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Electronic

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VIDEO: “Half Life” Finds appleby Brimming With Life

Photo Credit: Annie Rhodes Kane

L.A.-via-Chicago artist appleby spent much of his early childhood competing on the international tennis circuit, before reassessing his priorities as a young adult, shifting to pursue his music-making ambitions. Judging by his latest single, the soothing yet cathartic “Half Life,” and its accompanying zen-like poolside video, it seems his dedication to honing his craft hasn’t wavered a bit.

The track begins with a simple repeated electric piano note, setting the stage for appleby’s soulful harmonized vocals to enter shortly thereafter, followed by warm and full-bodied piano chords, all of which are later joined by a skittering electro-acoustic beat that propels the track just enough to inject it with energy without shattering the overall life-affirming vibe. The track gets fuller throughout, but it never gets too busy. And all the while, appleby’s vocals—which brings to mind other alt-soul auteurs such as Moses Sumney—keep things comforting and uplifting until the track gently crescendos, his vocal finally fragmenting like the beat.  Perhaps it’s a fracturing or, possibly, a transcendence? 

There’s hardly any help in his lyrics, which find him in a state of limbo: “I’ve been stuck in this half-life full time / and I don’t know what to do.” In press releases, though, appleby describes the genesis of his latest track as “…organic and borderline magical…” If that’s the case, here’s hoping he indulges his taste for both on his upcoming releases. Gabe Hernandez

 

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VIDEO: On “Hush,” The Marías Show Who’s In Control Of Things

 

L.A. by way of Puerto Rico indie pop group The Marías—led by the bilingual core duo of writer/producer Josh Conway and writer/lead vocalist María Zardoya—have released a video for “Hush,” the first single off their debut album, Cinema, out June 25th on Nice Life Recording Company/Atlantic Records, and it’s a slinky, two-tone minimalist slow-burner.

The track begins with insistent, pulsing synth bass, laying out the carpet for Zardoya’s breathy, beguiling lead vocal performance over a languorous, seductive mid-tempo beat—the kind you’d probably sway rather than dance to.

Lyrically, we’re firmly in “woman in control” territory, with lines like “every night / got you running in circles/touchin me/get your paws off my dolce cologne/back it up/off my throne cuz you know/you wanna make me/walk away and forget about it?”

Meanwhile, producer Conway keeps things moving along tightly, with shimmering, swimming synth pads and dream-pop guitar arpeggios entering at points, adding a tasteful sheen of 21st-century disco glam, while during the single-word “hush” chorus, pared-to-the-bone guitar lines yawn and warp like hot metal, while Conway’s deeper bass vocals share the stage with María during the bridge, adding a vague feeling of menace.

Visually, the video makes the most of a modest budget, cutting between a sterile but stylish 1960s psychiatrist office—decorated all in white, except for María—and a series of crimson-soaked sets that feel like a dance club designed by David Lynch, complete with writhing dancers costumed to look like living condoms. In the middle of it all is María, sitting stately on her ultramodern throne, perhaps getting cozy with the pop stardom she and the band may be on the verge of achieving. Gabe Hernandez

 

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Writhing Squares have a Chart For The Solution

Imagine if Electric Mayhem sax man Floyd Pepper and bandmate/electric bassist Zoot took a break from Jim Henson's house band and got a hold of some vintage drum machines and synths and an array of effects pedals and then fed their heads full of James Chance and the Contortions, Steve and Andy Mackay (no relation), the Sun Ra Arkestra, Kraftwerk, Lemmy-era Hawkwind, and The Comet Is Coming when it comes to their contemporaries, and then moved to South Philly to add more layers of grit and vigor to their sound and you’d probably end up with something like Writhing Squares and something like their third and latest LP Chart For The Solution.

In reality, Writhing Squares is comprised of Kevin Nickles and Daniel Provenzano who in addition to their respective sax and bass duties both play synths and contribute vocals, with Daniel pulling extra duty on percussion and programming, and Kevin filling in some flute and oboe parts. Chart For The Solution came out a couple months ago and it's been in my rotation ever since so I can vouch for the album's durability and its high quotient of electric mayhem.



The first track is called “Rogue Moon” and it picks up in a way from where the last track of their previous album left off, namely “A Whole New Jupiter” which took up the last 19 minutes of 2019’s Out of the Ether--a heavy psych rewrite of A Love Supreme transformed into triple time and with rhapsodic skronk saxophone played over overdriven bass it all comes off something like a No Wave Coltrane. 

Likewise, “Rogue Moon” rides a loping riff into the psychedelic sunset except here the foundation is a burbling analog synth arpeggiation with NEU!ish interlocking rhythms that shift the downbeat around in your head and then right in the middle the song turns itself inside out and stays that way for the rest of its eleven-minute duration--a dreamy coda that's like the soft underbelly to the first half's gleaming steel exterior.

Aside from any overlaps, Chart For The Solution stakes out new terrain for the Squares with a newly cinematic production on some of the tracks and ever more adventurous playing and arrangements. But it never veers too far from their lo-fi ethos roots either--whether in the swirling sonic vortex of “Geisterwaltz” or the post-punky surf rock party of “Ganymede” or the back masked ambient interlude of “A Chorus of Electrons” or the Stooge-worthy rave-up of “NFU.” It all culminates in the 18-minute headtrip “The Pillars” which begins by sounding like a UFO landing and then turns into a bleep-bloopy coldwave number with Alan Vega verbal outbursts before taking a turn in the final part with the duo seemingly inhabited by the ghost of Lou Reed trying to get out of another record contract.

In the end it all speaks to the band's enigmatic name, a name suggesting the cohabitation of opposite forces, such as rigid geometric “squares” that can somehow kinesthetically “writhe” because on one side you’re got regimentation and repetition and on the other side looseness and grooviness.  It's a dynamic heard in the Writhing Squares' conjoining of trance-like repetition and wild sonic freeness, punk and prog in equal measure, maxed-out minimalistic music for the select masses. (Jason Lee)

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On “SITUATIONS,” Paris Texas Meld Hip Hop & Synthpop Sensibilities

Photo Credit - Jimmy Bui

Compton, South Los Angeles multi-disciplinary creative outfit Paris Texas (the team of Louie Pastel and Felix) have released their debut project, BOY ANONYMOUS. Across the project’s 8 self-produced tracks, the duo span an impressive range of genres and textures, and a particular standout is the single “SITUATIONS.”

The, tense but nimble track is a spare, minimal blend of icy late 70s/early 80s UK synthpop with “slice of life” hip-hop lyricism. The sonic landscape is populated with warm, rounded synth bass, distantly-reverbed vocals, and a jaded chorus repeating the phrase “hey now / these situations / hey now / just keep your patience,” while lines like “leave the house for all the dreams I had to chase,” and “couldn’t stay behind ‘cause shit would stay the same” hint at a desperate desire to escape a dire domestic situation to stake a claim at some sort of autonomy, whether creative or otherwise. And all the while a nervous, insistent synth organ phrase repeats throughout, restlessly peaking over the fence at the rest of proceedings.

The sense of anxiety mixed with fatigue is palpable, but the off-hand style and catchiness of the track keeps things from growing stale. Gabe Hernandez

 

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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: On “Let Go,” Karaboudjan Lets Loose and Opens Up

Billy Kim’s a busy person. Along with being a multi-instrumentalist member of electronic musician Tycho’s touring ensemble since 2016, he’s also been hard at work making music of his own as Karaboudjan (a reference to a ship in the Belgian artist Hergé’s classic children’s comic strip The Adventures of Tin Tin). And now we have our hands on “Let Go,” the second single from his forthcoming debut EP, IMAGO, scheduled for release this September, along with and exclusive look at the new music video for the track.

Intended as a tribute to Kim’s late father, “Let Go” feels simultaneously chilled-out and hard-hitting, if such a thing is possible. If it is, it’s certainly thanks to Kim’s excellent use of dynamics in the production, with fluorescent synth pads and electric pianos deftly sharing space with reverb-drenched guitars, rubbery bass guitars, cavernous, strutting drums, and spiraling tape-delayed vocals, while the whirlpool-like builds to the chorus betray a definite psychedelic streak in his sound.

“I want to thank you for your time here,” sings Kim during the chorus. If this new single is any indication, we’re eager to spend more time in Karaboudjan’s musical world very soon. Gabe Hernandez

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