Percussion Lab News & Updates
Percussion Lab keeps you up to date with news, ramblings, and anything else music related from our sphere of artists, DJs, labels, friends and contributors.

MARCH 22, 2012

A longtime champion of underground electronic music, Philadelphia’s King Britt hardly needs an introduction, but you’re going to get one anyway. Beginning his ever-blossoming career in the late 80’s as a Philly-area club DJ, King Britt went on to DJ for the influential alt-hip hop group, Digable Planets (as Silkworm). The mid 90’s saw King Britt center in on the funky soul-humming Sylk130 collective, named after his residency at the renowned Sylk City venue in Philadelphia. The collective went on to sell 500,000 records with its first album, and the second finding contributions from an onslaught of 80’s and 90's pop heavyweights (Martin Fry, Alma Horton,  De La Soul, Kathy Sledge, Grover Washington Jr.,  to name a few). Over the next several years, Britt produced sounds from all over the genre spectrum: from soul, hip hop, and gospel; to techno, house, and improvisational a la Sun Ra. His remixes include Tori Amos, Radiohead, Santigold, and a bunch of sweet numbers by Sister Gertrude Morgan. Basically, a heavyweight in his own right.

Okay, enough with the hyperlinks. On to the present tense.

Releasing under a new identity as Fhloston Paradigm, King Britt has found yet another somic territory to explore. This single release is an odd notch to the belts of both Britt and Hyperdub. First off, the three songs—spanning over 20 minutes­—are built by drum machines, analog keyboards, 303’s, and finally edited in the computer. It makes sense for a veteran DJ to understand and appreciate analog synths, but the momentum of his recent parade had us guessing another direction. 

The first track, “Chasing Rainbows,” is a bossy tune. The notes I jotted down while listening on the subway were, “theme music to the ass kicking, goodhearted, ex-convict protagonist that wears tight denim and a t-shirt,” meaning, of course, the main character in John Carpenter’s They Live (really it could be any character from any of Carpenter’s films). From his website, Britt states, "I of course love science fiction films. Blade Runner, Fifth Element and Rollerball all inspire me.  So when I did this Fhloston Paradigm ep,  I wanted to dedicate it to those movies." The warm repeating melody paired with the deeper kick makes for stomping music, only if you’re marching in weathered boots. But this is by far the catchiest, poppiest song of the three. From here, Britt departs from reassuring melody to probe further into his abstract sensibilities.

Song two, “The Chase,” is an eerily epic, nearly unprogressional tune, reminiscent of AFX. With a machine drum lead that succeeds in keeping your attention with plenty of switches—off and on—of delay, reverb, and beat repeats, the song doesn’t kick into gear until an ever-assembling acid melody works its way into a groovy jam session of quick beats and an off kilter bassline.

The final song, “Lilloos Seduction,” clocking in at over 10 minutes, finds Britt becoming even more entranced in his abstract, distant synth world. This dramatic track purposefully distances itself from the listener, leaving her lonely, introspective, and contemplative. Walking through the city, this music made my pace slower; I took in all the peculiar people busying themselves through the streets. A minimalist 303 bassline sounding like puffs of electric fuzz are eventually joined by ethereal keys and echoing drops that make up the nearly absent beat. Two-thirds of the way in, the song is still slowly building, and it’s just then you notice it’s about to end, adding to your sense of emotional desertion.

Listening to this Fhloston Paradigm EP will bring you from within the world of the 80’s, to an observer on a planet that looks identical to ours. You begin by imagining movie-like scenarios and end up watching the landscape outside of you. This music isn’t depressing, isn’t uplifting, and it’s hardly danceable. It’s anti-emotion, a blank stare, the ultimate observer. A refreshing album from an already genre-spanning artist, this release leaves one wondering where King Britt is headed next. 

Hear more Fhloston Paradigm at Britt's home base, HERE, and download his free EP, Fiction Science.

MARCH 16, 2012

BedStuy is weird. It's said to be "what Williamsburg was 10 years ago." You can clearly see it too. Right now I'm sitting in the only coffee shop within several square blocks of my apartment. Windows corner the front of the cafe and benches are placed like guard dogs at the entrance. There are attractive people inside and around the entrance--young, hip, comfortable and seemingly careless. Across the street in both directions are small deli groceries. Passing by the front of the store with children, dogs, groceries and lovers in hand are people you can clearly guess are not coming to the coffee shop. Old-timers, neighborhood lifers. They're sitting outside the bodegas with close to half a dozen friends and relatives. They could care less about expensive, organic coffee beans coming from an ethically aware roastery. It feels very much like Stuff White People Like (and I suppose that's what it is, right there at #1).

Of course, this is how us electrophiles, beat heads, bass-seekers, bedroom producers, beat geeks, and djs (outcasts?) feel when we look out onto those un-privy to the scene. It's a small pack of wolves in the wild Siberian tundra (I can equate us to the fiercest and bravest beast of all, can’t I?). This is the question I’m getting at: Why don't more people enjoy bass music? Why, if at all, do people think of electronic music as dance festivals and club bangers?

In the handful of drafts that ensued from this point I took the post in a few drastically different directions. I bestowed you with the knowledge that even within this culture we all have special tastes and preferences and that makes us individuals more so than it does a collective, and I made sure to include a list of genres that sounded comical but overused at best. I retraced my steps through middle school and high school, pondering the question of why nobody liked hardcore music, or punk music, or whatever, and I trailed off asking if we only like it because it’s such a selectively small group. I bombed you with the notion that we all die alone (I seriously did this) and I’m stoked there isn’t some snobbish exclusivity wafting through our area, whether it be the Internet or bars. I compared the trope of the indie music scene of “you didn’t know about this band?” to the reality of the electronic music scene of “oh my god, go home and listen to this shit, you'll fall in love.”

And then I erased them all, and wrote about how I wrote about them, and I lost all sight of a point being made, and then I ended on the note that you should continue to enjoy yourselves and this small scene and that’s really it. I have nothing more to say.

-Brandon O'Connor

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MARCH 15, 2012

With New York under record-breaking bouts of heat this week, we thought it would be appropriate to usher in the summer, however prematurely that may be. And as bleak as we made the mood of contemporary music seem last week, it's important to remember that there's plenty of bright/hazy/humid vibes swimming through the current of the underground (and the mainStream!).

Listen to our "Ides of Summer" Worth the Wax mixtape here!

One need look no further than the trio splashed onto the front page of Percussion Lab this week, the tropical-tinged cosmos of Brooklyn bwoys Archie Pelago. Sure, they've dipped into some noir flavors before, but lately their styles have revolved around a more earthy, colorful sound; a bit like rays of musical sunlight streaming through the canopy. These guys can get a whole room whipped into a heated frenzy with a pair of turntables, a cello, and a saxophone, if you haven't checked their live set, be sure to catch them this Saturday the 17th at Mister Saturday Night.

Keeping with the feel of this week's Worth the Wax, today's article is breezy and light-hearted. Get ready for an awesome summer ahead with Percussion Lab, and much love to everyone working hard to ensure 2012 is their year to shine.

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MARCH 13, 2012

We first met Archie P around this time a year ago, meddling down in BedStuy for an all-too-early spring edition of Percussion Lab Radio at 1LS. It wasn't long before their talent would catch our ears, and we'd bring them in for a special Monday in August. Since last summer, the trio has been busy at work, with a remix on Tectonic, collaborations with DJ G, and having their tracks played by the Real Queen of England.

Hirshi, Kroba and Comso D make Archie Pelago, and have graced us with a unique mix that glides between genres, tempos and moments in time. What emerges is a delicate take at the group's influences and history, and gives us a little more insight into the talented threesome's amalgamated brain.

You can catch the trio live at this weekend's Mister Saturday Night. Tickets are still available for purchase. We can't wait to see you there.

To get you a little more intimate, here's a few words from the guests:

Percussion Lab: Can you give us a little background on the mix? How did you piece it together? 

Kroba - this was a special mix for the Archie is an “influence” mix and showcases the music that we each have been inspired by through the years.

Hirshi - The three of us each selected our own personal picks which comprise the mix.

PL: How was the mix recorded?

Kroba - the mix was recorded in one take in the heart of Archie HQ

Cosmo D - We were harnessing our full Archie live setup.  There were several moments in the process where I was like ‘do we really want to go there?  maybe we should just do it over.’   Walking a tight-rope vibe.

PL: There's many influences on here, from Sasha's "Dremples" to Paul Simon. Can you pick two songs and describe your relationship with them? 

Kroba - A few of my picks are in homage to my dad’s fabulous musical taste.  He would play John Fahey on Christmas mornings, and when I first started getting into jazz, he also recommended that I check out Pharaoh Sanders’ “Karma” LP.

Hirshi - Nujabes’ “Aruarian Dance” encapsulates a lot of what I love about music-- simultaneously smooth, jazzy and rugged, it’s such a balanced and effective juxtaposition of vibes.  I have even deeper emotional connections with Boards of Canada’s “Dayvan Cowboy”, which has such a richly evocative progression, it still gets me every time! 

Cosmo D - my dad had the Paul Simon ‘Rhythm of the Saints’ cassette when I was young.  ‘Can’t Run But’ in particular caught my ear with its marimba line even as a child and I was keen on re-introducing it into the mix, (along w it’s sick rhythm section).  

PL: I've always admired your dedication to classical/orchestral music, as we've discussed in the past. Are there any particular instrumental works that have changed the way you view, play and create music? What can the current dance scene take away from classical leanings?

Kroba - The music of Igor Stravinsky was a big eye-opener for me.  His use of folk melodies alongside multi-tonal harmonies and mixed-meter rhythms paved a path for a lot of my compositions.  I think that the current dance scene could benefit from the incorporation of the use of extreme dynamics, as well as the use of silence.

Hirshi - One of the most powerful pieces of music I was able to play in an orchestra was probably Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.  Expanding my studies through the 5 movements and into Berlioz’s personal life was as inspiring as it was entertaining.  Though he was a complete nutcase, his program symphony was so graphic and dramatic for a piece of instrumental music.  I particularly loved the concept of idée fixe, which I think to an extent exemplifies some of my favorite and most effective electronic artists of late: Scuba, Objekt, and Distal (for a small example) have a tendency to weave a larger picture with powerful reoccurring themes.

Cosmo D - I played a lot of classical chamber music in college -  Brahms B-Major Piano Trio in B, Schubert’s Double Cello Quintet in C and Schumann’s A Minor Quartet are examples 19th Century chamber music I found myself immersed in at college.  The biggest thing I took away from this music was group cohesion- making eye contact, listening to one another for cues, breathing together, collectively committing ourselves wholly to the the epic musical arcs of each piece.  I think dance and electronic music performances could benefit from this kind of lively group interplay and intensity - just to show the audience that they’re pushing themselves and really digging into the material.  

PL: Who is the Doomsday Cult? Who are the Sinners Named? Is there no hope for us heathens?

Cosmo D:  The opening recording is from a cult in the 80s known as the Church Universal and Triumphant, led by Claire Prophet, that sang these unbelievably tight monophonic chants during their sermons.  The cult would have faded into total obscurity if not for these chants captured on tape!  After the chants were done, they’d read of a litany of names of ‘sinners’, seemingly the Billboard Top 40 or the MTV top 40 videos played at the time.  REO Speedwagon, John Mellancamp, Bananarama, Duran Duran, and Stevie Wonder are just a few of the sinners named.  

PL: Which one of you is going to hell first?

Archie Pelago: We have all cut a deal with the devil.  2113 is our year.

PL: Tell us a little about your setup for this weekend's Mister Saturday Night show.

Cosmo D:  We’ll be deploying the standard turntable / sax / cello setup, which will be special for MSN as they’ve never featured a live ensemble.  We’ll be warming up the night early, setting the stage for our hosts, Eamon and Justin.  Then, later in the night we’ll take the stage again to basically weave in and out of their selections, reacting to them and them to us.  Fluidly integrating musically with our hosts is our aim.

PL: What's next for Archie Pelago?

Archie Pelago: A release on the Well Rounded Record label, a mix for Mary Anne Hobbs, our gig for Mister Saturday Night coming up on St. Patrick’s Day.

PL: Who makes the best Seltzer?

Kroba: The fizzle of the Smoothe Moose variety stands alone, but Vintage was always the company that my parents bought.

Hirshi: DIY seltzer champ has to be Cosmo or DJ Rodan.  Boylan killing the distro-game.

Cosmo D: I make my own seltzer and Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola is my favorite of the ‘artisan colas’.  Shout outs to Red Bull for also making an unusually good cola... but mysteriously pulling it from New York City bodegas. :(

We're thrilled our friends have composed such a beautiful blend of their influences. Enjoy the mix.