Tag Archives: the vinyl district

Nobody Loves Me: A Valentine’s Day Playlist For The Eternally Single

A playlist I created for The Vinyl District

Hey sad sack, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we represent the mix just for your lonely heart, “Nobody Loves Me.” Whether you view today as a celebration of love, or a reminder of the absence of it, we’ve got one wicked wallow. Happy Valentine’s Day?
The “dating scene” is much akin to a Russian land war in winter—it’s brutal, brutish, unwinnable, and full of casualties. And I am well-equipped to give a report from the trenches—in all of my years on this lovely planet, I have never had a date on Valentine’s Day.

That, however, is not cause to turn all bitter and rail against the “Hallmarkiness” of this holiday, not the least of which because any holiday that dates back to Chaucer predates Hallmark. Ha. So, no, my dearies—I do not propose that we all sit down in some lame Sex and the City/Shit Girls Say kumbaya-ish “love sucks” circle.

Why not take a Zen approach to this and sit with it, as the Buddhists say, or marinate upon it, more colloquially put. Alternatively, as Ovechkin says, “it is what it is.” Or you could, you know, just Rage Against The Machine and assert how love is for losers. (Although, that would be a bit extreme because while dating sucks, love is awesome!)
I would not leave you without succor on this darkest of days. I will remind you that A. you are avoiding eating overpriced, horrible dinners (“put chocolate in her face/steak with extra shrimp”), earning the scorn of the poor overworked restaurant industry, and B. you get to have 50% off candy on the 15th. Here’s a little playlist you can chill to, rage to, and commiserate to.

Concert Review: Beats Antique

My concert review of Beats Antique for The Vinyl District

On Wednesday, the 9:30 Club opened its doors to the dubby, world-music-fusion sounds of Beats Antique.
David Satori and Tommy Cappel (who grew up in Springfield and gave a shoutout to his Mom, who was in attendance) provided a seamless sonic tapestry that was refreshingly organic despite the band’s seemingly electronic roots. With surprisingly minimal knob-twiddling and laptop-fidgeting, both spent a lot of time percussively propelling the show forward, with the flourishes of David’s banjo and violin-playing and a French saxophonist blending into the mix.
DJ Laura Low opened for the band, with a lackluster poppy-dubstep-by-the-numbers set that showcased why Skrillex has a lot to answer for and was especially bad following the brilliant Forward Festival this past weekend. Her dubstep remixes of M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” and even the Cranberries’ “Zombie” were downright cringe-inducing and her own amped-up demeanor was hardly contagious.

And speaking of the audience, there was a heavy belly [dancing-clad] contingent, along with the well-dreaded Burning Man cohort. In other words, there was plenty of hair-tossing about [“I whip my hair back and forth, real or not”], but more on that later.
The show opened with “The Porch” from the band’s 2011 album Elektrafone, and to their credit, Beats Antique’s musicianship is nigh perfect—the songs unfurled in a languid yet sonically-sound fashion and none of the usual concert-muddiness problem was present. They also played “Alto” and “Siren Song” from Elektrafone, as well as debuting a new more dubstep-leaning song, which was very well-received by the crowd.

The band clearly has a keen sense of showmanship; their roots in San Francisco’s performance art scene and their work on the music for the Bellydance Superstars (with whom Zoe Jakes dances) have influenced the stage show, which is very much carnival/sideshow-esque in its aesthetic.
Oddly enough, however, raucous and boisterous are not exactly words I would use to describe the show last night—despite the consummate musicianship and the fact that it very quickly started to sound like one long jam session as the songs started to meld into each other, it lacked a certain kind of playfulness and just general elan. In other words, this wasn’t a Balkan Beat Box show and definitely not an Eastern-European wedding (despite the band’s dabbling in the Roma/Bulgarian brass elements). In other words, it was oddly sedate. Yes, there was some dancing in the crowd, but I saw more at the Little Dragon show.

And speaking of dancing, Zoe Jakes, a renowned tribal belly dancer who is considered part of the band, performed almost throughout the entire show. Some of Jakes’ routines were truly beautiful, such as in the burlesque-influenced jazz dance she performed with giant feather fans, or the skeleton-Mexican-Day-of-the-Dead-like routine during “Beauty Beats.”
At other times, her style, which is essentially a mix of popping-and-locking (think breakdance) and some of the shimmies and hip and shoulder isolations from belly dance, is downright snooze-inducing when viewed for an hour and a half. Jakes’ dancing relies far too much on her wildly tossing her hair about, and the routines where she performed with another belly dancer were out-of-sync enough to make a pre-teen dance teacher cry. No doubt Jakes is a hard-working, seasoned performer… As to whether it is the kind of performance one could watch for extended periods of time is a matter of viewer preference.
Beats Antique’s stage presentation is definitely visually unique and showcases their knack for showmanship. Musically, the band’s palette of glitch, dub, and Middle Eastern and brass motifs is masterfully presented in their live show.

Slow Machete: Killing You Softly with the Otherworldly Sounds of Haiti

My interview and feature on Slow Machete for The Vinyl District

Rolling Stone
once described Sigur Ros as “the sound of God weeping tears of gold in heaven.” Slow Machete, a musical collaboration of local artist Joe Shaffer and Haitian sound-makers, is no less otherworldly and intensely moving.

The vibe in certain parts is musically reminiscent of the spirituals written by enslaved African peoples in America; this is ethnomusicology at its finest, devoid of arty, slapped-on electronica stylings to make it palatable for Western consumption.
Even though this was recorded during Shaffer’s many volunteer trips to Haiti, this album is not polemical in its message (and refreshingly free of overbearing Bono-esque humanitarian asides). It is an album that is truly a tribute to Haiti’s spirit, raw and uninhibited and unbridledly beautiful. The harmonium [similar to a reed organ]‘s sound is lushly organic and, mixed with the vocal and other samples, creates a sonic tapestry of something akin to peaking behind the curtain of a really cool place. Slow Machete’s Evening Dust Choir officially releases today free on Bandcamp.

Tell me a little bit about how this project came about. What is its significance to you and how does it relate to the work you do in Haiti?
I’d been going to Haiti for a few years with different NGOs and medical teams, assisting clinics, working in an orphanage, clean water initiatives, and so on. Through these networks, I’d begun making some very close friends who are singers or musicians in Haiti. I recorded an album for them, and that sort of began the relationships that I would later record for this project.
I made this album as a soundtrack for experiences. This is a music group or a collective in a way, and I’m tying these sounds together and writing lyrics that sort of just move the plot along without trying to take the spotlight. Haiti is a wonderful place, music everywhere, honesty and directness in people that’s incredibly refreshing. I can’t ignore the difficult situations people are facing like how horrible cholera is right now, but I think my objective is to give an honest representation of how I perceive the culture, and that culture is incredibly beautiful.
The sound of the album is extremely unique in its strong ethnomusical vibe. Could you talk a little about the special instruments and samples you used?
The recordings are split between a few places: DC, a tunnel in Pittsburgh, Costa Rica, Montevideo, and Cap Haitien, Haiti. I’d record hours and hours of everything and anything then spend the evenings trying to piece things together with field samples, movie samples, and drums that are mostly native percussion with pitched down sounds of machetes (hence the band name).
Two sounds that are prevalent throughout the album—an Indian harmonium and “the 913”—I soldered a few bass pickups and alligator clips in a cigar box that I use a lot for drones and bass sounds. I play that with tuning forks most often.

You sampled a machete chopping?
Correct. I have a machete, and I’d record hitting / chopping / swinging that against a variety of things in my apartment in Costa Rica, then pitch those samples down several half steps.
What do you think of the music scene in DC?
I originally came to DC excited about the experimental/noise scene that’s great here. I love what’s going on with house shows and art house venues, anything that makes people connect more intimately with the music.
Could you talk a little about your musical influences?
I love movie soundtracks. The King’s Speech by Alexandre Desplat—I’ve been in love with recently. The Sneakers soundtrack and Jurassic Park soundtrack were my favorites growing up. Some other faves are Juan Luis Guerra , Compay Segundo, and Rage Against the Machine.
How do you want to move this project forward? Do you plan on releasing this album on vinyl?
I hope so—if there is an interest in it. I would like to play shows, and make videos that match the aesthetic.

Kollaboration DC: A Kaleidoscope Of Talent Shines

I covered this show for The Vinyl District.

By Toni Tileva | September 19, 2011 |

Kollaboration DC’s annual concert was a dazzling showcase of talent that transcended genre boundaries and shattered preconceptions.

Founded eleven years ago, Kollaboration is an Asian-American non-profit organization whose motto, “empowerment through entertainment” truly embodies its ethos—to present the public with positive, and more importantly, accurate images of Asian-Americans.

While community empowerment is integral to its mission, the entertainment aspect weighs equally heavily in the equation, to the benefit of anyone who has ever attended any of Kollaboration’s musical events. Saturday’s show at the University of The District of Columbia was a well-organized, rollicking affair, whose contest format did not in any sense harken of dreaded American Idol overtones or, even worse, stereotypical talent show fodder—because everyone in it was ridiculously talented.

University of Maryland’s classical Indian dance troupe Moksha delivered a Mahabharata-in-motion, thunderous, ebullient routine. It was traditional, yet it was modern. It was classical, yet it was avant-garde. It was definitely breathtaking.

There were genre-mashups galore—Phillip Chang proved equally adept at piano, singing, and b-boy moves. Alec Zhang and Emily Barnes danced an ethereal waltz. Chip Han’s beat-boxing sounded turntable-enviable. Lionz of Zion, a local break-dancing crew, which includes Geoffrey “ToyzRUs” Chang, roared forth with a stunning, gravity-be-damned routine. Local rapper Sickboi, and fellow MC Lyricks, are definitely putting Virginia hip-hop on the map.

Kollaboration DC was a true celebration of spirit and community and, ultimately, a reminder that talent grows and flourishes even in the often-described-as-stodgy Washington DC.

CREEP-None More Noir

My feature on CREEP at The Vinyl District Blog

Brooklyn production duo CREEP sound like the lovechild of She Wants Revenge and Poe, with some of The xx and Garbage thrown in for good measure. You can finally feel good about breaking out the dark eyeliner and gothing out without having to reassure yourself and others that you are being meta, tongue-in-cheek, or subversive about it, and you are not really a [closet] Goth. [Is there such a thing as a non-closet Goth, btw?] Well, raise the black flag, my friends, and trash that VNV Nation record because CREEP are here to meet all of your needs.

CREEP are producers/DJs Lauren Flax and Lauren Dillard. Flax is an internationally-renowned house DJ and producer—one of her bigger recent hits was “You’ve Changed” with Sia on vocals. Her experience as Fischerspooner’s tour DJ clearly lends itself well to CREEP’s creepy synth-driven sensibilities, but the group’s sound is indelibly ethereally beautiful even through the cold mechanics of a foundation.

CREEP’s spectral debut single “Days” featuring The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft came out earlier this year. The refrain of “Are you thinking the same things I do?/ I been thinking about me and you/ My nights are turning into days/ But I don’t know since everything changed” is really descriptive of the ethos of CREEP’s music. Nights turn into days, dreamscapes unfold, miasmas shimmer in and out, lost souls find and lose each other, love and loss are different sides of the same coin. There is lots of smoke and mirrors, and reality is too tenuous to look for.

The follow-up “You” is a stunning showcase of R&B superstar twins Nina Sky’s interweaving vocals. The video, under the genius direction of Thalia Mavros, could not be a more apt visual piece for the song. If there ever was a video that lives and breathes chiaroscuro, this is it. Shadows fall away and take over—what is black or white, is there even an answer… Faces fade in and out. You will probably notice some very Shining-esque shots and maybe even an homage to Asian horror. Either way—it’s hypnotic, sinister, and terribly engrossing.

DFA’s Planningtorock recently released the remix of “You.” Check it out and get the MP3 where it premiered on RCRD LBL .

Don’t let the upcoming full-length release creep up on you—the record will grab you with a vengeance.

Tokimonsta Feature

I have started writing for the Vinyl District blog! Check out my first feature–Tokimonsta.

Trip hop has long been a turntablist’s game, even if the most obvious examples you can think of are Geoff Barrow’s scratching on Portishead’s “Only You” or the seminal DJ Shadow Endtroducing. In the early 2000s, artists like DJ Krush, RJD2, Nujabes, and DJ Vadim continued to carry the torch, despite public opinion that “trip hop was dead” or relegated to Buddha Bar compilations. It is in this vein that LA-based producer TOKiMONSTA (Jennifer Lee) makes her pastiche of beats and samples.
Tokimonsta cut her teeth on a myriad of fresh remixes with a signature sound—anything from Tweet’s “Call Me,” to Lykke Li’s “Little Bit” and Telepopmusik’s “Breathe.” She released a ton of mixtapes and toured, paying some major dues in the process. Her diminutively adorable moniker terribly apt, Tokimonsta is a Godzilla on the wheels of steel and clearly knows more than a thing or two about crate-digging, scratching, and creating really naturally flowing sample soundscapes.
The Creature Dreams EP finds Tokimonsta on an even more consistent course with her sound than her last full-length album, 2010’s Midnight Creatures. “Bright Shadows,” “Little Pleasures,” and “Darkest[Dim]“ are three of the standout tracks on the EP, and they feature singer Gavin Turek. “Day Job” is another equally beautiful track—as a whole, the album is consistent in its excellence and is very un-California-esque in that it’s late-night listening alright. It is not a dark record—it’s maybe moderately melancholy in its dusty vinyl ambiance, but it is easily one of the best and most consistently “trip hop” albums to come out in recent years. Definitely worth a spin!