On paper, Salem’s recent cover of Alice Deejay’s classic trance anthem Better Off Alone sounds as ill-thought out as Lou Reed & Metallica’s recent collab album. However, the Chicago based Witch-House trio pulls it off impeccably. The vocals are screwed down as to make them nearly unrecognizable, and the backing track is full to bursting with haunting layered synths and splashy drums to achieve the group’s trademark wall of sound. This track, which is best appreciated joint in hand and on the biggest speakers you can find, is off of their recent ep Still In The Night, which, although not up to the ridiculously high standard of last year’s King Night, is still well worth checking out.
Despite rumours of pre-madona booking standards, one can’t help but to be in awe of the music this L.A. duo is creating. This tune maintains the fit-for-cathedral organ and haunt of their previous works, but the break down takes a turn toward the So Cal hustle that has been so popular as of late, with their own signature on the sound, of course. Look forward to more of this in the future. Virtual Boy is in the studio.
Sacre Cool (Virtual Boy Remix) – Young Montana? [recommended]
Here’s a couple off of their Symphony No. None B-Sides compilation, if you missed it. They’re both fantastic, in their heavy and bouncy ways, respectively.
Lyricist of the moment, Kendrick Lamar, teams up with the generation bounding Busta Rhymes. By hip-hop standard, this beat is minimal, but give the track some respect and play it out on some decent speakers. It would be tragic to let the second sub line go unappreciated. If you’re stuck with ear-buds, the vocal juggling will no doubt impress. It ain’t a 320, but hey, that’s hip-hop for you.
Rigamortus Remix – Kendrick Lamar feat. Busta Rhymes [hip-hop] [recommended]
It began in Bristol, 2008. Now, with their precisely cheeky and aggresive take on funky electronica and the helping words of influentials; Rusko, Pendulum, Aphex Twin, and Skrillex, Koan Sound have been thrust into the forefront of the bass music industry’s collective eye. Low-Life’s own, KO, sits down with the duo before their Vancouver appearance to discuss grizzly bears, Buddhist philosophy, and their latest release, Funk Blaster, out now on OSWLA.
Introducing, Koan Sound.
LL: What are your specific roles?
Will: “We both do a bit of both, but I do a bit more of the producing and he does a bit more of the DJing; we kind of play to our strengths that way. That way the group remains much stronger.”
LL: What does your production process typically look like? What do you use to produce it, and how do you find inspiration?
Will: “Usually it’s just done by lots of experimentation really. We use Reason 4, and I’ve been using it for years and years but I’m still finding plenty of new things every time we use it. It’s just a case of finding a bit of inspiration in something, and then building upon that. Usually I find the best way to find inspiration is to listen to a genre completely different to what you’re trying to make whether it’s a band, or whatever – classical music even, or film music. It helps a lot when you try and bring that into dubstep, or whatever you’re trying to do.
LL: KOAN has Zen connotations to it, and you’ve released tracks with names that reference traditional definition (One Hand Clap). What does the name mean to you?
Jim: “I wouldn’t say it’s strictly personal, we just thought it was quite a cool concept. The idea of gaining an answer to a problem not through logic per-say, but sort of intuition – a deeper understanding of something.
Will: “Like what’s the sound of one hand clapping, you know?”
LL: Eleven days ago you released Funk Blaster on OWSLA. How is it being among the first releases on the label?
Will: “It’s exciting, I mean they’ve been so supportive – Skrillex and the whole team.”
Jim: “We were given pretty much complete freedom to do whatever we wanted, there were no specifications or anything. They just said: ‘we like what you guys do, so we want to release some of your music, and just sort of went from there.’”
LL: How do you feel about the EP/do you have words to lowlifes about the direction of its sound?
Will: “I mean we touched on some more funky sounding things in the Max Out EP, and we just wanted to do more of that.”
Jim: “Yeah I think it brings in influences from more acoustic genres – this EP – so you’ve got sort of funk stuff, whereas that last one was more electronic music I suppose. But yeah, it’s just a mash up of those different genres hopefully..”
LL: I was reading an interview you did with Dubsilo UK, and you spoke on your earlier influence of drum ‘n’ bass which is typically 160-190bpm. In recent tracks you’ve been down to often under 100bpm. Give us an idea of your early/current influences, and what you like about the new slower tempos.
Jim: “Drum ‘n’ Bass was pretty much the first electronic music that we’d heard, probably 2005 or something like that. Originally, our first exposure to it was people like: The Prodigy, but quickly it sort of moved down – we started exploring the genre, and finding people like Noisia and Spor who obviously are really really big influences, and that’s definitely shaped our sound quite a lot. That sort of… it’s dark, it’s quite meticulously produced, but it’s hard to describe. It’s tearout, but it’s not stupid music.
LL: Initially your influences were drum and bass, which is pretty natural. So going to 100bpm it is…
Will: “It’s quite uncharted territory that sort of tempo with the heavy bass sounds that we’ve been doing. It’s just a really nice fresh approach, and it’s just really fun to make music at that tempo; it’s a bit faster than normal hip-hop, but slow enough that it’s got a really nice groove to it.”
Jim: “Yeah we’ve been getting into people like Opiou from Australia, and this guy called Tipper, who make music at 100bpm and so we include quite a lot of their tunes in our set. And yeah I don’t think most people from the UK really know about them, so it’s sort of – unexplored territory as Will said.”
Will: “Someone called Teknian, who is a producer from Sweden. He’s pretty young, I think he’s 18 now, but recently he’s just started making some amazing things. His bass sounds very much like Spor, but he’s just..”
Jim: “He has a real breadth to his production. He can do really dark, tearout drum ‘n’ bass tunes, and can do really sort of two steppy – melodic pieces. So yeah he’s got a wide pallet of sound, and I suppose that’s what we look for in an artist really… someone who can turn their hand to different things.
LL: Everyone has to ask: 5 favorite tracks right now?
Jim: “We’ve just done a remix for Kill The Noise which is being released in a couple of weeks. The original tune is called Deal With It, and that’s actually coming out on OWSLA as well, it’s the next release on the label.”
Jim: “Another tune by Culprate which is actually on the same EP called Tentacle which is completely different from all his other stuff. It’s like a really down-tempo sort of garage-y tune — it’s wicked.”
LL: Which would win in a fight: a Lion or a Grizzly Bear?
Will: “Grizzly Bear.. they are strong motherfuckers.”
Jim: “I’ve never seen one, but who was it that was telling us.. their first ever trip to Canada, and their first time they’d ever smoked weed..”
Will: “He happened to stumble across a bear, and he just ran away from it..”
Jim: “and yeah, this bear was sort of quite a placid bear, and he saw this bear, ran away from it, and of course this bear started chasing after him. Don’t know how it ended..”
Will: “Well he is still alive so you know..”
LL: What does KOAN Sound hold for the future of bass music?
Will: “It’s a hard question because it’s evolving so quickly.. There are plenty of genres coming out that I’d never heard of which are huge..”
Jim: “As long as it stays fresh and there’s new producers coming through and there’s new ideas being generated, then that’s all I look for in it really..”
LL: Thank you for your time.
K.O & Rader
L O W – L I F E
Late last night at the Drake Underground in Toronto, Africa Hitech changed the world. The vibe was set by My Man Henri and the stage was seamlessly traded off to the Warp Records duo who initially kept it cool with some classic dub and African beats.
The clip drops you in at the moment of transition, right as their set takes off into the realm of the unexpected. You will be pleased by the stunning vocal work of Steve Spacek while Mark Pritchard gracefully refines the amplified sound of spinning wax. Praised as “casually killing it” by the Colorado Daily, they have each been producing for 20-odd years and are now touring to celebrate their newest release 93 Million Miles. Sit back and enjoy.
Here are some tracks from last night’s setlist:
My Trance Girl – Joker [recommended]
Better Than (Lorn Remix) – Jammer [recommended]
For the past decade or so, Geoff White has been experimenting with the amalgamation of acoustic and digital sound, and his latest work suggests that he’s got it down pat. In 2004, under the moniker Aeroc (“EYE-rock”), White crafted his first album, Viscous Solid (Ghostly International) while relocating from the American Midwest to Barcelona, which may account for the diverse array of moods present in the debut. However, his soon-to-be-released full-length, R+B=? is slightly more unified at first listen- glitch-infused funk rhythms are complimented by earthy tones throughout the entire album.
This latest mix from Wedidit wunderkind Henry Steinway, aka RL Grime is a perfect encapsulation of the music that’s been tickling my fancy over the past few weeks. He drops tracks from L.A. beat scene fellows Salva, Groundislava and Shlohmo alongside personal favourites Rustie, Dark Sky, French Fries, and Jacques Greene. Sprinkled throughout are Grime’s stunning, pillowy original tracks, including a brand new showstopper entitled Amphibian; which heats thing up right before Steinway plunges into certified panty dropper One Mo’ Gin by D’Angelo.
I’ve included links to some of the highlights below, but head over to Hot Bizzies and cop the whole mix here. It’s more than worth your while.
One Mo’ Gin – D’Angelo [recommended]
Die 4 Me – RL Grime [recommended]
Late last week, Clown & Sunset‘s esteemed creator and contributor, Nicolas Jaar, unveiled the Darkside project, his first release in collaboration with Dave Harrington, the staple guitarist of his live performance out-fit. This three-track experiment is a euphonious concoction of 70’s nostalgia and Nicolas’ hallmark airy and organic electronica; a flattering cohesion of the conventional and experimental.
“I think the new material is more honest but less colourful. It’s quite bizarre to hear yourself make black and white music. Inspirations always change but I would say this EP is centered around a fairy I met in my dreams. And The Black Keys..”
If you can’t recall Jamie xx‘s first attempt at a Radiohead edit, its probably not such a bad thing. “Underwhelming” sums the tune up nicely. I can almost picture Jamie’s closest friends slapping him on the back of the head, reprimanding him for the missed opportunity. So Jamie Smith takes a leap past part 2 and straight to part 3 with this fantastic middle finger to those who doubted. I accept it respectfully. This groovy, chime-ridden hustle holds your attention til the 8th minute.
Bloom (Jamie xx Rework Part 3) – Radiohead [recommended]
Remixing the recent release of Myrryrs‘ “Blood of a Slave” (B.YRSLF Division), Brooklyn based producer, Obey City, develops an upbeat rearrangement of skittering and shuffling periphery percussion grooves with accompanying lofty synth ambiance.
Make sure to track down Obey City’s releases on Astro Nautico.
See previously: Astro Nautico | Quiet Nights EP
18 year old producer, Jacob Mcnaughton, has been gaining notable attention over the last year. Having released a complimentary EP through Absent Fever, this young talent has given another free one to the fans.
“Feel Things Inside” features the re-worked vocals of Jennifer Hudson’s song, “No One Gonna Love You”. The flickering melodies and grounding bass kicks weigh each other out just right.
Energetic, but certainly not overpowering, Galapagos’ most recent release is surefire to satisfy.
See previously: Galapagos | BIG CAT
This week Benji B welcomes Brainfeeder darling Thundercat on the show to perform some cuts from his new album live from Los Angeles. Thundercat’s 2011 debut LP ‘Golden Age of Apocalypse’ is easily one of the stand out releases of the year for us.
Obsession is Salva’s most recent gift to us; fresh off of his brand new Yellobone EP (which features remixes from heavyweights LOL Boys and Shlohmo), this track just oozes sex. Frite Nite labelmate B. Bravo’s sultry vocoder warbling weaves in and out of delicious synth stabs; giving this song an air of sleaze which is counteracted by Salva’s playful 808 beat that is brimming with rolling tom fills and popping snares.
Grab this while it’s hot -
Obsession – Salva feat. B. Bravo [Future Crunk] [Recommended]
A little known fellow named Joel Rampage has tastefully reworked jj’s Kills Mixtape for YOURS0174. The original was released just before last year’s Christmas and featured tracks from Dre, Biggie, M.I.A. and Jay-Z. This time around, Rampage, a friend of the Swedish pop duo, manages to sensualize the tracks even further and incorporate his own intimate vision into the acclaimed tape.
jj – Kills Mixtape (Joel Rampage Chopped + Screwed Remix) [zip] [served chilled]
Teebs recently dropped his album, Collections 01, which is in many ways a departure from the fizzling boom-bap electronica of Brainfeeder fellows Flying Lotus and Samiyam. On Collections, Teebs exchanges the synths and electronic drums of the aforementioned contemporaries for sparkling strings and shuffling percussion, resulting in an atmosphere that is organic and refined.
Verbena Tea has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy, and true to its namesake, this song has an almost regenerative quality. Press play, close your eyes, lean back, and let Teebs’ sonic construction revitalize you.
Verbena Tea – Teebs ft. Rebekkah Raff [serve chilled] [recommended]
Rupert Parkes developed a solid reputation for pushing the boundaries of jungle and d&b during the 90s. Closer is Photek‘s third single since his recent return to music production after a brief hiatus during the 2000s. It’s available for purchase on Tectonic Records; a UK dubstep label curated by Pinch.
This is a deep soulful 120 bpm jam driven by a cool undulating current of dark Reese bass, spacious skipping percussion, and the mournful wailing of some diva from a decade past.
Reshaping every musical element in “Nightshift”, Microburst transforms that which was once a pleasant melody into what is now an extraordinary exposure of emotion.
Active interplay between articulation, reiteration, and pronunciation, via melodic vehicles of harp, guitar, and percussion, result in a hyper-hypnotic-hymn presented by this London producer.
Nightshift (Microburst Remix) – Talk In Colour [recommended]
Gonjasufi is a singer, rapper, electronic composer, DJ, and yoga teacher who hails from San Diego, California. Born as Sumach Ecks, aka Sumach Valentine in 1989, he now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. The unique low-fi worldly sound that he is known for, could very well be a product of his eclectic influences which can be attributed to an upbringing in California by a Mexican mother, and an American-Ethiopian father.
“SAVIORSELF is much more than a name… its a movement. A mentality and a lifestlye. Being born into the crime infested streets of NATIONAL CITY, CALIFORNIA Saviorself was automatically considered to become another mexican kid in a single parent home, destined to become another product of his enviornment acording to government standards. But with the help of his love for hip hop he set out to be something much more then that…”
Meaty Ogre is a Rockford born, Chicago raised, Phoenix residing producer, DJ, beatmaker, vinyl collector & record store owner. He’s had countless releases on Heardrums, Galapagos4 and many other labels.
The collaborative effort of these 3 entities bring forth the closest thing to a theme song that low-life may ever have. This track packs eerily relevant lyrics from both parties, as well as a tone reminiscent to what we’ve grown to crave when seeing a Gaslamp Killer set.
This gracious release yet again succeeds in his hallmark yearning of minimal clicks and whirs. Clown and Sunset and Nicholas Jaar request that you be gentile in manner with these morally thematic numbers.
Why Didn’t You Save Me – Nicholas Jaar [recommended]
Toronto’s finest R&B exports, Abel Tesfaye and Aubrey Drake Graham, come together to bring us this industriously dreamy lament to groupie perseverance. Look out for this one on Drake’s forthcoming release “Take Care” which also features an appearance from UK notable, Jamie xx, on the album’s title track.
Crew Love – Drake feat. The Weeknd [recommended]
And here’s a bonus track off the album featuring both supplementary artists aforementioned:
Thank knowledgereign‘s John Lotman for that one.
Vice Magazine kicks off the second season of their video series, ‘The Producers’, by sitting down with UK dubstep legend Benga Adejumo for a studio session.
[Don't mind the advertisement at the beginning; you can thank Vice for that.]
Mike Volpe has stepped out from behind the curtain and into the spotlight under the moniker Clams Casino – initially just a hobby of crafting hazy, blissed-out beats that in time became sought-after productions for high-profile rappers such as Lil B and A$AP Rocky. His most salient compositions intertwine melancholic melodies with a seductive swoon and his most recent work fits right in to the niche he’s created for himself. Volpe reworks a cut from Washed Out’s debut LP Within and Without with his signature Xanax’d rinse – it plays out like a bittersweet lullaby.
Sascha Ring’s fascination with “designing sounds rather than beats,” is apparent in his recently unveiled instrumental version of the poignant tune, Goodbye. The original, which can be found on Apparat‘s most recent record, The Devil’s Walk, features the delicate voice of Anja Plaschg of Soap&Skin. However, the song’s shimmering sonics manage to remain emotional and secure without the assistance of the vocals.
See previously: Apparat | A Bang in the Void
In his latest remix, Balam Acab bathes Kimmi in a Rice Field, one of the standout tunes form Twin Sister‘s debut LP In Heaven, in electronic ambiance. Alec Koone’s deeply thoughtful productions tend to possess that signature bedroom essence and Andrea Estella’s ethereal vocals pair divinely with Koone’s sound.