Laurel Halo - Chance of Rain: Laurel Halo is a real piece of work. The classically-trained producer from Ann Arbor, Michigan once claimed in a FACT interview that her real name is “Ina Cube”, which is even more ludicrous than her recording alias. On her queasy debut LPQuarantine (named Album of the Year by The Wire), she put her questionable singing skills front and center; the traditionally soothing and maternal sound of the female voice became something confrontational, even ugly. With Chance of Rain, Halo returns to the confounding techno of her early King Felix and Hour Logic EPs. Do be warned: there is nothing easy or even catchy about this record. Only a suicidal DJ would dare to put on something like “Oneiroi” during a club set. The challenge (and subsequent thrill) is in completely submitting yourself to Halo’s sound world, where temporality is always in flux – sonic elements emerge and descend almost randomly, yet nothing seems accidental here. This is the sound of an unremembered fever dream, or a scroll through your psyche’s Twitter feed in the midst of a k-hole. A track like “Ainnome” is simply bursting with ideas, but the only thing that might conceivably stick with you after it concludes is a stumbling bass melody that arrives halfway in. I would encourage you to dive in to Chance of Rain if you are interested in hearing what electronic music is truly capable of conjuring. If I have your attention, do check out this review from The Quietus, which intellectualizes and justifies this music in a far better way than I ever could. ZN
Recommended Tracks: "Ainnome" , "Chance of Rain" , "Thrax"
DJ Rashad - Double Cup: Also coming to us from Hyperdub this week, Double Cup lies on the opposite end of the spectrum from Laurel Halo’s high-concept artistry. With the help of fellow TekLifers Spinn and Taso, Rashad takes the aesthetic of Chicago-born “footwork” (rhythmically-complex dance music descended from jungle and juke, hovering near 150-160 BPM) and blows it wide open, taking cues from genres as diverse as techno, bass music, and West Coast G-funk. If there was ever a way to make this kind of music sound laid-back, Rashad makes it happen on opener “Feelin’”, which begins with a series of deliberate, twinkling chords that give way to a swinging horn sample and the sharp crack of a snare drum. This template is soon hacked up by Rashad’s scalpel of syncopation, but somehow the easygoing titular feelin’ never goes away. Elsewhere, things get more urgent and sinister; the snakelike dial tone noise on “I Don’t Give a Fuck” adds another layer of menace to the track’s centerpiece monologue. Regardless of what our dear engineer Alexi says, I find this to be a remarkable achievement – it offers a gateway into a traditionally jarring and intimidating genre. Hip-hop, jazz, and techno/house freaks should definitely give this a spin – as should anyone else looking for a truly unique way to groove. ZN
Recommended Tracks: "Feelin'", "Let U No", "Reggie"
White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade: Mmm mm this band is groooovy. Just makes me want to dance. It was just a bluesy jam sesh down in Austin, Texas when all of a sudden somebody whipped out a synthesizer, and this old dive bar turned into a cosmic honkytonk. I think Kevin Parker just found himself a pair of cowboy boots and converted to Baptism, or maybe the Black Keys just dropped a bit of that sweet yellow sunshine. Before I get ahead of myself I will say that every aspect of this band reminds me of some other act that already exists, which could be grounds for criticism, but I think White Denim is unique in that no other act is meshing southern rock with psychedelic rock quite so seamlessly. It really sounds as if The Black Crowes had started doing T. Rex covers. The vocals also have an uncanny resemblance to Dan Auerbach (who just pisses me off for some reason) and also to this buddy of mine out in ole Tucker, Georgia. Despite maybe a lack of originality in their sound, White Denim is one damn good band. They know how to play, and they sound great doing it. Not to mention I hear they’re pretty sick live. SHILL
RIYL: Black Keys, Tame Impala
Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu: Listening to this album takes me back to my childhood of saffron, rosewater, black tea, Persian rugs, and general baller-ness. Many are basing its appeal on its distinctiveness since it’s probably like nothing they’ve ever heard before. Omar became masterful with performance in Syria where he grew quite popular as a wedding singer over the course of the last 20 years. It is Souleyman’s music that takes the wonderful aspects of Middle Eastern feels and totally modernizes it. His voice is vibrant and the music is pulsatingly trance-tastic. This is not his first go at making music, but Wenu Wenu is his first proper label release. New to America, Omar quickly drew the attention of Four Tet, who produced this very album. Omar is rumored to have also collaborated with my man, Damon Albarn, which resulted in an unreleased track from Plastic Beach. Hopefully that will be released soon, but for now we have Wenu Wenu! Los Angeles is completely embracing him and his folky bumping funk pounds. ARZ
Recommended Tracks: "Wenu Wenu," "Nahy", "Yagbuni"
Connan Mockasin – Caramel: Yeah this is some serious baby-making music right here. There are not two, nor three, nor four, but FIVE tracks entitled “It’s Your Body,” distinguished by a numerical value ranging from 1-5. The vocals and melodies are oozing dreamy psych pop goodness, with percussion incorporating some groovy jazz cymbal rides. The album in its entirety is an auditory trip. The third track, “Why Are You Crying,” has the sounds of a woman crying in the background with Connan telling her to stop and the next song commences with female laughter. So ~~deep~~ Connan. A crying lady backdrop sounds bizarre, but the album just WORKS (possibly because he’s from New Zealand and he’s just cool like that). It’s actually quite brilliant and will grow on you with each listen, unveiling new elements behind the wobbly and whimsical sound. My favorite moment of the album has got to be about 45 seconds into “It’s Your Body 2” where there’s a very gradual inclination in pace and the volume of the percussion increases throughout the track with a warped and intriguing intensity. Connan rewards you with his drifting tunes, interspersed with instants of girls laughing and thanking Connan for cheering them up (you can find this at the end of “It’s Your Body 5”). He just wants to blanket you in a haze of his wistful psych-jazz, straight from the depths of his subconscious. ARZ