on post punk, synth, electropop and new wave beats.

women of the ghetto is your source for reggae, funk, soul, and r&b

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Fever Ray

A few months back I went to see Fever Ray at Webster Hall. It was spontaneously mellow and pumped with energy. There was a laser light show, plenty absurd costumes, beats that shake the boots and a voice that makes me want to tear my clothes apart in blissful agony. I shot a video and it is officially the most artsy video I’ve ever made.

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Handsome Furs and Bowerbirds

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I’ve been itching to make music lately and I’ve created a criteria of sorts on what it would sound like. First and foremost it would make you simultaneously dance and cry. Beats would be basic and bass heavy and would pump thump that heart for you. You would uncontrollably tap you feet, sway them hips, bounce your head and flair those arms. The vocals are earnest, strong, passionate, and tearsome like Nina Simone, Karen Oh, Antony and the Johnsons and Edith Piaf all rolled in one. Chords would be mostly in minor, dark and creepy but still upbeat and there would be nothing wrong with repeating a few chords over and over throughout a song that lasts 23 minutes. Lyrics would be at random, disattached from personal recollection and worldly references. It would take inspiration from Surrealists automatic writing, taking excerpts from Impressions of Africa. It would be described as trancebeatpumprocketherealindiefreak. I’d play ukulele, drums, flute, bass, guitar, and piano. Others would play every other instrument they can reach out to. It would be glorious.

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A few days ago I watched Handsome Furs perform at Bowery Ballroom and wondered how my criteria matched up to theirs. Their oeuvre is tragic with a subdued frantic energy, stirring the uncontrollable urge to shake and detonate that ball of fiery sensation but instead taking a nose dive underwater leaving you with a muffled but nonetheless an outburst of explosive body-rumbling. I never listen to lyrics and never really intend to, but Dan’s voice is hyper-earnest, as if warning you, calling you, yelping and pleading with confessional prophesies. The electronic beats are clean and intentional, spastic but carefully compositioned, melodic in its own harmonizing conversation, popping and making me want to jump on my old white bmx, headphones glued to ear pumping and pedaling down Broadway screaming and zooming. But again, there’s a muffled subtlety to this duo’s music that keeps me from going berserk in a prancing euphoria.

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I envy the couple, performing together in their cheesy nervousness, Alexei kept pumping her heart with crossed and open hands granting us many thanks for giving them the opportunity to be in NY. She was definitely krunk on something, maybe not, maybe it was the act of performing that got her so frenzied with head banging, pulling hair and hyperventilating, falling to the ground and smiling the way only a person under the influence would smile. But I loved it. I loved when their heads met, cheering each other to keep fucking their instruments and releasing all over our ears and bodies. I love their dirty grunginess, as if they haven’t slept in 2 weeks and have been sustaining a diet of beer and cigarettes. They were high, high strung, strung out. I love the full sound, the full voice, the full experience that is created only by 2 people. I’m actually falling more in love with them as I write about the performance. I’ve never really written about music before but I’m realizing now when it’s music you really like and connect to, it’s closer and more personal than any experience I’ve had with art. I’ll have to think about this feeling some more.

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When I make music, I would list Handsome Furs as an influence and also add Bowerbirds to that list. Either band sound nothing like each other, they are probably at opposite ends of a spectrum but I am equally in love with both. True the Bowerbirds show lacked dazzle and pop, I merely swayed and nothing more but I was also more keen and cleansed by the crisp and dexterous string picking of Phil. The sadness and earnest tone of his voice combined with an instrument as melancholic as the accordion makes for a moody and nostalgic vibe that is perfect to listen to in the night to soothe and mellow out to.

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Their characteristic minimalist use of marching band bass drums creates enough beat to keep you at attention. Phil and Beth are also a couple but they’re energy is not as frenzied or intense as Handsome Furs. Rather it’s more hipster indie freak folk shy geeky Americana. The drummer seems delicate and I was impressed seeing him pose with the stance of a trained musician whilst weening his violin. He’s got a happy and self-conscious way of singing that kind of makes you swoon. Bowerbirds touches me the way Bon Iver and all those other good indie folks do: with a sly and smooth nonchalance catering to a hint of disturbance.

See more pictures here and below.

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