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This Week's Featured Downloads
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It's not often that you hear about an artist making electronic music from the depths of Eastern Europe, but thanks to the always forward-thinking Planet Mu, we get one such exception with the debut album from Few Nolder. Having cut his teeth with some 12-inch singles and banging out live sets over club PAs, this Lithuanian producer (real name: Linas Strockis) delivers a fresh, tight and accomplished touch with his version of micro-house. Highly danceable yet somewhat reflective, Strockis blends elements of dubstep, 2step and minimal techno together with tracks that are nicely programmed but feel alive too.
Vocals are introduced towards the middle of the album, climaxing with "El Snig," a bright and poppy gem that features a full-on female vocal sung in Lithuanian -- this song has been in constant rotation on my stereo since I first heard it. Other highlights include "Fluttery," which spreads the wordless vocals out across a crisp, bouncing micro rhythm and drifts into more moody territory, and "Top," which feels like some lost techno track from Detroit, complete with fuzzy snare hits, slight acid blips and a wobbling bass line. While each cut holds its own nicely, it's when these nine tracks are played together that the album really starts to blossom. One of the freshest debuts I've heard in awhile, you can't help but wonder what else is brewing in Lithuania.
Want You Back
Italians Do It Better
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Brand new single on Italians Do It Better from our very favorite bedroom disco diva, Nite Jewel. "Want You Back" finds Ramona Gonzalez taking direct aim at the pop jugular, with crisper beats and her yearning voice sitting surprisingly high in the mix. Not lost, however, are the jaunty, smeared keyboards and the dreamy, psychedelic vibe that we all love. Backed with a vocal mix of the title track and English and Spanish versions of the equally great and way spacey "All Out of Order."
We Hear You
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After digging his heels into new-school acid and disco with his Kerrier District project, Luke Vibert heads back to his electronica roots with We Hear You, a record that's a lil' weird -- it is Vibert after all -- and oddly groovy. From cut-up hip-hop ("We Hear You") to classic Warp-era influenced techno ("Hot Sick") and onto guitar-laden big beat ("Batting for England"), Vibert is ready to dance again -- granted it's in a rubber-walled room. As longtime listeners are well aware, he's capable of producing spine-shifting, ear-tingling beats that get your feet tapping while you're simultaneously scratching your head. Add to this vocal snippets, vocoder musings and his signature offbeat humor, there's no mistaking We Hear You as coming from anyone but Vibert -- there's a reason why the man has been a household name in electronic music for well beyond a decade.
Beats That Collected Dust
Year Round Records
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What can you say about a man who produced Biggie's "Kick in the Door," Jeru the Damaja's "Come Clean" and Gang Starr's "Mass Appeal?" What do you say about a man who's influenced anybody who's made beats on an MPC and is any good at it -- that list includes everyone from Dilla and Timberland to Prefuse 73 and Robert Hood. This release collects unused instrumental beats DJ Premier crafted between 1999 and 2003 that were meant for other artists but never used. He stresses that this isn't a "proper" instrumental album but rather a chance to share some music he created with his fans who are eager to hear new productions from him. And we certainly don't have a problem with that, as all 12 tracks here are excellent. All the classic Premo elements are present: grimy snares, sparse loops of chopped strings, dissonant horns, and the like. Highlights include the head-snapping "Original Rep-Re-Sent," which boasts a pretty nasty upright bass sample; "PEE-AN-OH," which utilizes a choppy sample of a descending jazz piano line to chilly effect; and the cinematic boom-bap of "Waaaaaa." Beat alchemy at its finest is on display here and Premo wasn't even breaking a sweat!
All Tiny Creatures
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Jumping into the instrumental pool with friends Justin Vernon (Mr. Bon Iver) and Ryan Olcott (of Megafaun), Tom Wincek gives us a joyful tour of his musical mind. The 17-minute-long opening title track sounds like the doors of many brightly colored rooms being thrown open to reveal a different animated scene, like something out of a Wes Anderson movie. This extraordinary and joyous release acts as a prelude to Wincek's debut Hometapes full-length, due in 2010.
Sing Me a Rainbow: A Trident Anthology 1965-1967 Part 1
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After the stellar San Fran Nuggets box set a few years back, Sing Me a Rainbow comes to offer an even deeper look at the subcategories and counter-counterculture cliques of the late-'60s Bay Area scene. In this case, the magnifying glass is set above Trident Productions, a label and Brill Building-style hit factory run for a very short time by Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber. The label had a smash hit right out of the box with the We Five's folkie bubblegum anthem "You Were on My Mind" (an AM radio fave to this day), but the success, at least commercially, stopped there. The extended story of the label, family of artists and very unique moment in history is told over the course of this set, with a plethora of relatively unheard cuts that fall somewhere in the grey area between breezy folk rock and the SF acid rock scene that was forming at the time. There's a frantic, rushed energy to a lot of the songs, but not in the way where a lot of song-machine labels sometimes had to rush productions before the fads they were jumping on (and money surrounding those fads) evaporated. Still, tracks like the Mystery Trend's "Carrots on a String" and the Sons of Champlin's take on the title track do feel they had to finish the song before the ideas themselves and the bustling scene around the bands and flower-power characters around SF cycled through and became something else. A fantastic snapshot of a feeling that was moving too fast to ever stick to anything at the time, and a deeper definition of the San Francisco sound. Awesome.
Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold
Sun Ra featuring Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold
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Courtesy of the boomers' abiding Beatles-n-Stones obsessions, the British Invasion is cultural shorthand well beyond the hip precincts of rock snobbery. However, the far more important cultural revolution that transformed the 20th century -- particularly the postwar era of electric blues so lucrative for the likes of the Glimmer Twins -- is far less ratified and examined: the African Invasion. This movement's late modern period came into full flower with the 1950s vanguard fusion of vital Ghanaian modernist Guy Warren, but the homegrown visionary represented on this New Year's Eve 1964 disc -- Sun Ra -- came from this side of the Black Atlantic. Straight outta the Dirty South (Bombingham, to be exact) or from "El Saturn"? That is the question when considering the Afronaut Artist Formerly Known As Sonny Blount and this disc featuring free jazz luminary Pharoah Sanders (subbing for tenor saxophonist John Gilmore who'd decamped for touring with Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers) and such Arkestra mainstays as Marshall Allen, Jimmhi Johnson, Ronnie Boykins, and standout flautist Black Harold (Harold Murray). The sonic innovations of this date, an outgrowth of the October Revolution in Jazz of late '64, certainly presage the subsequent three decades of Afro-Alien aural theory soon to be re-contextualized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Mills, and Mr. Ra's fellow Dixie-fried fusioneer George Clinton. But how much of the beat science and mystical knockings on display on compositions herein (such as "Gods on a Safari" and "Dawn Over Israel") derives from the folk culture of a South then still resistant to the dominance of machines yet well-acquainted with the awesome power of electric guitar evangelism or to interstellar funk accessed from bouts of star-walking? Spend your season in headphone sessions with this collection reclaimed from the latter-day sun king's vast astral archives and perhaps you might find out.