It has been a while since I have last posted a SoundCloud Spotlight. Summer has treated me a little bit too well but I am now ready to get back into things. I am rebranding the series as Sonic Spotlight to reflect my interest in the development of new sonic textures coming out in modern indie music (muzak for you aficionados). For the fall of 2016, I have a Washington, DC indie band by the name of The Sea Life; currently under DC record label Babe City Records. The Sea Life consists of Jon Weiss and Payton Brown on guitar, Jordan Sanders on bass, and new member Jules Hale (Den-Mate) on kit. Originally a jam band out of Wootton High School in Rockville, MD, The Sea Life has transformed into something refreshing and original. Weiss notes that they are influenced by “anything that hits [us] in the feels; from Bill Callahan to Black Sabbath to David Bowie”. To relate them to some other bands, they create music like they were Mac Demarco on crack, My Bloody Valentine on acid, or even Beach Boys on PCP. But comparing them to these mainstream bands does their music no justice. They are very much unique and are hard to describe. If I had to, I would put them somewhere on the shoegaze spectrum.
I want to cover two of their currently availible songs. The first song is “NY Models“. Off of their record Transitions, “NY Models” reflects upon the anxiety of everyday life and the stress caused by the repetitions of our seemingly dead-end lives. The song talks about loneliness and the feelings of self doubt many young people in this world today feel as it gets harder and harder to make a living. This song takes its time to develop and create a wide open atmosphere through its sweeping reverb and janky guitar melodies. The imagery of “pattern neck ties, scenes from empty red eyes, are you alright?” evokes a certain feeling of monotony and deliria. It raises questions such as “Where is my escape? When will I find my purpose?” At the same time, this song reflects the saying “Hindsight is 20/20” all too well- “Now I’m looking back through what was white and black too, now all I see, blues and reds and gray waves.” Whenever we look back, we regret our words and actions but The Sea Life proposes for us to move on. Attached to this post is a video of Jon and Payton playing a stripped down version of “NY Models” that I feel best represents the song. The next song I would like to look at is “Hounds of Thought“. This song is also off of the album Transitions. “Hounds of Thought” gives off a very King of the Beach vibe. This song discusses anxiety racing through one’s head as he or she begins to descend into a self-hating episode. A very dark undertone accompanies a very floaty and soathing texture. As the fuzzed out rhythm guitar blends with the chorused out and hall reverbed lead guitar, the vocals pierce our ears (in a good way) and create a wall between us and the outside world. The song again nods at the saying “Hindsight is 20/20”. It paints a picture of a down man reflecting upon his lost love and what he should have done. These thoughts cosume his body as the “Hounds of thought don’t lose” and eat his mind up. The very last lyrics of the song bring us a resolution- “the nervous reasons I will never know, the hounds will let you go…”. The Sea Life seeks to not only understand our own depression but also to lift us up. And with that, I want to finish saying that The Sea Life represents more than just the freedom of expression or a DIY attitude many young artists have today, they represent family and community that many bands neglect. Their family of artists create melody driven happiness that can turn any day around. Make sure you check out The Sea Life on Bandcamp and Spotify. And if you are ever in DC, check to see if they are playing live. You never know what you might find!
Peace and Love,
(edited by M.B.)
This month on Soundcloud Spotlight, I am featuring a musician that I promised I would cover a few months back. His name is Rainlord and he collaborates with the aforementioned Lovèn, both from San Jose, California. His follower count does not match his professionalism nor his experience. Like Lovèn, this musician focuses on combining old jazz and soul tunes with modern electronic 808’s, samples, and synths. Though similar to Lovèn, Rainlord makes his own mark, creating more personal and sentimental tracks that move the soul. He notes his influences as Nujabes, Jazzinuf, J-Dilla, Joji, Aso, and anything hip-hop. The first track I want to focus on is it happens. The title alludes to the saying “shit happens…” but resolves the conflict through its musical gestures. This track conveys a cheerful, carefree feeling but is contrasted by a depressing, underlying tone. This simplicity of the piano alongside the basic drum pattern makes this track an easy listen, but just as you thought you had it covered, samples spread throughout the song remind the listener to not take Rainlord’s music jokingly. The samples tell of boy who is in love but cannot seem to get the girl to reciprocate those feelings. I believe this track is what represents him the best. Quoting him in an interview “…Music will accompany you through any journey and help you get through many hardships.” He lives to cheer up anyone’s day and to help anyone in need through his music and his messages. The second track I would like to focus on is what I believe to be his “hidden gem”; it is called bday beat. This track currently has about 1,500 listens but I believe this track deserves more love. The opening, a sweet piano medley with a simple, bit-drum pattern behind it. The tone is again, cheerful but in a celebratory matter (the track being released for his birthday). This track reminds the listener of a youthful experience; no cares in the world. A short and simple song to go along with a simple piano pattern suits the scene perfectly. Rainlord says “I want my listeners to feel what I’m feeling through my music…”. He finds a way to bridge himself through his music to the listener to lighten the mood and make all the problems go away. Rainlord deserves more listens, and if for only one reason, it is to make your day brighter and happier. And with that, I close with his final words of the interview, “Good music, good vibes, and good times. Go with the flow and c’est la vie”.
Peace and Love,
Hailing from my homestate of Maryland (funny enough about 20 minutes from me), we have a DJ/producer named Stafa. I found him through King Benjo, another DJ/producer that is part of what may be referred to as the Vaporwave Scene. Vaporwave focuses on sampling jazz, orchestral, R&B, and funk tunes and combining them with 808’s to create a lo-fi, euphoric, and raw sounding style of music. Stafa is what many would call a “hidden gem”. He only has 149 followers at the time of this post, but his style and artistic ability reflects something much greater. He only has 7 tracks posted as of now, but is planning on releasing a beat tape in the near future. The first track I would like to focus on is his first posted track, A. A is a perfect example of how an orchestral violin section can be transformed into a electronic powerhouse for a song. The same violin rhythm repeats, but seems to never get old. A also is self aware of this repetitive nature as it is only 1 minute and 38 seconds long. A is a simple song, consisting of about 3 parts: drums, synths, and violin. Though simple in concept, it is a pleasure for the ears. An easy listen that seems to turn off the outside world and give the listener a lens into a simpler time. The second track I would like to focus on is S. S is Stafa’s most listened to song, and for a good reason. S is clearly well thought out and is a great introduction to Stafa’s uniqueness. S is complex in structure but still gives off a simplistic vibe. That is what draws my ear to Stafa, his ability to create simplicity out of complexity. A contrasting statement I know, but in order to understand it, you must listen to Stafa. S represents Stafa as an artist and as a person. I asked Stafa “How do you compose your pieces? What sparks an idea?” His response:
My music is usually based on my mood. I usually try to live my life positive, so I can dish out positive pieces. I could sit down forever and make music endlessly. I just need to be in a good mood. I try to stand out from everyone else by adding my own personality. My music is an embodiment of who I am, and I want my first impressions to be good.
Stafa stays true to himself, he is not flashy nor egotistical. He wants to convey a positive attitude to his listeners through his music. To that I say kudos, you have perfected your craft. Go give Stafa a listen and a follow, the attitude of his music will surely be a part of yours.
Peace and Love,
Ash Koosha’s GUUD is singular. You are not supposed to pick out specific tracks nor are you supposed to listen to it in sections. It is electronic music with which you have to pay attention. You have to respect its layers and sounds that the listening experience as a whole is throwing at you. I think throwing, spraying or any similar verb is a pretty solid description of the experience. The glitch, sporadic amorphous sounds hit you with some force. His Bandcamp describes his process as ‘nano-composition’ in which he uses the naturally occurring fractal patterns of sound waves to create a new distorted sound. It sounds interesting and to be honest I don’t fully understand it based on that description. But I thoroughly enjoy his music.
The experience of GUUD is one of completion. Each musical passage or idea feels fully developed and excited. Yet, the album flows from idea to idea seamlessly. In terms of sound, it shifts from glitch-hop to synth driven to sample driven and in between. I would usually offer some comparisons but they would feel insufficient. Ash Koosha’s sound definitely falls in the IDM category although I would never dance to this stuff. The allure of the project for me is the esoteric synthesis of sounds that are new to electronic music. I can honestly say that this experience was a new one for me, which I think, is rare in a genre like IDM.
Although it is asking a lot, I recommend you listen to this thing… in its entirety. Don’t pick out tracks. Just sit and try out the full record. It will be worth it.
On the song “zoom” off of the EP blkjptr, it is pretty clear that Smino, the Chicago-based artist, is trying to rap with the best. Flow reminiscent of Chance the Rapper (also from Chicago) and production similar to the glitch-y Shabazz Palaces, Smino showcases how he wants to push new, modern rap music even further. He is intense and aggressive. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, on SBTV’s Backyard Sessions, we can watch Smino perform as an emotionally evocative R&B artist. Performing “oxygen” a song that is also on the blkjptr EP, Smino sings, backed by Monte Booker’s gentle guitar, about personal struggle and fears. He croons:
“He just a thug let ’em die in the streets,
Remember the day that they locked up my bro
Ain’t been the same, feel the shit to this day”
The performance is intimate and soft. Smino exemplifies the power of a dual threat rapper/R&B/soul artist.
Compared to “zoom”, “oxygen” serves as a breath of fresh air. In fact, blkjptr has a prevailing theme of fear and anxiety as each of the first four songs ends with the sounds of someone running, hurriedly out of a (presumably) an apartment building. “oxygen” is almost a Zen acceptance of this state of fear as it ends gracefully and quietly without anyone running away. It feels like Smino is relaxing and taking a breath rather than the cooped up anxiety that the rest of the album features.
Blkjptr is the most recent of Smino’s Ep’s. His first. S!CK S!ICK S!ICK, is pop savvy. It is catchy, upfront and less artistically ambitious than blkjptr. It sounds like Mick Jenkins, Bryce Tiller and Chance again. Although he has a small catalogue, I think Smino has a song for pretty much any rap enthusiast. I highly recommend you spend 15 minutes to skip through his Soundcloud catalogue. He is apart of the rap group Zero Fatigue with aforementioned Monte Booker and singer Raven Lenae. The entire group is worth a listen.
This month on Soundcloud Spotlight, I will be focusing a musician named Lovèn. He is producer/DJ from San Jose, California who focuses on repurposing old jazz and soul tracks into new electronic instrumentals. He is relatively new to Soundcloud (his earliest track posted about a month ago as of this post) but has already made a name for himself gaining 830 followers in that short time. He incorporates modern sampling with classic jazz standards and soul hits alongside with 808’s and digital producing in order to create sentimental songs that can spark any emotion in the listener. Lovèn demonstrates how new technology can refresh old standards and give them a new face. Take for example Chance, a simple yet elegant song that consists of piano sample and a simple drum pattern. Lovèn takes simplicity to another level. It is this simplicity that strikes me as a listener and as a musician. With all the over compressed, over hyped, and over complicated instrumentals coming out these days, it gives electronic music a breath of fresh air. Another song that strikes me is his most recent song called Always Love You. This song combines aspects of jazz, modern electronic, and lo fi to create a song worth remembering. The great thing about Lovèn is that he keeps his songs short as well. The nature of a repeating pattern is to get boring after awhile but Lovèn has perfected the amount of song to create in order to keep the listeners entertained. I am excited to see what he produces next and where he will end up. Lovèn has a collaborative project with producer Rainlord called Lovelord where he creates the same type of music. Go check him out and give a follow, he deserves it.
Peace and Love,