As the Northern Hemisphere goes full blast into the wintry days, those in the Southern Hemisphere are in for hotter and sweatier times, perfect for feel-good sounds that scream of sunshine and socialization more than darkness and hermitude. South African Music - Feel Good Mixtape Curated by UmliloAfter our experimental foray into South African house music proved to delight audiences domestically and abroad, we've invited the androgynous genre-hopping musician Umlilo to offer up a hand-picked selection of noteworthy South African musicians, as marked with the seal of approval by a local. So before we launch into the mixtape, complete with Umlilo's thoughtfully written track descriptions, please enjoy his latest music video for "The Elements", which shows off his interest in fashion, gender-bending, and explorations of vocal styles galore.

Umlilo - "The Elements" Music Video

Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble - T.R.A.S.E. Musician Interview
Manchester in 1981 was a grim place. Shuttered factories butted up against derelict lots, as dole queues wrapped around the block. A recession was rocking England; inter-class tension was running high, which would finally erupt into full-on riots in the summer of that year. Here, amidst the ruins of the Industrial Revolution, the future was being born. Factory Records was in full swing, defining what would become post-punk and new-wave. The synthpop of Duran Duran, New Order and the Human League was floating on the breeze, as The Fall were quoting sci-fi dystopians like William S. Burroughs. Being a kid at the time, Andy Popplewell was largely unaware of his bleak surroundings. He had his own struggles, like losing his father at the age of ten. An interest in music and electrical engineering helped him cope. Popplewell experienced the same media that much of '60s and '70s Britain did; he was reared with the music of Star Trek and Doctor Who, beginning his love of electronic music from an early age, and a rich, active imagination. Inspired by the synthetic sounds of the day and engineering magazines full of DIY projects, Andy Popplewell resolved to build a modest studio in his bedroom, with funds raised from odd jobs and a paper route, and the Tape Recorder And Synthesizer Ensemble (T.R.A.S.E.) was born.

Lumerians Band Interview - The High FrontierIt's an early afternoon the day after Lumerians have played their last show of the year, headlining on a Friday in late November at The Chapel in San Francisco. The night was something of a hometown multi-generational happening, as local turn-of-the-'80s industrial pioneers Factrix, sometimes described as "gothadelic" and definitely ahead of their time back in the day, made an uncommon live appearance. Such a lineup is a reminder that to be a band from the Bay Area and play anything approaching psychedelic rock is both a natural choice and one that surely comes with a keener sense of history and expectation than it would in almost any other region. Able heirs with omnivorous musical appetites, Lumerians seem aware of – but certainly not burdened by – any weight of legacy, instead infusing it into their experimental approach. Lumerians' second album, The High Frontier, is about different manifestations of exploration. The record is named after a somewhat obscure book from 1977 about mankind moving into outer space, written by Gerard K. O'Neill. I speak to bassist/vocalist Marc Melzer and drummer Chris Musgrave one afternoon, and as Melzer explains, O'Neill's book isn't really science fiction, but a thoughtful manifesto about the colonization of deep space by human beings – perhaps as a means of preserving a unique life form. The band -- which also includes guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Green, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jason Miller, and percussionist Tony Peluso – was drawn to the idea of moving toward uncharted internal and external territories.
"For us, music is about exploration. We may start down a traveled path, but our real objective is to discover what is beyond. We're no retro-fetishists, but it seems like the future used to be more boundless and inspired," explains Melzer. The High FrontierThe band was initially inspired by seeing some of the artwork that was created for O'Neill's book, and were subsequently drawn in by its forward-thinking perspective, as it wasn't really about the destruction or abandonment of Earth, but about "taking what was cool about humanity and moving into other places." Given the innumerable times and ways people have been inspired by that boundless realm above our heads, I ask Melzer what he thinks it is about mankind's relationship to outer space that makes it such a creative influence. "It's all about exploration... and just wondering what else is out there. Also, on top of that," he continues, "... just sort of seeing what other peoples' visions of other worlds and other states of being really is, because there's an infinite amount of different worlds out there, whether it's internal or external."

Out with the old, no matter how good it is! Here's our comprehensive list of Top Albums of the Year 2013, schizophrenic as always to reflect the diverse tastes of our staff, though there is some overlap. It's highly recommended you check out every release here, as each has its own creative strengths.
Matthew Carter - electronic, experimental, metal, pop, rock Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Troy Micheau - classical, electronic, experimental, instrumental Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, psychedelic, soul Elizabeth Perry - indie, mainstream, pop, rock Peter Woodburn - classical, instrumental, metal XUA - electronic hip-hop, mainstream, pop Albums of the Year 2013

After their collaboration on The Belle Game’s first music video proved natural and compelling in narrative, director Kheaven Lewandowski and the band decided to once again work together on the music video for "River", from their debut album, Ritual Tradition Habit. Much less upbeat than the previous track, "River"'s finds its setting moving from Western countrysides into Japanese cityscapes, as it follows a male sex worker – also known as a rent-boy – through neon-lit streets and into a realistically-documented underbelly of the city. The result is both sensual and raw, leaving viewers curious to know more about the subculture. Lewandowski and The Belle Game’s Adam Nanji discuss the formulation and execution of the music video, as well as the social ideas it stirs up, in the bi-lingual English-Japanese Q&A interview below. Japanese translation by Katch, Matt Erik and Yoshiko Sanda 日本語翻訳:三田佳子、キャッチ・マシュー

Iceland Airwaves 2013
Iceland Airwaves started back in 1999 in an airport hangar outside of Reykjavik. Since then, it has grown into one of Europe's premiere music festivals, showcasing the insane amounts of musical talent coming from the land of few people and many sheep. Each year, the festival curates some of the best up-and-coming international talent to supplement the Icelandic artists, and introduces a ton of off-venue shows. The total schedule is 10 pages long, and the whole festival turns Reykjavik into a musical paradise for five nights. It is all incredibly overwhelming, so let's break it down into two parts to try and help you out:

 

The Icelandic Musicians Amiina Daníel Bjarnason FM Belfast For a Minor Reflection Ghostigital Hermigervill múm Samaris Sin Fang Sóley
The International Musicians Anna von Hausswolff (Sweden) Electric Eye (Norway) Fucked Up (Canada) Goat (Sweden) Jagwar Ma (Australia) Kithkin (United States) Kraftwerk (Germany) Royal Canoe (Canada) Stealing Sheep (United Kingdom) Yo La Tengo (United States)

The Icelandic Musicians

For a country of under 350,000 people, Icelanders sure love their music, enough so that just about everyone and anyone forms a band -- or two. The Iceland Airwaves Festival showcases this proud musical tradition perfectly, and many of the Icelandic bands hop on board in support, sometimes playing over five times throughout the festival. Iceland isn't all Sigur Ros, Bjork and Of Monsters and Men. There is a lot of fantastic music coming from the island, and here are some bands to check out, many of which we have covered in the past. (Those who would like a more intimate understanding of the country's musical climate are encouraged to read our essay, The Real Icelandic Music Scene: Interviews, which include excusive mixtape downloads and Icelandic musician interviews, or explore all of our articles related to Iceland).

Amiina

Gamla Bíó - Saturday @ 22:00 Amiina are well-known for recording and touring with Sigur Rós; any of those strings you hear underneath Jonsi’s howl: that is Amiina. The band combines a contemporary classical style with a minimalist’s touch, ambient littered throughout.

 

Daníel Bjarnason

Harpa Kaldalón - Friday @ 23:20 Daníel Bjarnason is an Icelandic composer of the highest caliber, who has had works commissioned and debuted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His pieces are emotive, complex and riveting. That should be no different in a live scenario.

This audio-visual collaboration between Portland-based avant-garde metal outfit, The Body, and NYC mixed media artist Alexander Barton has been a long time coming, a homage to an enduring friendship. Combining their mutual shared interest in intensity, abstraction, and religious themes, the music video for "To Attempt Oneness" pits The Body's guttural, distorted screams and noisy, rumbling guitars against Barton's bleeding ink painting -- an extension of his earlier performance which used real pig's blood. The final product holds a viewer's fascination with its impressively slow and minimal unfolding, the most entertaining way possible to watch paint dry. To celebrate the very recent release of The Body's Christs, Redeemers on Thrill Jockey Records, we offer you a side-by-side interview with artist Alexander Barton and The Body's drummer Lee Buford, as they speak of music, aesthetics, and the world. The Body are currently on a nation-wide tour; dates at the bottom of this post.

CMJ Music Marathon 2013 yet again saw a convergence of hundreds of bands and thousands of fans on the clubs of the Lower East Side, East Village, and Williamsburg in New York City. Coincidentally, many of the bands we were most looking forward to were female-fronted (Speedy Ortiz, Eternal Summers, Hunters), and they did not disappoint. While times have certainly progressed, female-fronted bands still have something to prove, and it was good to see several super-talented guitar players and songwriters, as well as singers and performers, show themselves to be just as good as their male counterparts. All-dude groups Caveman and Grandchildren both had solid performances that left me with a good "I-discovered-something-cool-at-CMJ" feeling as well, and electropop groups were well-represented as always, with NONONO and Porcelain Raft leading the pack.

Caveman

Tuesday, October 15, 2013, Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 Brooklyn-based Caveman clearly felt right at home at Rockwood Music Hall, and the crowd was full of devoted fans. Lead guitarist and singer Matthew Iwanusa draws comparisons to Shins' vocalist James Mercer, and the band does indeed seem to draw inspiration from them, as well as African music and experimental post-rock, utilizing harmonies, tribal drums, keyboards, and hazy guitars. I enjoyed the dreamy but catchy songs off their 2013 self-titled release, like "Shut You Down" and "Where's the Time", as well as old favorite "A Country's King of Dreams" from their first release, Coco Beware.

 

Grandchildren

Tuesday, October 15, Cake Shop This was one of those CMJ experiences that is the reason you go to CMJ: to discover an amazing band you've never heard of. When I made my way downstairs at Cake Shop, I wasn't sure who was playing, but they immediately caught my attention. An ensemble of six dudes playing nearly every instrument imaginable, their melodic pop with hits of electronic and psychedelic accents make this Philadelphia-based group an interesting listen. They played several songs off their newest release, Golden Age, including "Sunrise", "End Times", and "No Way Out". Grandchildren at CMJ Music Marathon 2013

China: a land of nearly 1.5 billion people, 56 recognized ethnic groups, and 292 living languages, spanning over 5,000 kilometers and 34 land divisions. Massive in size, notable in history, and influential in its economic and political maneuvers, China is simultaneously exciting and terrifying – something of a contradiction to the outside world, much loved and much feared.
中国:一个有着近15亿人口,56个民族,292种仍在使用的语言,跨越5000公里,由34块地域组成的国家。中国不仅地理广阔,也有着丰富璀璨的历史,影响世界的经济及政治力量。中国不仅令人震惊兴奋,也令人担心害怕 – 她似乎是个与外面世界不太相同的国家,令人热爱也令人畏惧。
Yet hidden beneath the gargantuan, State-driven China that is emphasized over-and-over again in news coverage lies an artistic day-to-day that few people see. As in any developing country, China has become a breeding ground for new and often innovative ideas – and included in that are an increasing number of musicians searching for their own identities. Many of them are following and documenting their own creative impulses, thereby bringing some musical change to a society otherwise dominated by mainstream Asian pop.
尽管中国一直以来都以庞然大国,国家统治形象示人,她所蕴含的日渐浓重的艺术氛围与文化发展却往往为人忽略。如许多发展中国家一样,中国正孕育着许多新颖,极具创造力的艺术思想 – 这些思想都来自于那些努力发声,力求为大众所见的艺术家、音乐家们。众多音乐家正跟随记录着他们自己的艺术脉搏,运用着他们的创造力,努力为日渐单一、主流化的亚洲流行音乐市场带来不一样的声音及改变。
English text by Vivian Hua; Chinese translation by Summer Fang
"The world's image of China is that of a faceless factory worker, the tasteless new rich Chinese buying property everywhere, the 1.5 billion black dots in the horizon sucking up resources. It doesn't realize that there are also 1.5 billion potential creative minds in this country as well. I think it will take time to make that true." – Helen Feng of Nova Heart "世界对中国的印象一直以来都是千篇一律,毫无特征的工厂工人,只有金钱却毫无品味的中国买家,以及用力耗尽资源的15亿人口。然而大多数人都没有意识到,这15亿人口也是15亿个潜在创造力。我想这需要时间去使其成真。" - Nova Heart (新星心) 的冯海宁