Sometimes I wonder if our mood influences the music we pick for the playlist, as quite often there seems to be an underlying theme to the tracks – either in content, ambiance or occasionally influences. There’s a very chilled, thoughtful feel to much of the music this time round, and rather shockingly no one from Sweden! So here we go with this weekend’s amble through the musical netherworld.
First up is New York based producer and multi-instrumentalist Lick Twist (Daniel Oron), who fuses electronica with more acoustic sounds to great effect on his new track Be Loved. With an aura of confident grandeur, in part down to the sublime vocals and the slowly evolving arpeggios, it creates the sensation of enjoying a moment of stillness and silence in an otherwise busy day. Oron says it was originally conceived as an instrumental, but the addition of soulful vocals really serves to highlight the subtle beauty of the emotive arrangement, as well as the fusion of pop, soul, and hip hop with more downtempo textures.
Danish electronica group We Are The Way For The Cosmos To Know Itself (what a name!) follow a very similar sonic path on Flashbacks, but they use female vocals and soothing electronica to a very different but startlingly poignant effect. The trio channels some addictive Scandipop hooks, reflective lyrics as well as some moody electronica brushstrokes on Flashbacks to create an introspective yet ultimately celebrative contemplation of past moments and times lost. The track is out now on Celebration Records.
There really is a more chilled vibe to the roundup this week and that continues with On The Loose by Brooklyn-based Kami Maltz. It’s one of those tracks that’s hard to put a handle on; there’s a chilled feel to the track, as if the Cocteau Twins had immersed themselves in electronica but kept that same strain of abstract invention. However, On The Loose takes a ‘less is more’ approach to its organic-sounding arrangement, allowing the listener to create their own shadows and light by exploring the uncertain imagery in the lyrics and understated musical tones.
Chase Dobson and Jason Roth aka Neon Cities say they have known each other for years but have only recently started producing music together. New track Toulouse comes on the back of their recently released Tessier-Ashpool EP and is described by the duo as ‘a little visit to the South of France’. On listening it’s very obvious why; it perfectly captures the sensation of long summer days in the more slow-moving rural world of a provincial city, with its sense of unhurried activity and upbeat synths blended with more leisurely sounding organic bass lines, all capturing that sense of needing to do something, but not quite yet, because the sun still shines.
I’m a bit worried now that by this point in the roundup I’ve not sent you all to sleep with such laidback beats, however the tranquil vibe continues with Oooh Baby In The Chorus by New Zealand’s Death and the Maiden. Featuring on the band’s recent Wisteria album, the melancholic and mesmerising guitar lead reminiscent of Johnny Marr, weaves its way through intricate synths and softly insistent rhythms in spellbinding fashion. Along with the more motorik percussion and the rich and bewitching vocals of Lucinda King, the flawless fusion of such disparate sounds feels being taken on a trip to the fabled Elysian Fields of Greek legend.
Parisians Napkey (Benjamin Cholet and Justine Rousseau) lighten the mood (sonically at least) with You Can Have the Light. The duo seems to riff on the classic sounds of synthpop, but with a modern spin – a musical palette that fans of the much-missed (by me!) Dubstar will love. Rousseau’s happy-sad vocals serve as the main driver for an arrangement that balances lighter sounds with a delicate melody and lyrics that are at times dark and introspective. Be sure to check out their social media for information on the overarching story to their current release cycle – I’m not going to spoil it for you!
Some uplifting sounds underpin Libra from DRAMAS; an electronic art-pop music duo, from Vienna. The slightly vocodered vocals fashion a sensation of listening to a humanist hymn while stirring the inner psyche, with the piano adding to the layers of contemplative reverie. The slow build serves to heighten the sense of emotion and contradiction in the lyrics, with the unfiltered vocals lending the track an unearthly ambiance. Existing in some musical netherworld inhabited by the spirits of Fleetwood Mac and Enya, the beauty of Libra lies in the still silence at its centre.
Hailing from Oslo in Norway, Bearson initially made a name for himself as a remixer before showing the world his talents were just as strong as a producer. Now based in Los Angeles, his Tropical House sound has evolved in to something a lot more distinctive but just as addictive. Mood music with a wry take on living in sunnier climes, Go To Sleep using a series of spoken/sung images to capture perfectly the universal ups and downs of living in a city that never stops changing. With the faux-innocent vocals of Kailee Morgue adding some sugar to the salt, it’s a perfect pop confection.
Piers Baron knows how to fashion emotive and uplifting pop, and having featured in the blog last July he’s back with another winner in the form of Leap of Faith. It certainly ticks all my musical boxes with its easy-going intensity that is reminiscent of Empathy Test, a driving bass line and lyrics that can see the positive in adversity. Its real strength however is that it shares the same detached but observant lyrical style that makes peak Pet Shops Boys such a beguiling and addictive proposition. Leap of Faith captures the essential duality of intelligent pop – it can be as deep or as frivolous as you or your current mood want it to be.
Rob Garza is primarily known as a producer and a co-founder of legendary Thievery Corporation whose fusion of dub, trip hop, reggae and more has won him legions of fans for their recorded music and live performances. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that his latest solo release Dobruja takes the basic elements of dance music and sends them in new and surprising directions. With an air of mysticism infused within the track’s DNA, the sparse yet warm feel of the instrumentation is balanced by female vocals samples that echo psytrance at times. Dobruja shares that genre’s sense of an inner journey but doesn’t abandon the temporal plane, allowing listeners to enjoy the unfolding textures of the track rather being lost in them.
Well that’s it for this week, and I hope you have enjoyed exploring some new music as much as we have. Until then next then, goodbye!