Future Classic casts a wide net of sounds, certainly. While we can say they’re purveyors of contemporary dance music, they seem to also get into Australia’s burgeoning synth pop / rock scene. This draws from a lot of different resources – shimmering electro-pop, gritty grungy roots, and that inevitable influence of the sun reflecting off the ocean. No music (or art, for that matter), exists outside its influences or environment, and Jarrah McCleary’s project, Panama, synthesizes the sea and sky into a digital backdrop. McCleary emerged from Darwin, Australia, moved to Perth and then then Sydney. Somehow he found himself starting Panama in Los Angeles. ‘Always’ is their second EP, recorded in San Francisco, a glimpse into their growing indie electronic career.
Comprised of three tracks and three remixes the EP could feel like a truncated examination or even incomplete. The title track, light, airy and breezy, will be the backdrop of so many summer make-outs and road trips. The lyrics betray someone being forced outside of their shell, “Deep down you said I’m a coward when it comes to love / Deep down your words changed my mold.” The second track, “How We Feel,” remains upbeat with that now-classic Australian indie house sound. “Destroyer” fits in the classic 80s synth pop update, moody and pulsating. The EP ends with 3 remixes, “Always” getting treatment by Classix and Wave Runner while “Destroyer” getting touched up by Cosmos. But for me? That remix by Classix is unreal, funkify-ing an already intoxicating rhythm. It’s my early favorite for the 2014 epic mixtapes (including my own) and that-song-you-want-to-give-your-lover. Panama may be a young project but it’s the product of adventure and travel, captivating like the road and the ephemeral moments on it.
Maybe it’s the fact that cultural imports only take seconds to receive, or that you don’t need to go through customs for digital transactions, but the amount of music coming out of Australia right now has been awe-inspiring. This to some extent has a lot to do with the record label Future Classics. Started in 2004 in New South Wales, this alternative disco/house/electronic label is most certainly responsible for the wide variety of sounds that make up the popular music of 2014. For the month of May I’ll be profiling some of the future classics of Future Classics, starting this week with Chet Faker’s LP, Built on Glass.
“Estara” originates from the Spanish word for “to be,” a future-tense, third person pronunciation of a persons immediate emotion, location, or status. Essentially, the tense and verb as the most indefinite form of a word about a quickly changing status. E s t a r a, as a record, comes in as a revelation in the current musical environment. Three years after the compilation Collections 01 and four years after his debut Ardour, Mtendere Mandowa, aka Teebs, has returned with a record that already has listeners from Highland Park to Highbury bobbing their heads. A producer and a painter, this record sends a defining sound of atmospherics, improvisation, and articulation of electronic music.
In sci-fi circles, it’s considered a classic. Why it’s not a core book in high school English baffles me. But Dune is probably one of the only modern stories, so intricate and meticulous, that filmmakers have never failed to satiate the ardent fan base. David Lynch’s version seemed to only please Frank Herbert himself, getting eviscerated in the editing booth. The Sci-Fi Channel miniseries in 2000 was remarkable for its visuals (in 2000… who knows what we’d do with modern CGI) yet loses itself in a subplot of woeful trajectory.
Thus comes Jodorowsky’s Dune, a film by Frank Pavich, about one of the (possibly) greatest movies never made. Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean filmmaker / writer / mystic, is most well known for his cult-classics The Holy Mountain and El Topo, but also his amazing graphic novel The Incal. Given the very first chance to adapt Dune to film, Jodorowsky’s legendary imagination was unleashed onto Arrakis. With HR Giger doing stage design before Alien, Dali playing the Emperor, and David Carradine as Leto Atreides, this already sounds like the coolest movie I’ve never seen. In describing his vision Jodorowsky stated about the spice at the center of the story,
In my version, the spice is a blue drug with spongy consistency filled with a vegetable-animal life endowed with consciousness, the highest level of consciousness. It does not stop taking all kinds of forms, while stirring up unceasingly. The spice continuously produces the creation of the innumerable universes.
Just wow. The documentary comes out March 24th. This gonna be good.
It almost felt inevitable. The reigning American kings of drone decide to team up with one of Norway’s greatest avant-garde bands. Ok, Ulver MAY have been black metal in the 90s, and Sunn O))) MAY be responsible for the current world of drone metal, and they MAY have collaborated 8 years ago as well. But there’s something different and special about this record now in 2014. Allegedly made during overnight sessions in Oslo, this inspired collaboration blends intricate orchestration and with restrained melodies.
JMSN is one of those musicians you’ve heard countless times but never knew he was there. The former front man and founder of Love Arcade, JMSN nee Christian Berishaj has popped up in hip hop and DJ tracks over the past two years. With multiple appearances on Kendrick’s Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, guest appearances with Tyga, Kastle, Ab-Soul, and Blue Sky Black Death, his soaring voice peppered tracks on both the radio and your personal playlist without knowing.
A multi-instrumentalist and production junkie, the former Motown signee started his own record label in 2012 and released the debut Priscilla. A few months ago, his second release, †Pllajë†, was released independently, a melding of R&B and dark, haunting pop.
Out of Bristol, KOAN Sound seemed like they were going to be another member of the dub-step scene that took over the past five years. The duo of Will Weeks and Jim Bastow were signed to Skrillex’s label OWSLA in 2011, releasing two EPs at that time, and toured with both Skrillex in and Diplo in 2012. This year they teamed up with fellow Bristol producer Asa and hit the studio. Hard.
This years Sanctuary EP seems to culminate their numerous sounds and influences. A ‘Koan,’ of course, being a Zen Buddhist phrase to denote a lesson or concept for meditation. The title track seems to exemplify their name the best, a ‘new age’ spiritual meditation that pulls pulling influences from Air, Sigur Ros and Brian Eno all at once. As the EP evolves it’s clear that they are not just focused on midtempo breaks for your zen moment at work. ‘This Time Around’ is delicate pop, Koo lending her voice to placate the space between wobbly synths and fragile strings. But the final tracks ‘Fuego’ and ‘Tetsuo’s Redemption’ reveal their other half – the heavy, devastating UK garage sound that has emerged from England in the past fifteen years. Definitely a record worth listening to from beginning to end, over and over again.
There something wonderfully amorphous about Blue Sky Black Death. The homies never stop working, and it is never the same old shit. One moment they’re dropping some hard-hitting beats with one of rap’s up and coming stars, the next they feel like sweeping you away into post-rock ambient haze. Few musicians stray outside of their own boundaries; Blue Sky Black Death asks which one are left to break. Maybe that’s why they’re one of the most exciting acts on the West Coast.
Their fourth LP, Glaciers, came out a month ago and already (pardon the pun) has made waves for shoegazers everywhere. An ambitious record, both the format and style are decidedly noncommercial. Five tracks, spread out over sixty minutes, might be the finest articulation of electronic shoegaze music in the past few years. At times the listener drifts into the empty cold of trip hop, in others, a symphonic euphoric elation. Listen to ‘II,’ a track which oscillates between a meditative trance and a joyous exaltation over eleven minutes. Whether you want to listen actively or put the record on in the background, Glaciers is great in both respects. Check out the soundcloud stream above and go their bandcamp, where, if you’re lucky, you might snag one of the first vinyl pressings of this excellent record.
Let’s face it – electronic R&B is here to stay. Be it the sad-eyed, inventive crooning of James Blake or the drug-addled sexuality of The Weeknd, producers everywhere are slowing down the beats per minute and tugging harder on your heart strings with every line. In between glitches and pops, ass-shaking low end, and cooing vocals lies the enchanting romantic music of 2013.
The young production trio of Aaron Miller, Aaron C. Harmon, and Jordan Reyes formed BASECAMP earlier this year. The Nashville production group bring something different from their hometown, but there is a sense of real musicality. “Emmanuel” was their first single, coming out a few months ago, and has been met with almost universal acclaim. It’s easy to see why. The bass line rumbles along, a falsetto melody line that twinges between timbres leads you through the disparate aural forces. A complete pop song, affected and affectionate all at once.
Los Angeles bubbles like a musical cauldron. Sometimes it needs to boil over for a musician to really be discovered. 23-year-old singer/songwriter Nylo has been steadily rising, leaving Texas to become a session musician and industry songwriter. Now she’s decided though to focus on her own career, putting out a sparkling EP right in the vein of the electro-hip-hop-R&B that dominates the musical zeitgeist.