Back in 2015 I was on a road trip with my family and needed to put something on to help me fall asleep in the back; I threw on Floating Points' Elaenia, and what I got instead was one of the most meticulously-crafted, slow-burning electronic albums I'd ever heard. I was up from start to finish, probably making that cringe face people do when listening to something really good. Since that first spin, Elaenia has grown to become arguably my favorite electronic album, and likewise Sam Shepherd my favorite artist of his kind. No matter how deep I've dug into his catalog over the last 5 years, I've always found some sort of hidden gem that I somehow missed on previous searches. Last week I went digging into his SoundCloud and found a handful of mixes from 2013 and '14, one of which was an 86-minute compilation of classic Brazilian records... I rarely find music this tailored for me, and bro... it delivered. Highlights include Tim Maia's "Contato Com O Mundo Racional" (17:50), Simone's cover of "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser" (28:46), Azymuth's "Melo Dos Dois Bicudos" (59:10), and a ton more. For those of you who are into ripping .mp3s, there's a download link in the track description and also a guy in the comments posting a link to the tracklist. I'm not going to make separately-dedicated posts, but I also recommend his "Summer13at45" mix, and obviously Elaenia, Shadows, Crush, Vacuum Boogie, etc.
I grabbed dinner with some friends earlier this week and we talked about Tyler's evolution over the last 10(!) years; I was surprised to be the only one that preferred his more recent work. Don't get me wrong – his early stuff was always cool to me because I could tell he was a part of that lineage of my favorite weirdo rappers, and also that he had an appreciation for the music that came before him: Stevie Wonder, Roy Ayers, Ronnie McNeir, Krautrock, whatever. You could also tell he was a real "music kid" by how he recalled his favorite songs by their track numbers. This IGOR era though... musically, it's just different. It feels lush and expensive in a way that pop music hasn't been since, well, the days of Pharrell. The way he layered the electric guitar with the soul sample here immediately took me back to the guitar solo at the end of "Christian Dior Denim Flow". If you ask Tyler though, his analogue is probably N.E.R.D. Nonetheless, it's all one and the same. It's pop, but it's also subversive. It's triumphant, but in a way that's intended to let you know he's not supposed to have the life he has now. All this for a song about being someone's sidepiece. And the video? Man...
I remember exactly where I was when I heard "Auditorium" for the first time 10 years ago. I was in the 9th (10th?) grade and had caught the bus to my friend's house after school. It was ritual to spend 1-2 hours a day digging through YouTube and WorldStar for new music. Being a Persian kid who played the cello and who was deeply obsessed with production styles, the Bollywood sample here caught my attention in the most... natural way. The album in general is dominated by Middle Eastern sounds and internationalist, Pan-Islamic ideas, blending the conscious Brooklyn style you'd expect from Mos Def with the sounds of Indian, Brazilian, and Moroccan pop music. I'm sure I'm missing more than a dozen other geographic references. One of my favorite details is how it also served as a precursor to Kanye's whole Good Friday / Rosewood era. I was actually prompted to revisit the album a few weeks ago with the 9-year anniversary of MBDTF, accidentally uncovering so many details that I didn't catch the first time around: the loop on "History"; the way he guides the pulse of "No Hay Nada Mas"; the careful restraint of "Pistola"; the shameless positivity of "Priority"... It's just an all-round genius and lovable album.
I found this record by digging up the sample from Karriem Riggins's "Summer Madness". Earlier this year I'd already started to make the foray into Brazilian pop music with Milton Nascimento's Clube da Esquina, some random Arthur Verocai records, and the obligatory Madlib Flight to Brazil. All of them were good, but they seemed like foundational starting-point type records. I'm still trying to learn more, and this Caetano Veloso record might be the one to finally push me further into the rabbit hole. "Olha O Menino" fits right into the whole "Música Popular Brasileira" (MPB) canon with one of the most infectious, sun-bleached hooks I've ever heard. The bassline on this song is... not from this planet. Like pretty much all of my favorite artists, Veloso brings an unusual use of textures, like the random rhodes keyboard hanging out somewhere in the back, and the ornate string arrangements that would normally feel out-of-place on a record likely inspired by kids playing barefoot street soccer.
Coming from more of a rap and soul music background, the Nina Simone sample here showed me a fusion of worlds that I never knew existed... This was definitely one of the first songs that got me into house music back when I first started going down rabbit holes on YouTube. It all started with the guys from Detroit: Omar S, Kerri Chandler, Norm Talley, Andrés, etc. They were able to take my favorite Motown textures and recontextualize them in a way that I didn't know was possible. On "See Line Woman", Kerri Chandler and Jerome Sydenham repackage the percussion and vocals from Nina Simone's 1964 original into one of the most tribal dance records I've ever heard. Sampling 30-year old records is obviously nothing new, but there's something futuristic and sophisticated about the way they layer the vocals and drums with the synths here. Insane record, all 7 minutes of it.
I'll admit that I was really late on Blood Orange. It wasn't until Negro Swan that I gave him a spin, and even then it was only because of the Project Pat feature. I've never been too keen on the whole "bedroom pop" thing, but the album somehow grew into one of my favorites of 2018. The original "Smoke", which closed out Negro Swan, was one of the tracks that made me obsessed with the album; it's really an accessible pop song but Dev just twists your ear by making you wait a few minutes to get to the loop. For the remix, he recruits Yves Tumor, who adds an entirely new dimension over chopped up patois samples. It's just a crazy, crazy amalgamation of references and textures that no one else could even try to imitate.
One of the things that's started to make me feel old as a music fan is having to defend Rick Ross. Kids these days are just not up on his catalog. From 2006 - 2012 dude basically lead the charge for mafioso rap with some of the most outrageously expensive-sounding music of our time. Between Port of Miami and Rich Forever, I imagine every beat cost north of $1 million. It's funny – I recently went through some old kanyeuniversecity archives and saw a post where 'Ye said Deeper Than Rap was one of the only rap albums he felt comfortable playing in his apartment, and it kinda makes sense. Ross's full orchestra and horn ensemble probably go well with Italian marble. Kanye himself actually stops by in full Louis-Vuitton-Don-mode, dropping one of the most flexed-up verses of his career. Although Ross is borderline delusional in his commitment to this whole kingpin fantasy, it brings out the absolute best in his ear for beats and features.
I know very little of Gerry Read, but I do know that he's affiliated with the "weird house" movement and that I'm very interested. If I wanted any confirmation that he was weird enough, "Limp Biscuit Anthem" was it. You could maybe get away with playing this on a dance floor, but the song doesn't initially feel designed for it... It kicks off with – no joke – a Tommy Wright III sample and other classic Memphis sounds you might recognize from the latest A$AP Rocky single (yeah, the babushka one). About halfway in, it somehow twists into an absolutely thumping house track. I've always been a fan of "outsider" music, so I immediately took to how rule-breaking the song felt. Needless to say, I'm excited to check out the rest of Read's catalog. Shoutout Pampa Records too.
Two friends from two different parts of my life texted me within hours of each other about "the new Jacques Greene". I hadn't even heard of him, but straight from the first listen, the album is impossibly good... I normally try and keep my volume below a certain level but caught my phone on max by the time I reached "To Love", which is potentially my favorite single of the year. The album is hard to pin down. At first glance "House" may be the most appropriate label, but Greene incorporates elements of UK Garage, R&B, and whatever you want to call what Burial makes. Sometimes it's subdued, but for the most part it's just really expressive dance music.
The story behind this mix is that my grandma left me a voicemail on Telegram while I was grabbing lunch at work. It had been a year since my last mix and I was missing the inspiration to start another; this was it. I was in an interesting pocket at that time, listening to a lot of Blood Orange, Rezzett, and other London artists while also revisiting some Madlib tapes from my early college years. I'd always felt like there was a common thread between all of my favorite music, regardless of the sound, year, or geography. With this mix, I wanted to highlight that commonality while presenting everything through a film-like arc. If you like this, you should also check out Virgil and Benji B's mixes for the Off-White runway shows.
Bendik Giske is a saxophonist, and his album, Surrender, features pretty much nothing but him and his saxophone. He made the album by putting tiny microphones all over his body to capture the sound of him exerting his breath into the sax. Sounds weird, but the effect is actually incredible. In a way, you can hear him in the same way that you hear the instrument; they work as two different machines, but come together to make a single body of ambient jazz music. The project was inspired by a trip to Berghain, which is unexpectedly noticeable for an album dominated by a single horn instrument.
My friend put me on to Big Baby Scumbag a few months ago with the "Dale Earnhardt" video. Being from the South myself, that combo of ATVs, Waffle House, NASCAR, and Natty Light definitely hit home. I checked back in on him recently and found "Major Payne" – another banger, this time featuring a No Limit-style album cover and a video with #TYBG spray painted on an abandoned truck. Immediately, I'm a fan. He kinda sounds like Young Dolph but mixed with Lil B (see: "Pimp C Freestyle") and the general foolery that comes with being from Awful Records.
Pedro is a breakbeat and house producer from Porto, Portugal, who cites guys like Theo Parrish as among his biggest influences. His solo music is a bit hard to find outside of this release, but of what's out there, it all falls into this intoxicating swirl of jazz, soul, R&B, and breakbeat. Jenna Camille – a soulful R&B vocalist from the DC area – seems like an unlikely pairing just off distance alone, but she fits the production style perfectly. "Float", the 2nd track on the EP, feels like a perfect actualization of their vision. The drum pattern picking up towards the end of the track is an insane highlight.
I found "Janet" while digging through Frank's blonded radio catalog about 2 years too late. It was one of the tracks I just couldn't let finish – there's something about that synth. It has that same crackling feeling that a lot of music from Jai Paul's camp has; on one hand the song feels mysterious and reflective, but on the other hand it has this strong undercurrent that keeps it from feeling... soft. Turns out Hadley does have a loose affiliation with not only the Paul Institute, but also Vegyn, who Frank linked up with in London between albums. Cool group of people.
When Tyler first released Bastard in 2009, pop music sounded like the last thing he would ever try, and yet, IGOR is also the only logical outcome of his ten years of experimentation. The album is rich, blending Tyler's encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, soul, R&B, and electronic music into a luxurious pool of heartbreak and triumph. It's complex, and finally worthy of collaboration with the heroes that molded his musical identity: Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Santigold, La Roux, Cee Lo Green, and more.
Ted Kamal started making waves on SoundCloud in 2017 with a series of insane drum-and-bass remixes of Playboi Carti tracks. He occupies a bizarre intersection of UK garage music and whatever you want to call what Carti makes, which means he's obviously very niche, but if you're into either of those lanes, his music scratches an itch you didn't even know was there.
Clube Da Esquina started off as a music collective in Minas Gerais, Brazil in the late 60s and early 70s. While the political undertones draw natural comparisons to Brazil's Tropicália movement, what makes the album unique is the ridiculously far-reaching set of musical references that it blends together. The album is at once Bossa Nova, psychedelic rock, and orchestral string music, darting in a million different directions, all beautiful. Without knowing a lick of Portuguese, the album is still gripping from start to finish, and one of the most incredible pieces of music to come out of a nation that can't stop dancing.
Chassol – a jazz pianist from Paris – travels to India to record the sounds of Varanasi, Delhi, and Calcutta among other cities. Much of Indiamore drifts along with field recordings of muffled conversations and prayers, setting the stage for Chassol's speciality in "speech harmonization" – a technique where he matches a note to each syllable pronounced in the recordings. It finds elements of musicality in every day conversation, blowing them up into exaggerated and colorful bursts of free-wheeling jazz.
With production credits for Kendrick, Earl, and Snoop, it feels like BADBADNOTGOOD have garnered more of a reputation as instrumentally savvy rap producers than as legitimate jazz musicians in their own right. For whatever reason, "Confessions, Pt. III" didn't make their last album, but it features a whirlwind of a solo from legendary saxophonist Collin Stetson. The song feels restless, at times making you wonder how Stetson even manages to breathe throughout his 7-minute appearance.