Photo by Derick Daily
In the 2002 documentary Scratch, we see DJ Shadow waxing poetically on the inherent beauty of digging through used records. “Just being in here is a humbling experience for me, because you’re looking through all these records and it’s sort of like a big pile of broken dreams,” he says, surrounded by a mind-crushing cache of dusty LPs. “Whether you want to admit it or not, 10 years down the line you’ll be in here. So keep that in mind when you start thinking like, ‘I’m invincible and I’m the world’s best,’ or whatever. Because that’s what all these cats thought.”
Shadow made a career and an art out of this philosophy. His 1996 album Entroducing….. is still legendary, somewhat ironic in a genre that still values the new even as it builds itself on an old foundation. It wasn’t just the sheer number of samples that made the record stand out, or the way he did it in a pre-internet age. It’s Shadow’s flair for drama, narrative, and emotion while spinning together completely unrelated sounds. He made sense out of the chaos.
Even if he’s still followed by this shadow (ha), Shadow seems freed by his elder statesman status. On his new album, The Mountain Will Fall, he takes inspiration both from his recent DJ residency at L.A.’s Low End Theory and from his past, crafting hard-hitting electronic music that’s nonetheless dog-eared and scuffed like old records. With its scratching and breakbeats, “The Sideshow” is a deliberate return to Entroducing….. but given a spark thanks to Ernie Fresh’s featuring role. At heart, Shadow keeps digging, showing us how to hold the old and new in the same hand.
“The Sideshow” appears on The Mountain Will Fall, out now via Mass Appeal.
Photo by Stevan Alcala
Listening to Austin’s Hard Proof is a simple pleasure. The band expertly engineers music to make you dance, but it’s also mind-boggingly complex. Ten members, Afrobeat and funk-inspired polyrhythms, improvised and composed riffs–the math gets pretty crazy really quickly.
As the drummer and oft-producer for Spoon, Jim Eno is no stranger to boiling down the complex into the perfectly simple. At his Public Hi-Fi studios, Eno captured Hard Proof as intuitively as possible, recording the ensemble live and straight to tape. This no-safety-net approach comes closest to approximating Hard Proof’s exceptional live shows where the interlocking parts serve the whole. “The Break” highlights this perfectly, sounding like you’re right there in the room as Hard Proof explodes.
Photo by Gabriel Perez/KUTX
Sunflower Bean’s 2016 earworm “Easier Said” goes down easy with a mix of crystalline guitars and Julia Cumming’s weightless voice, but in the context of Human Ceremony, the New York band’s debut album, it’s a bit of a feint. Sunflower Bean rose up through Brooklyn’s DIY scene, and Human Ceremony still shows those scuzzy scars. Throughout, the group sounds like a psychedelic approximation of the Cure, jittery and distorted but catchy all the same. Forward momentum is also key to “Come On,” which sounded like it was about to topple over with excitement in our Studio 1A. Who could blame them if it did?
“Come On” also appears on Human Ceremony, out now via Fat Possum.
“This is something old, something new / this is something borrowed, something blue,” Ivy Sole raps on “The Vow.” The Charlotte-raised, Philly-based MC takes that traditional wedding rhyme for a spin on the dance floor, directly referencing her own sound. Sole borrows from boom bap and positions herself as another link in the chain, but at the same time, she brings a fresh approach. Throughout Eden, her debut album, Sole’s flow is meditative before bursting into a sung hook that’s as bright as sunshine.
“The Vow” also lyrically pushes against that rhyme; after all, it’s yet another directive that can be used to keep women submissive by mandating what they can and cannot wear on their wedding day. Sole is young, but she’s already coming to grips with the harsh realities of the world. She sees her friends considering stripping to pay off debts. Others are already getting married while she’s just trying to figure out her place. It’s a question as old as time, and Sole methodically turns it over in her hand, looking at how the light hits it from every angle.
“The Vow” appears on Eden, out now via her Bandcamp.
Originally from Lima, Peru, La Inedita has made a name for itself internationally with chichamuffin, a musical style that incorporates elements of chicha (the Peruvian variant of cumbia) and raggamuffin while also drawing influence from reggae, hip-hop, electronic, and rock. The quartet, fronted by vocalist Adrian Rocha, manages to cover intricate arrangements with minimal instrumentation, most apparent on their latest album, Chichamuffin.
Now, when you name your album after a genre–especially a genre you’ve invented–every song serves as a flagship for your sound, and “Fayah” is no exception. Whether stuck in traffic or riding off into the sunset, the reggae piano stabs, hard rock guitar tones, chicha-style percussion, and raggamuffin rapid fire lyrical delivery of “Fayah” will keep you wanting more chichamuffin ’til it’s time for bed.
“Fayah,” caught live in Studio 1A, also appears on Chichamuffin, available for free download via La Inedita’s official website.