For "Peppermint", Julio Bashmore's collaboration with Jessie Ware, director Noah Harris offers viewers an abstract glimpse into his rave experiences and headspaces from the '90s. Using found and 3-D printed objects, Harris brings to life a maddening, undulating collage of female forms, gods, creepy babies, and old-school toys, closely synced and timed to Bashmore's erratic rhythms and Ware's delightfully repetitive vocals. Read on for an interview about the music video's chaos came to be.

With a lead singer as versatile as Highasakite's Ingrid Helene Håvik, it's not difficult for the band to evoke landscapes as diverse as a country road, a spacey sky, or a western plain. On their debut full-length album, Silent Treatment, the Norwegian musicians pioneer the "adventurous brand of indie pop" they've introduced on earlier recordings, emphasizing unusual vocals effects and genre contrasts. Having unbelievable clarity and the ability to turn on a dime, Håvik's voice carries a lot of power on Highasakite's debut LP. The first lyrics of the album's opening track, "Lover, Where Do You Live?", emerge out of the emptiness suddenly and intensely, against a nearly a cappella backdrop. This pattern sets the tone for the rest of the album, with vocals so solid and controlled you feel as if you could graph their progression visually. Meanwhile, complex instrumentation evolves over the course of each track, varying in degrees of intensity with a wide range of effects. Hollow horns, finely tuned upper register guitar parts, shimmering synths, and big indie drumming create alternatingly dense and sparse instrumental sections through which Highasakite transitions seamlessly.

Pearls Negras
Get your heads spinning with these tracks from Brazil's girl-pop-rap group, Pearls Negras, who have a new Biggie Apple mixtape out now for your consumable pleasure. Somehow the nitty-gritty of these jams, their harsh Portuguese delivery, and the fact that these bitchez be from the super real streets of Rio blows this shit out of the water even more explosively than any potential English counterparts. Incredible, in the best of ways, and if the heavy beats and mad lip service aren't convincing enough, check them out in the booty shorts and spandex-heavy music video for "Pensando em Você" ("Thinking About You"), which is also translated below. (PS - Don't be too thrown off by the halfway-point pop song in the mixtape; they're probably just showing you they're more than just one trick ponies, in true K-Pop fashion.)

Kwes. ilp. Warp Records Kwes.' new album, ilp., is an immersive experience. It begins with "purplehands", a soundscape created out of found and captured sounds that have been processed and manipulated, and then added to with lingering musical notes. An aural walk in an urban park, complete with honking geese and hissing swans, this track morphs to become a song that is laced with memory and experiences. Something of a protégé, Kwes., or Kwesi Sey, has worked with such musical luminaries as Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn and Micachu. However, in a touch that signifies this artist's commitment to the personal and private, the biographical material accompanying this release informs us that his musical journey was kickstarted by a gift of a keyboard from his grandmother. A keyboard that he still uses. I find this emphasis entirely appropriate: ilp. is an album of personal ballads. Touching, intimate, engaging but always surprising and intuitively odd, each track is like a memento. Backwards echoes and unconventional multilayering effects offset charming and traditionally framed tunes that are sung, sometimes in a crooning, sometimes in a soulful voice. Behind classic phrasing and homespun lyrics, a palette of tampered, tempered and distorted sounds make up the musical accompaniment. Whether it is the childhood sweetheart recollections of "rollerblades"; the elegant and apparently analogous songwriting of "cablecar"; or the gospel clap and soulful elegy to an out of reach beauty that is "flower" -- this combination of both "pop and mad sounds" delivers an album that is both highly listenable and unexpectedly strange, without ever becoming overly obtuse.

Phèdre Golden Age DAPS / Discos Tormentos (2013) Blurred, mildly distorted, catchy and strange, like a reflection of the past viewed through a dirty martini glass, Golden Age is a collection of playful tracks from musicians with a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Inspired, loosely, by the Greek mythological story of Phaedre and the track “Some Velvet Morning" by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Phèdre have produced a body of work that is often beguiling and sometimes enchanting. Incorporating a palette of sounds that is complementary and wide-ranging, this album is a kaleidoscopic journey into what is now possible and what was once probable. Reminiscent of the work of EAR PWR and Supertalented, you can also hear the electronic strangeness of The Residents coexisting alongside the rough cowboy and the vulnerable girl interplay of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. Add to this the San Francisco psychedelia of Fifty Foot Hose, one of the first bands to combine rock and experimental music, and you have an idea of what to expect from Phèdre.

After their Earth Tour of 45 countries in 90 days, you might think the members of Horse the Band would loathe each other to the point of disbanding. After such a frenetic pace of travel, the close quarters of their interactions, and the meager financial compensation paid to them, what incentive is there to endure? To enact the Kauffman-esque humiliation upon their audience they are known for: that is the incentive. And now here in 2013, absent record label and foregoing a new album since 2009, Horse gladly take on bonus levels for touring outside of the US. It has become increasingly clear: American audiences no longer excite Horse, and our incessant need for retro gaming nostalgia is exactly what drove them to other shores. We could have been a bit more appreciative that they didn't always write lyrics about video games, and from our folly, Europe has capitalized. Along for this particular tour is UK band Rolo Tomassi, past tourmates of Horse who also call themselves admirers of the band. When asked about watching Horse address the audience on tour, keyboardist James Spence sums it up in a very apt description, joking that they are "a mixture of entertaining and terrifying." "Having spent a fair amount of time around them offstage," he continues, "it starts to make way more sense. I appreciate their honesty and that they're unafraid to be themselves at all times." The tour's Berlin date meant a brief homecoming before departing to Russia for Horse's Lord Gold (Erik Engstrom), who now calls Berlin home base. It would also be the end of the road for Rolo Tomassi, whose upcoming tour schedule has them visiting Japan and Australia this fall. Between the matched amount of enthusiasm for animated keyboard playing between both bands and Horse's outlandish hilarity, the show at Berlin's Magnet made evident that Horse's fun on tour is exponentially higher when not playing at home.
August 12th, 2013 @ Magnet in Berlin, Germany PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSH CONNOLLY (ROLO TOMASSI) AND MATT CARTER (HORSE THE BAND)

 

I must confess, with some embarrassment, that this year was the first time attending the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, and this has been much to my regret. The festival is held in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland underneath the St. Johns Bridge and is the longest-running free jazz festival on the West Coast. "Free" is a bit of a pun here; the festival is both free to attend and also because it highlights the work of free jazz musicians. At the risk of painting with broad strokes, free jazz can best be defined as jazz in which "the rules" have been eliminated: set chord changes and a fixed rhythm are gone. It's a sub-genre that has inspired a lot of controversy among jazz fans, but is also deeply loved by many. Cathedral Park Jazz Festival Photography by James Moulton I go on a Sunday evening, which is the last day of the festival. The atmosphere is, appropriately enough, like a festival, and there are concessions booths, signups for a jazz camp and informative areas around the park. What immediately jumps out at me is the number of families at this event; free jazz isn't necessarily thought of as accessible music, let alone kid-friendly, yet there seem to be a lot of younger kids hanging around. This is why jazz festivals are so relevant, especially when they're organized in a specific neighborhood: they sustain popular interest in an art form that risks becoming a museum piece otherwise, and that interest comes from people who might not be interested in jazz.
July 21st, 2013 - Cathedral Park Jazz Festival at St. Johns Cathedral Park - Portland, OR  

Gunnelpumpers Montana Fix Spiritflake Music, 2013On their fourth LP, free-improvisers Gunnelpumpers conjure the wide open skies and primordial landscapes of the Big Sky State. The incantatory nature of improvised music will not appeal to everybody. It's for a specialized sect, those that like to be surprised. It's the spirit of adventure that sends you off on random and unknown holidays, waiting to see what lies beyond the next corner. Like any other unplanned holiday, Montana Fix has its share of tedium and embarrassing memories. But what's good is golden, and the Chicago five piece transform your home into a sweat lodge with a mixture of Middle Eastern percussion, double bass drones, flutes, shakers and guitar. A free improvisation CD can be a hard sell these days. Only the most hardcore mental voyagers can invest an hour to listen to an album largely devoid of hooks, choruses, lyrics, or any discernible genre. In the liner notes for Montana Fix, Gunnelpumpers cite prog rock, krautrock, world music, jazz, experimental music, as well as traditional and modern classical, as influences. Believing in everything can be the same as standing for nothing, and Gunnelpumpers run the risk of entering bloated pretentious FUSION country. In addition, considering the infrared bison that graces the album cover, the jaded listener may hastily judge this as a post-modern New Age Putumayo reject. Judge this record by its cover, and you will be deprived of its epiphanies.