Latest Features

On Deck: Raccoon Fighter

By Joshua Pickard; October 25, 2013 at 7:50 AM 

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Brooklyn garage rock merchants Raccoon Fighter create chunks of fuzzy, proto punk-indebted riffs and pulsating melodies that live and breathe within a modern blues landscape. Channeling the spirits of Link Wray and The Sonics, the band dig deep into their influences and come away with a sound that’s both timeless and feels particularly of-the-moment — especially given how frizzed-out garage rock has been on the upswing in recent years.  But unlike most garage rockers, Raccoon Fighter do know enough about their own place in rock’s storied canon to understand that simply retreading the sounds and ideas (not to mention trading on the goodwill) of bands from the 60’s and 70’s isn’t enough to win you admiration and praise.  There has to be something more to the guitar licks, throbbing  basslines, and jackhammer percussion that sets you apart from the wide herd of like-minded musicians.

On their recently released album, ZIL, Raccoon Fighter constructed gritty, raucous soundscapes that reveled in the band’s own psych-rock and punk tendencies.  Combining a penchant for raw, expressive vocals courtesy of singer Sean Gavigan, hypnotic bass from Gabe Wilhelm, and percussive blasts from Zac Ciancaglini, the album never shies away from detailing its influences, while at the same time evoking the abilities of the band to contort those same influences into sounds redolent of their musical idols but also wholly their own.  Recently, we took some time with Sean Gavigan to discuss a few records which helped to mold the recording of their new record — as well as being LP’s that are among his favorites.  From obvious choices such as The Stooges and Link Wray, to more tangential artists like Ween and Mississippi John Hurt, Gavigan lays out the musical foundation that he brought to the songs on ZIL.  Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Van Dyke Parks - Discover America
Van Dyke Parks – Discover America

Gabe’s brother Ryan turned us on to this record and I remember listening to nothing but this for months after hearing it for the first time. It draws me in the same way psych rock from foreign countries in the 70’s does. There’s something special about taking an artist outside of their background or genre and seeing what comes out on the other end. With Van Dyke Parks + Calypso music from 1920’s & 30’s, it’s a perfect match.


Ween - Pure Guava
Ween – Pure Guava

Ween unfairly gets dismissed as a “joke band” a lot. And yes, they are funny, but you can use humor in music without being a Weird Al. Or a Frank Zappa. Humor gets condescended to by critics, and artists, as being somehow illegitimate. Like you gotta be self-serious to be “good.” Which is bullshit. It’s hard to make people laugh, especially when you’re doing it with a psychedelic, lo-fi album with no jokes and good songs. This album taught me that you don’t need a recording studio, or even a traditionally good sounding recording, to create music, and have fun doing it. To this day, I still consider the Tascam Portastudio 424 MKII one of the best sounding studios in the world.


Mississippi John Hurt - 1928 Okeh Sessions
Mississippi John Hurt – 1928 Okeh Sessions

You ever hear of Electronic Voice Phenomenon? This album is like listening to a ghost. Unlike the gravel of many of the world weary delta bluesmen I’m also so very fond of, John Hurt’s voice is humbly gentle. Even while singing about murder and sex, he still delivers it with a childlike innocence. His fingerpicking style was an obsession for me after I first heard this. He sounds like he’s trying to imitate a piano player, his thumb being the left hand and his index, middle, and ring being the right. They’re all moving totally independently of one another. It took me a while to be convinced it was only one guy playing one guitar.


Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power
The Stooges – Raw Power

This album should be called Raw FUCKING Power. It’s the most energetic, violent, and aptly named 34 minutes of music ever put on magnetic tape.


Link Wray - Link Wray
Link Wray – Link Wray

This album sounds like demos from Exile On Main Street, which is a testament to the Stones’ ability to come off as genuinely American, and a testament to Link’s gifted songwriting abilities. It was recorded on THREE tracks(!!) in a converted chicken shack in Maryland. Sonically, it’s charmingly sloppy. And so are many of the performances. But the songs are so good. There was probably a lot of bouncing of tracks going on. You can hear first-takes underneath the main takes at times. It’s like a Pittsburgh style steak, charred on the outside and VERY rare on the inside.

Raccoon Fighter’s debut record, ZIL, is out now on Papercup Music. 

On Deck: Sleepy Sun

By Joshua Pickard; October 23, 2013 at 7:16 AM 

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Sludgy California rockers Sleepy Sun like things loud, but they also aren’t afraid to slow things down to a crawl and draw out every slithering note and viscous riff that bubbles to the surface of their often complexly structured music.  Though far from calling attention to its own intricate rhythms, the music moves forward effortlessly, with the band simply acting as vessels for the often thunderous slabs of guitars and percussion that come thudding from the speakers.  Culling their sound from a dozen different influences — namely rockers like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and recent stoner rock bands like Black Mountain and Kyuss — they incorporate various aspects of psych-rock and dusty desert-tinged melodies without losing a sense of their own individual identities.  And for a band so indebted to sounds so distinctly associated with specific artists, Sleepy Sun never come across as lazy peddlers of nostalgia or appear as though they’re banking on the goodwill of their musical ancestors to make that connection with the listener.  Their music with all its dense, layered instrumentation and submerged melodies is solely their own, even if they do happen to point out musically who some of their favorite bands are in each song.

With the release of their upcoming Sleepy Sun 7″, the band seek to pile even more sounds and interwoven rhythms into their music.  Fuzz runs rampant and singer Bret Constantino howls into the night as thick chunks of oozing riffage curl out into the evening air, punctuated by throbbing spikes of chest-rattling bass and mountainous drumming.  They’ve been able to get a few pointers from bands like Arctic Monkeys and Black Angels, with whom they’ve shared a stage on occasion. We recently spoke with Sleepy Sun about some of their favorite records and those albums in particular which helped to shape them as a group.  It should come as no surprise that they’ve chosen to list bands such as The Stooges and Spiritualized as being hugely influential to them — and the often abstract rock aesthetic of The Velvet Underground (who they also mention) fits in quite nicely as well.  They step back from the harder edge of rock for a moment to discuss the merits of classical guitarist Pepe Romero.  Everyone needs their downtime after all.  Read the band’s full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Evan Reiss:

The Velvet Underground - White Light-White Heat
The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

The most influential album for me is the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. It inherently changed the way I listened to music. It showed me that it was possible for a record to sound completely fucked and beautiful at the same time. I remember the day I bought it at the mall as a teenager on a whim. I threw it on the stereo and it made me feel really uncomfortable/scared…and I liked that feeling. It’s pop music that’s experimental and dangerous. It embodies the spirit of rock n’ roll.


Jack Allen:

Television - Marquee Moon
Television – Marquee Moon

I first heard this record in high school when a family friend gave it to me for Christmas. It changed the way I thought about music entirely. They embodied the spirit of early New York punk without relying on any of the speed and aggressive tones of their contemporaries, and everyone in the band could really PLAY. The title track in particular taught me about the power of repetition, and how beautiful it can be to really stretch out a song.


Bret Constantino:

Spiritualized - Lazer Guided Melodies
Spiritualized – Lazer Guided Melodies

I really appreciate how this album is sequenced as 4 tracks with 3 songs under each title. it really forces you listen through the entire record, which is one of the most beautiful and epic listening experiences. the songs build like dream sequences, from sweet lullabies to noisy epiphanies. I also really love the horn arrangements in juxtaposition with the loud fuzzy guitar playing. the production is so dynamic, I hear new sounds with every listen. for me, this record is the space gospel.


Brian Tice:

Pepe Romero – Guitar Solos
Pepe Romero – Guitar Solos

My Pepe Romero story starts on a stretch of the US-101 South between San Francisco and Los Angeles where the highway turns out of the foothills and traces the Pacific. I was listening to a classical radio station. At the exact moment the ocean came into view Pepe Romero’s rendition of Isaac Albéniz’s “Suite Espanola Opus 47 No. 3” came on over the air. The next moments acted as a great sublimator for me. At the time my mind was focused on both personal trouble and the trouble of someone very close to me. I jotted down the name Pepe Romero and later bought the compact disc. Months later I went on tour with Sleepy Sun in Europe. I would listen to the collection while looking out the window of the tour van, attempting to draw or photograph the unfamiliar places I was passing through, or any time I needed a break from rock. Our last show on the tour was in Porto, Portugal. We had a day off so I walked around the city. At one point I came across a musical conservatory where a classical guitar concert was about to take place. Outside on the patio someone was warming up with “Opus 47 No. 3.” Peacocks were roaming the surrounding garden and the Atlantic ocean was sparkling behind the concert building. The song had come full circle for me. I’ve always been drawn to classical guitar in its own right, but Pepe Romero’s interpretations influenced me to think about the feel and dynamic of the ideas presented live or on record. Plus it’s super good nap music.


Matt Holliman:

Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power
The Stooges – Raw Power

It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite Stooge’s guitarist. Ron Asheton has this very raw, primitive appeal that’s simplistic, yet really expressive. Once he got bumped to bass and James Williamson took over guitar duty on Raw Power, you can immediately hear the difference. There’s a refined technicality in the six-string swagger, but the nastiness remains in spades. The opener “Search and Destroy” quickly sets the aggressive tone of the album, only to be followed up by the sublime “Gimme Danger”, an acoustic ballad with single-note pinging keys and a burning mess of Williamson lead as the track collapses. The latter is one of my favorite songs of all time, and I’ve been lucky enough to see The Stooges perform it live a handful of times over the past few years.

Sleepy Sun’s new 7″ is out now on Dine Alone Records. 

On Deck: The Stargazer Lilies

By Joshua Pickard; October 21, 2013 at 7:42 AM 

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Dream pop and shoegaze have always been close bedfellows.  And on the debut album from The Stargazer Lilies, We Are The Dreamers, this connection is made palpably known.  Coming across as a slightly more subdued Elizabeth Fraser-fronted version of My Bloody Valentine, the band finds singer/bassist Kim Field and multi-instrumentalist John Cep (along with Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow and live drummers EJ DeCoske and Johnny Lancia) creating swirling soundscapes of reverbed percussion and hazy distortion-drenched guitar riffs, with Field’s airy vocals holding everything together.  Combining a knack for memorable and slightly sugary melodies with a head full of drone and gauzy distortion, The Stargazer Lilies — with We Are The Dreamers (out October 22nd via Graveface Records) — have constructed an oddly comforting, though at times melancholy, homage to their influences and formative musical tendencies.

Recently, we spoke with John Cep and Kim Field about a few of the records which helped to shape the sound of their debut as The Stargazer Lilies.  After hearing the record, it should come as no surprise that they’ve chosen such a wide range of records to discuss.  The smooth — though partially submerged melodies — at play on We Are The Dreamers seem to be a bit of an update on the classic harmonies from singer Astrud Gilberto, whose The Astrud Gilberto Album they use as starting pointing in their discussion.  Also mentioned are records by Stereolab, who they point to as harbingers of a positive and uplifting musical future, and Black Mother Super Rainbow, whose psychedelic sounds can be heard splashed across their own music.  They end by talking abut the recent release, To The Happy Few, by 90’s alterna-rock/shoegaze band Medicine and the architecturally significant studio where it was recorded.  Check out their full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Astrud Gilberto - The Astrud Gilberto Album
Astrud Gilberto – The Astrud Gilberto Album

John: I think we should start our 5 album journey at the beginning when Kim and I first met.

Kim: John was the one who introduced me to the world of Bossa Nova. We spent a lot of time just hanging out listening to Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, Jobim etc. Astrud Gilberto quickly became one of my all time favorite singers. Her understated sincerity is perfect to me. Of course she was teamed up with some of the greatest song writers and musicians of all time and was so lucky to have come to the U.S. from Brazil right at the time that international travel was really coming in to vogue. She just had everything going for her. She’s a real icon.


Stereolab - Dots and Loops
Stereolab – Dots and Loops

John: It’s a gorgeous fall day here at our Pocono pad as I pull out Dots and Loops on vinyl and it sounds as fresh as the first time I heard it. This more than any other album brought me back to the present after living in the past for so many years. It’s an album to me which perpetually feels like the future… full of hope optimism and brilliant instrumentation and song arrangements.

Kim: I remember we bought this album in L.A. and then listened to it while driving out to Palm Springs for the first time. The combination was pretty magical. Sometimes when I feel like I come up with a good melody I think it’s because I’ve spent so much time listening to Stereolab.


Broadcast - Ha Ha Sound
Broadcast – HaHa Sound

Kim: My mind melted when I discovered Broadcast. I had the fortune of being able to pen pal with Trish for a time while I was setting up a tour for Soundpool after our friend Dougee Dimensional of the Gentle People sent me her contact. She was incredibly kind to me. She was helping me with ideas of where we could play. She invited us for tea and scones. She would watch our videos and tell me how much she loved certain things… my dresses… the songs or how things looked. I felt like she and I could have been really good friends. Sadly we had to cancel the plans for that tour after our drummer had a freak accident and wasn’t able to fly. I’ve always been sad about not getting to meet her in person. I really wanted to give her a hug and say hi the last time we saw them play but I was feeling too shy that night.


Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Dandelion Gum

John: The first time I heard Dandelion Gum, I thought it was so mind blowing that I did something I never do, I immediately sent the band a cd of Kim and my band at the time, Soundpool. A year and a half later Soundpool opened for BMSR and we’ve been friends ever since. The album literally changed my life, it’s one of my absolute favorites. It’s definitely up there with the all time greatest psychedelic albums ever recorded.


Medicine - To The Happy Few
Medicine – To The Happy Few

John: I had known about Medicine and always really dug their 60’s psych infused melodic wall of noise. But I discovered Brad Laner, the genius behind Medicine while obsessing over mid-century modern architecture in southern California. Brad, you see, lives in an architecturally significant Eichler home in a historically designated neighborhood. And this is where Medicine’s psychedelic masterpiece To The Happy Few was recorded. It’s a truly brilliant album which aptly reflects the forward thinking environment in which it was created. In a year of long awaited and widely anticipated comebacks, this album may be the best one of all.

The debut album from The Stargazer Lilies, We Are The Dreamers, is out October 22th via Graveface Records.

On Deck: Caviare Days

By Joshua Pickard; October 3, 2013 at 11:00 AM 

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The bands that hold such a close affinity for the bright, saccharine sounds of the 60’s must walk a fine line, for fear that they swing quickly from homage to imitation without realizing it.  Swedish pop group Caviare Days – whose name is taken from a line in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night – find themselves firmly planted within the realm of reverent pop reconstruction.  Their music touches quite extensively on the hazy harmonies and shimmering melodies of bands like ABBA and The Mama’s and The Papa’s but always with an eye toward more modern pop tendencies.  They’re peddling an intriguing distillation of their influences and manage to impart the carefree outlook of the 60’s with a deeper rhythmic sensibility.

A good deal of the band’s success comes from the interplay between singers (and sisters) Lina and Maja Westin and the deceptively simple instrumentation which clearly evokes the whimsical music so commonly associated with the “Summer of Love” ideals of the late 60’s.  But their music doesn’t come across as flighty so much as it does capricious and unpredictable – as if the band themselves were discovering the music at the same time as the listener.  And that lends the band a decidedly headier perspective than many of their sunshine pop peers.

Recently, we sat down with sisters Lina and Maja to discuss a few of the records which have helped to shape the development of Caviare Days’ sound – not to mention their own formative musical experiences.  Albums such as Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones and Blue by Joni Mitchell bump up against records from The Strokes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in a mish-mash of influences and musical predilections. Check out what they had to say about these albums below in the latest installment of our On Deck Series.


The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

Lina:

Few albums have had such an impact on us as Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones. When looking back at our lives you realize how Jagger and the rest have hypnotized you on so many levels. The first track “Sympathy for the Devil” sets the scene. It influenced us early to pick up and read Michael Bulgakovs Master & Margarita, which became a pathway to Russian literature and mysticism. The decadent aesthetics in the album photos captured in a London mansion inspired us to a certain lifestyle as well as a way of dressing. The madness in the television extravaganza The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (promo film for the album) showed us a way to combine chaos with control. Beggars Banquet is directly intelligent and filled with socio-political statements – all perfectly wrapped in an illusion of a luxury.


Monica Zetterlund - Aah! Monica!
Monica Zetterlund – Aah! Monica!

Lina:

Monica Zetterlund is like a vitamin pill. Your body needs it to survive the long dark Swedish winter. Aah! Monica! is her second studio album released in 1962. We have been listening to it over and over again from childhood until today and will keep on doing so forever. It is masterly created jazz with edgy romantic songs referring a lot to Stockholm, our capital. It couldn’t get more Swedish than this.


Joni Mitchell - Blue
Joni Mitchell – Blue

Lina:

Joni Mitchell. Dad’s favourite. Became our favourite. This album is perfect.

Maja:

Blue is a masterpiece, and a well-known one. Even people that dislike folk music, the singer-songwriter way, seem to love this album, or Joni Mitchell in general. She’s such a force of nature.


The Strokes - Is This Is
The Strokes – Is This Is

Maja:

I was fifteen when Is This It came out in 2001, and totally stirred up something. I had a CDR copy of Is This It, which also fitted the Hives’ Veni Vedi Vicious, 80 minutes of milestone indie-rock that all of my friends knew the lyrics to. 2001 was a great year for rock’n’roll, which saw the first real revival since Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991. Is This It is sexy, packed with great riffs and slick lyrics. The soundtrack to the slim, black jeans that came around at this time.


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C.

Maja:

B.R.M.C. was also released in 2001, also underlining that this year was a great year for rock’n’roll. They had a show on Hultsfred festival 2002, and I was carried away, I think it was the first time I felt high on a concert. Lina bought the CD for me when we lived in Singapore and it was one of a few records I listened to for almost a full year. B.R.M.C. is raunchy, spiritual, intelligent and multifaceted – all what a great rock’n’roll-album should have.

Caviare Days’ self-titled debut album is out now on Label 259.

On Deck: Charlie Straight

By Joshua Pickard; October 1, 2013 at 12:16 PM 

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Coming back from a trip to England in 2005 – where he spent the summer absorbing new music and learning English – Czech Republic-native Albert Cerny knew that he wanted to make music.  Adopting a faux British accent and looking to classic Britpop bands for inspiration, he began writing songs and eventually showed them to his drum teacher, Pavel Pilch, who saw the potential in Cerny’s melodic pop instincts.  With the addition of keyboardist Michal Supak and bassist Jan Cienciala, Charlie Straight was born.  Melding classic indie pop rhythms to anthemic rock harmonies, the band wanders through lush soundscapes, populated by complex instrumentation and earnest heart-on-sleeve sentiment – though not overt sentimentality.  And while the band doesn’t venture too far left sonically, their layered bouts of indie pop romanticism and crystalline melodies prove that you don’t have to have a kitchen-sink approach to music to be innovative and creatively viable in a crowded musical marketplace.

Recently, Cerny sat down with Beats Per Minute to discuss some of the records which have played a large role in his own musical development – not to mention the influence they’ve had on his contributions to Charlie Straight.  Detailing his own formative musical experiences as seen through his exposure to records such as Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan and Original Pirate Material by The Streets, Cerny gives us a quick glimpse into the fascinating ways in which our musical preferences shape our attitudes and motivations.  He also talks a bit about albums by Bon Iver and Coldplay, which play into the earnest nature of Charlie Straight’s pop aesthetic.  Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Bon Iver – Bon Iver

There was a time in my life when I recklessly fell in love with someone I barely knew. That was the time when I discovered Bon Iver, when I was learning for my final exams at university. That was the time when I left my first love behind and looked ahead. “So it’s storming on the lake, little waves our bodies break,” I think I must have heard the song “Calgary” by Bon Iver about a thousand times. It soundtracks what I was going through and in a way what I am dealing with now. Justin Vernon is releasing a new album with Volcano Choir these days: http://volcanochoir.com/.


The Streets - Original Pirate Material
The Streets – Original Pirate Material

Before I even started coming to London on a regular basis, I’d been fascinated by the city thanks to this album. I like the modesty in production and the witty verses like “I’m 46th generation Roman.” The story of Turn The Page told so well and musically it just keeps growing and growing. I wonder what Mike Skinner would say if he was reading this. I follow him on http://mikeskinner.so/ scrolling over stacks of hi-res grainy photos from tours around the world. Philosophically, we must have something in common and I really wish I could meet him for a beer one day. When I heard the line “I came to this world with nothing and I’ll leave with nothing but love. Everything else is just borrowed,” it just clicked.


Bob Dylan - Blood On The Tracks
Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks

Is it a cliché to say Dylan is a genius? This is my favourite album along with Time Out Of Mind. I am sure I’m going to listen to it many more times before I die and it’ll still have the capacity for discovery. I learnt to play “A Simple Twist of Fate” on the guitar and it felt like talking to a long-gone lover or a friend. Edmund I. Watts was an American poet from Chapel Hill residing in Prague. We called him “the oldest roadie in history”. He often came on tour with Charlie Straight and we had these late-night conversations about the meaning of life. I made this video when he died (watch). Edmund was my personal Dylan.


Coldplay - A Rush Of Blood To The Head
Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head

At the age of sixteen, I spent the summer in Ramsgate in Kent. Funnily enough, I stayed on Albert Road. I could see the sea from my bedroom, the sea and tons of hovering seagulls. At that time, I discovered Coldplay. I would always go to this café with a silver jukebox and put “In My Place” on repeat stuffing my mouth with blueberry muffins. Strangely, there was a guitar standing in the room when I arrived – this was when I wrote my first songs (and yeah, most of them were about seagulls).


MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

If the only MGMT song you know happens to be “Kids,” please take a listen to “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” and it’ll blow you away. I wish I was as eloquent in my writing as Jon Hilcock is when he gets excited about a band on his podcast (http://allbacknofront.com/). Oh, I nearly forgot, we met Andrew VanWyngarden in a Reykjavík pub when recording “I Sleep Alone” with Marketa Irglova. “Are you in band?” “Maybe.” “Are you in my favourite band?” “Probably yes,” he said.

Charlie Straight’s debut single, “Coco” is out now. 

On Deck: Marbeya Sound

By Joshua Pickard; September 27, 2013 at 10:17 AM 

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Mexico City-based electronic duo Marbeya Sound seem to be pulled across time between the analog synth aesthetic of kraut rock progenitors Can and Faust and the more modern, motherboard-centric experiments of artists like Lindstrom and Studio.  Much like Marbeya Sound’s own unpredictable and spontaneous rhythms, the band’s formation can be chalked up to a series of happy coincidences – all leading up to a chance encounter in the lobby of a hotel on the coast of Acapulco. Discovering that they both had a love of Cold War-era synthesizers and the need to incorporate the thematic aspects of space and water in their music (which they found themselves surrounded by at that particular time), the duo began fashioning their own unique electronic aesthetic.  But soon they moved back to the bustling Roma district of Mexico City and began recording what would eventually form the basis of their recently released debut LP, Colonies.

MARBEYA SOUND – ¨SEMANTIC DRIFT ¨ [OFFICIAL VIDEO] from HELLOITO on Vimeo.

An instrumental album, Colonies finds the duo creating entire worlds out of electronic ephemera and vintage circuit boards.  Utilizing up to 80 channels in a single track, they create dense, cinematic expanses of wired landscapes, where artists like Pink Floyd, Neu!, and Jean Michel Jarre take up permanent residence.  But there is more to Marbeya Sound’s music that unspooling rhythms and kraut rock influences.  The duo invests each track with a deliberate pensiveness – an anticipatory reflex, where each subsequent sound evokes feelings of inevitability and the desire to dig further into this electronic mire.  And recently, the duo took some time to offer Beats Per Minute a guided tour through some of the albums which have helped to shape the recording ofColonies.  There’s no shortage of obvious choices, such as Brian Eno and Can, but the band digs deeper into their influences to include more ambiguous influences such as Droids and The Alan Parsons Project.  Check out their full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Brian Eno - Apollo
Brian Eno – Apollo (Atmospheres & Soundtracks)

There is nothing more spacey than Brian Eno’s Apollo album. This album is pure relaxation, floating in empty space. If we ended up being stranded in space along with this album playing on some headphones and there is no rescue I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be any panicking, just enjoy the scenery and the accompanying jams. Also, although cliche no one in the world can deny that ‘An ending (Ascent)’ is one of the most emotional tracks of all time.


Studio - West Coast
Studio – West Coast

Shit, we love this album. The first time we heard Studio everything changed. The sound of their drums ,the guitar, the bass… everything was so pronounced. They had a way of mixing their tracks that was unique and elegant. I can’t think of a better album to enjoy a sunny day at the beach. We still rock that album when we want to cheer people up, it always works!


The Alan Parsons Project - The Definitive Collection
The Alan Parsons Project – The Definitive Collection

What do you want to listen to? Rhodes, a chorus, synths, flutes, distortion, ambient? Its all in this album. Definitly some tracks are better than others but we couldn’t say just one album from Alan parsons project because there are some hidden jewels in almost every album he released back in the 80’s. Some tracks that stand out for us are ‘Mammagamma’ | ‘Voyager’ | ‘Lucifer’ | ‘Sirius’.


Droids - Star Peace
Droids – Star Peace

This is analog synth heaven. A complete adventure through unknown territories, alien experiences and all that good stuff. Let me put it simple, if you let the music transport you it’s amazing where it can take you. All you have to do is let go and stop being in the present, If there is anything we would love to tell our listeners is that. Just let go, let the music do the rest…. That sounded cheesy but we’re serious.


Lindstrom & Prins Thomas - Reinterpretations\
Lindstrom & Prins Thomas – Reinterpretations

Musically this record has all the right elements. Good rhythm, great synth lines, fantastic guitar sound and the right influences. The great thing about this album is that it has imperfections that make it even more perfect, something prins thomas is really good at. Add the great maestro lindstrøm to the mix and it couldn’t get any better than this. Obviously those 2 have been listened to throughout our whole musical journey since they started producing.


Can - Ege Bamyasi
Can – Ege Bamyasi

For our final album, its an album many of you already have lived at one point in your life. Of coarse Can was one of the core founders of krautrock sound and always did whatever the f@*! they wanted musically blah blah blah, but one of thing that makes Can distinguish from the rest is Damo Suzuki’s vocals. This album is a great example of what Damo and the rest of the band was capable of. Although this album doesn’t define what people understand as the exclusive krautrock sound, Krautrock is a genre that allows you to express yourself with undefined parameters. Its a genre that has a multitude of influences therefor its not a sound that encloses one specific sound. You’re free to listen and create what you want!

Marbeya Sound’s debut album, Colonies, is out now.

On Deck: The Stepkids

By Joshua Pickard; September 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM 

rsz_the_stepkids

Coming together in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2009 after having played supporting roles for numerous other bands and artists, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Gitelman, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Daniel Edinberg, and drummer/vocalist Tim Walsh formed The Stepkids as way to “really get back to the nucleus of why we play music to begin with, to go back to the art,” as Gitelman explains.  Threading strands of jazz, funk, 70’s rock, and R&B into some modern amalgam of psychedelic soul, the band stacks genres like building blocks, creating a network of interrelated sounds and musical ideas.  Whenever they get together in the studio, a kind of restless energy takes over and the result is a collection of rhythms and melodies that defy categorization, while still sounding indicative of their respective genre influences.

On their latest album, Troubadour (out now on Stones Throw), the band opted to record on an analog reel-to-reel as opposed to a digital recorder.  Forging the loops and sample-based mechanisms of many of their peers, The Stepkids prefer the spontaneous creation that comes from the natural interplay between all three members.  Gitelman describes the reasoning behind this process: “When you play a song all the way through together, you never play it the same way twice, and that’s the stuff that really excites us. We’re able to come up with humanistic approaches that no machine will ever be able to do.”  The record follows the disconnected adventures of the titular character as he deals with love, the hardships of trying to maintain a healthy relationship on the road, and the perils of trying to remain creatively and commercially viable in a crowded marketplace.  It’s a zigzagging musical travelogue through a handful of genres and a story that “anyone can find themselves in,” according to Walsh.

We spoke with bassist Daniel Edinberg recently about some of the records which helped to shape the recording sessions for Troubadour – not to mention that these are some of his favorite records.  From the cathartic improvisation of Miles Davis to the sweaty sexuality of Prince and electronic experimentation of Pantha Du Prince, Edinberg traces out the roots of his influences while also giving us a quick glimpse into the inner workings of their latest record.  It’s fascinating to see how each of these influences managed to sneak into the songs on Troubadour and how the band has ingeniously reshaped them.  Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Rick James - Fire It Up
Rick James – Fire It Up

Rick James really had his sound and vocal character down cold on this record. “When Love Is Gone” is one of my favorite Rick James songs of all time – his vocal performance is so emotional. He took flamboyance to new heights and was a true crossover artist.


Carl Craig - Landcruising
Carl Craig – Landcruising

My current favorite techno album. From start to finish this is a masterpiece. It is atmospheric, experimental, but at the same time primal with its pulse. Detroit techno is such a natural outgrowth from funk and this record shows how far it all evolved by the mid 90s. Quite a few of the tracks still sound modern.


Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise
Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise

We reference our mixes in the studio to this record quite often. Pantha Du Prince successfully combines live instrumentation with modern electronics to create a truly broad sound. This album is meant to be appreciated with a hi-end speaker system, but it sounds great anywhere. That should be the goal with mixed music and this album truly succeeds at it. The composition is spot-on too – works on the dance floor or in the living room.


Prince - Dirty Mind
Prince – Dirty Mind

Every song in this album is sung falsetto. All the lyrics relate to the album concept. The music has one distinct sound through the whole thing and the parts are impeccably played and composed. Who else does this? There will never be another artist like Prince.


Miles Davis - Live Evil
Miles Davis – Live Evil

Jack Dejohnette playing as ferociously as possible. Keith Jarrett going ballistic on the Rhodes. Dave Holland on the bass. John McLaughlin – ’nuff said. Hermeto Pascoal’s 2 compositions making for some of the best ambient music ever recorded. Double disc’s worth of music. Jazz-rock at its purest. This album showed us how jazz music, the music we were all brought up playing, could cross over to make new styles never before created.

The Stepkids’ latest album, Troubadour, is out now on Stones Throw Records. 

On Deck: Huerco S.

By Joshua Pickard; September 24, 2013 at 9:45 AM 

Huerco S_1

Prolific Kansas City producer Brian Leeds (aka Huerco S.) has released countless albums for various cassette and micro-labels over the last few years.  Employing a minimalist electronic aesthetic, he composes stark – though irrevocably beautiful – stretches of static noise and deceptively simple rhythms. Having recently signed to the Mexican Summer-imprint Software, Leeds has just released his debut LP, Colonial Patterns, for the Brooklyn-based label.  To listen to Leeds’ work, it seems that Huerco S. is his outlet for pulling sounds apart and skillfully reconstructing them – or simply letting them play out within the resulting unstable arrangements.  Leeds knows well enough that to allow these sounds and rhythms autonomy would result in their complete dissolution, but he also knows that it would be just as detrimental to try to fasten some sort of preconceived frame around them.  And so he provides the deft touch needed resulting in the formation of the loosely connected – though thematically resonant – songs that haunt his entire discography and his recent work in particular.

Leeds sat down with Beats Per Minute recently to discuss some of the records which have helped to influence the direction of his own music.  From the dense distortion-laden rhythms of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine to the post-disco new wave ambience of Arthur Russell, Leeds sets about detailing the multi-layered influences which led him to begin recording music in the first place.  He also digs into the more prevalent abstract electronic field – Arthur Russell notwithstanding – that the majority of his songs call home.  He also speaks affectionately about albums by downtempo house music architect Jochen Peteri (better known as Newworldaquarium) and more recent discoveries from artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never and Jon Hassell.  It’s interesting to hear Leeds talk about these records and their sway as it becomes a game of spot-the-influence when you listen to his music.  Now, his records are by no means defined by these specific influences, but it is fascinating to see how he has reconstituted some of their base forms into something wholly his own and remarkably unforgettable.  Read his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


my bloody valentine loveless
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Bliss, that’s what this album is for me. Loveless is an album I go back to over and over again and yet I still discover new parts of the songs. A wall of sound just being jammed right into your ears, fucking heaven. I think what I’ve taken most from this album is its textural qualities. Instead of guitars, I’m using samples and synths. Sometimes I think about an alternate reality where Kevin Shields picks up a Poly 800 and a LinnDrum…maybe that’s what I’m trying to accomplish.


Newworldaquarium - Dead Bears
Newworldaquarium – Dead Bears

Jochem Peteri knows how to groove; Layer after every layer just washing over you like some inescapable tide dragging you out into the depths. Once again repetition and minimalism really does it for me. NWAQ is a master of hypnotism and all things deep. Dead Bears chugs along at sluggish tempos not usually considered fit for house music. His approach to allow the groove to build slowly and organically has had a lasting impact on my music.


Jon Hassell - Aka Darbari Java (Magic Realism)
Jon Hassell – Aka Darbari Java (Magic Realism)

Infusing the ancient with the modern. Having only discovered Jon Hassell within the last two years, his music has left a lasting impression on me and my most recent work, Colonial Patterns. His truly other-worldly music in my mind is unparalleled in it’s structural freedom and inclusiveness. Historical context plays a huge role in Jon’s music, and as most modern dance producers continues to recycle tropes from the 80s and 90s, Jon has opened my eyes to history that has long been forgotten or possibly a history not yet written.


Oneohtrix Point Never - Rifts
Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts

The Software boss man running things, an obvious choice. This album, along with a lot of Dan’s earlier work, reminds me that simplicity is king. I’m pretty sure this was made entirely using just one Juno synth, and yet he created such a diverse range of sound and feeling. I feel like a lot of my synth work is heavily influenced by Dan. It’s been a real honor to work with a personal hero and modern synth auteur.


Arthur Russell - Calling Out of Context
Arthur Russell – Calling Out of Context

This compilation rounds up all the Arthur Russell hits. A true master, Arthur manages to create these jangly pop songs full of longing and melancholy while still retaining these very experimental qualities. He was truly ahead of his time, as the majority of these songs play out more like a future soundtrack to a love story than anything from the 80s. Such a shame the man died way before his time.

The latest album from Huerco S., Colonial Patterns, is out now on Software Records. 

On Deck: Shigeto

By Joshua Pickard; September 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM 

rsz_shigeto

Detroit producer Zach Saginaw, otherwise known as Shigeto, creates music steeped in the experiences of his own life – and those of family.  His earliest work saw him using his grandmother’s memories of time spent in a U.S. internment camp as inspiration and had him fashioning ambient, nostalgic beats and hiccupping rhythms alongside segmented melodies and chopped vocal samples, courtesy of her.  His subsequent work found him drawing from his personal relationships, though he often made reference to some detail concerning his extended family – such as the image of his great-grandfather’s house in Hiroshima being pictured in the liner notes of his sophomore album, Lineage.  And by incorporating aspects of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and a handful of other genres into his music, he makes these tenuous emotions connections between the past and the present feel alive and extraordinarily relevant.

And as an extension and evolution of this immediacy between our memories and the present, the producer’s recent work has begun to focus more on the perception of individual moments that we have now, which we often, and easily, take for granted.  And on his latest record, No Better Time Than Now (out now on Ghostly International), Saginaw invests these moments with a grounded reverence and oddly quirky humor that meshes well together.  Even the title of the album seems like a statement of intent from Shigeto – a call to arms, possibly, and a yearning to never overlook the everyday extraordinariness of our own lives.  And he explores these ideas through washes of liquid synths, meticulous production, and percussion-centric rhythms – all filtered through half a dozen different genres.

Recently we spoke with Saginaw about a few of the records which have helped to shape the direction of his own music.  It should come as no surprise that Miles Davis is listed among his influences but choosing to mention The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails might seem a bit disparate until you understand the obsessive production aspects that Reznor and Shigeto exhibit in spades.  And it’s not even necessarily a controlling facet (though with Reznor, who knows) but more an attention to detail that far surpasses his electronic peers.  Electronic innovators Jan Jelinek and Dabrye also find themselves listed among his influences.  You can check out what he has to say about these records below in the latest installment of our On Deck series.


Mile Davis - The Complete Concert 1964 - My Funny Valentine - Four & More
Mile Davis – The Complete Concert 1964 – My Funny Valentine / Four & More

This for me is some of the most amazing and compelling examples of musical virtuosity and live improvisation ever. It was the quintet with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams but instead of Wayne Shorter on Tenor, who mainly played with this quintet, George Coleman was on this gig. As well as this album being incredible, Tony Williams is quite a big influence on me as well being a drummer myself.


Jan Jelinek - Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records
Jan Jelinek – Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records

Jan Jelineks use of texture and ambiance has been a long time influence for my own music. On this album especially, the jazz theme it has had a huge impact on me when I first heard it. It’s also one of the few highly “influential” records for me that I will still listen to on the regular.


Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

Trent Reznor was way ahead of his time. The production on this album is phenomenal and when I listen back to it now I’m even more blown away. I listened to a lot of heavy music when I was younger and this has a spot in my heart forever. I even got caught stealing a “Downward Spiral” t-shirt from a little shop in Ann Arbor when I was in 7th grade. My mom made me write them an apology letter and they framed it and put on their wall.


Dabrye - One - Three
Dabrye – One / Three

For me this record has influenced me more than most. When I first heard it in 2001 “mind blown” are really the only words that come to mind. I had never heard it done that way before. I would almost bet that if you were in a room with 20 odd producers in the 25 to 35 age range, that came up on hip hop and were involved in the “beat” scene they would agree. It was everything I loved about hip hop but so future. It was that Detroit techno influence fusing with the hip hop and it was on that next shit. Tadd Mullinix has always been a influence on me as a musician and as a person. I’ve never known a single musician to have so many alias’s, all so different and every track quality. So carefully crafted with every hit chosen to be exactly where it is and so minimal yet so big.

Shigeto’s new album, No Better Time Than Now, is out now on Ghostly International. 

On Deck: Steel Cranes

By Joshua Pickard; September 17, 2013 at 10:26 AM 

rsz_steel_cranes

A chance meeting at a local Oakland, CA restaurant in 2012 between guitarist/drummer Amanda Schukle and singer/guitarist Tracy Shapiro would have far reaching consequences – not the least of which was the formation of rock duo Steel Cranes.  The two women quickly became friends and, within a week, were practicing in Schukle’ apartment.  The duo began churning out blistering riffs and chest-rattling percussion and drew upon obvious kindred spirits such as PJ Harvey and Sleater-Kinney for inspiration.  Their stripped down – though equally thunderous – rhythms were born from both women’s formative musical upbringing, with Shapiro coming from a home filled with Broadway musicals and classical piano lessons and Schukle first picking up a guitar thanks to Appetite for Destruction.  This mix of melody and cavernous fretwork was the foundation of their early sound and also the basis for the songs which comprise their upcoming debut album, Ouroboros.

When Schukle and Shapiro were ready to record their debut, they “adopted” engineer Eli Crews (Deerhoof, tUnE-yArDs), who flew out to Oakland and recorded Ouroboros in a lean five day period.  This quick turnaround lent the album a minimalist and visceral edge which was exactly what the duo were looking to capture.  All the songs were recorded live to tape with a bare minimum of overdubs or studio tweaking, and the resulting collection of tracks are filled with streaks of lightning fast riffage, booming percussion, and vocals drawn straight from a mid-70’s hard rock ancestry.  Obliterating all notions of what a rock duo can accomplish, Steel Cranes blast out sheets of wailing guitars and cathartic howls that would make Iggy and the Stooges proud.

Recently we spoke with Schukle and Shapiro about some of the records which have had a prominent influence on their own sound and on the recording of Ouroboros.  From the avant rock theatrics of tUnE-yArDs to Austin Lucas’ back porch authenticity and even Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Illness Happy Hour, the band gives us a quick glimpse into the records and programs that influence them and their work.  Check out their full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck series


Tracy:

Writing about music makes me a wee bit anxious. I don’t understand it all that well. I don’t listen to it all that much. I do everything I can to avoid talking about it. Insofar as being able to reference albums that have influenced our sound, I’m at a loss. My computer and phone have three albums on them. Two of them are meditation type albums that I listen to when I fall asleep or need help calming my mind. The other one is w h o k i l l by tUnE-yArDs. Amanda always jokes about how I would never listen to us. In part, she’s right. We’re too loud. I’d take quiet over loud any day, and yet the most natural thing for Amanda and I to do together is to play pretty damn loud rock ‘n’ roll. And I love what we do. Go figure.

Austin Lucas - Somebody Loves You
Austin Lucas – Somebody Loves You

I often gravitate towards music that sounds like it rolled off a back porch of a cabin in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. I also like really heartbreaking, fiercely honest lyrics. This album has all of that in spades, along with an edge that I’m not used to hearing in old timey music. I’ve had so many friends give me CDs because they think I should listen to more music, and usually I’ll listen to a CD once at most, but when a friend gave me this album, I fell in love with it and it continues to be one of the few albums I’ll consistently listen to.


Paul Gilmartin - The Mental Illness Happy Hour
Paul Gilmartin – The Mental Illness Happy Hour

Oops, not an album. This is a podcast that I find ceaselessly rewarding to listen to. Paul Gilmartin interviews a wide spectrum of guests about mental illness, trauma, addiction, and other personal struggles. He has created a format in which people talk openly about things that are often misunderstood, complex, and shoved under the rug. This show does wonders for humanizing and destigmatizing mental illness, It often makes me cry. It leaves me amazed at and inspired by people’s resiliency. I laugh frequently when Paul or one of his guests voice something weird and twisted and dark that I wholeheartedly relate to. I’m constantly reminded about how little we often know about what kind of crazy shit someone has been through or what kind of demons they struggle with. It’s GOOD stuff. This podcast and Marc Maron’s WTF podcast take up the majority of my ear hole time these days.


 Amanda:

Yep, I make fun of Tracy for her lack of music interest. I’m utterly obsessed with music and getting my ears on everything I possibly can. Of the thousands of albums in my collection, for some reason, these stand out as the ones I should write about today, but my choices would probably be totally different next week.

At the Drive-In - Relationship of Command
At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command

I’ve listened to this album so many times that the thought of listening to it again makes me sick…but I still listen to it anyway. This has been a huge influence for me over the years, guitar and drum-wise, as well as mix and production-wise. It’s so heavy, but so catchy. It is a perfect reminder to always hit everything as hard as possible.


The Decemberists - The King is Dead
The Decemberists – The King is Dead

This album saved my life. Though I wouldn’t technically classify this as their “best” album, it was there for me when I needed help making my way out of a really dark place. I listened to it over and over and over and, with each listen, I felt like the sun was starting to shine a little more brightly on me.


tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

This is probably the one album for which Tracy and I share a common love. The sounds and emotions expressed on this album are so unique and endlessly fascinating. I’ve probably listened to this more than any other album in the past year.

Steel Cranes’ debut album, Ouroboros, is out on September 24th. 

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