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 26, 2012

As we settle into 2012, it's hard not to notice how much time we all spend in front of a computer. Whether at work, home, in transit, or even when being "social" (smart phones are computers, folks), it's all starting to resemble some depressingly benign prequel to The Matrix. Plugged in on an hourly basis, it's no wonder much of the music we consume is also starting to sound depressed, detached, and frankly, homogenized to the point that DAW presets are an acceptable choice of instrument.

If this sounds bleak to you, well, it just sounds kind of boring to me. Thankfully, there are artists stepping outside the bounds of the first and third measure of a 4 bar loop, utilizing interesting life experiences outside the screen to inspire their creations and their sounds. Dave Huismans' new EP isn't a revelation, but a decidely different twist on the same game we're all playing. Found sound samples, stepped beats, dabs of sub-bass, and swathes of warm chord progressions are all present, but the way they're presented is what makes this release that much more enticing than your average R&B bootleg.

Where "Solitary Sheepbell" moves through lushly recorded tones, tinkling forebodingly as we wander through the soukhs in Amman, "Desert Lament" snaps into place with rigid, stomping kicks that seem to be struggling up and down the dunes, sinking into the sand as the sun reaches its apex. This second track washes over the listener upon the first few listens, but pay close attention to the wafting strings, the marketplace ramblings, and how no 8 bars are identical to the next. A heat-stroked mirage of a 2-step track, one that seems like it could go on for days.

"Jerash Herwaken" is an interesting excursion into the heart of the Jordanian capital, filled with schoolyard and street preacher samples swirling over clipped kettle drums. A traipse down the dark alleys, acting as more of a bridge between the first half of the EP and its conclusion. "Nocturnal Drummers" is the finale, and is one of the finest 2562 tracks to date. All the computer editing and swing settings in the world wouldn't be able to capture the pituitary-throbbing trance those drum samples have over the listener; the bass that takes hold midway through adds to this "in-the-circle" effect of the percussion. A breathtaking study in sample-restraint and rhythmic intuition, find a quiet place for this one.

Time and time again, Huismans' seems to take his template to new places, subtle changes to an already distinct and engaging sound. A producer does not need to rewrite the rulebook to be original, and with the Air Jordan EP, 2562 offers a beacon of legitimacy for those willing to step outside the confines of their bedroom, even if it's only for a week or two.

Posted by Cam Curran | 2 comments

MARCH 23, 2012

Every week for Percussion Lab, we at The Kort assemble a Worth The Wax mixtape that focuses on a theme with an accompanying blog post. Each mix is recorded to cassette in onetake using vinyl and then recorded back to computer for uploading. If you've had the opportunity to follow these tapes as we share them, you know the routing - and must be wondering why I'm banging you over the head with our process once again.

Since this is my week to pick the theme (hence why you're reading my words, and my half of the mix opens the tape), I elected to focus on the beat scene in LA - Flying Lotus, Brainfeeder, Dilla and G-Funk influences, etc. I realized two things in preparing for the mix: first, neither of us own as many records appropriate to this direction as we thought, and second, those we do have sound delicious going from vinyl to cassette.

Stream our 'L.A. Heat' Worth The Wax mixtape here

Which really shouldn't come as a surprise considering the thriving DIY tape scene led by Matthewdavid's Leaving Records and an undying appreciation for vinyl/vinyl sampling. Analog fetish pontificating aside, I want to focus on two things in particular: Flying Lotus, and why I don't have more beats records from the West Coast.

Enough has been said about Stephen Ellison, enough music journos have chronicled his upbringing (Coltrane bloodline), and even I have waxed on about Cosmogramma before. But I stumbled upon the above interview and was struck when he says, "mentorship was missing in my life." Flying Lotus looked towards hip hop as his way of impacting music, specifically the "melodic hip hop" coming from Dr. Dre at the time, which his family couldn't teach him. So as eagerly and persistently as every aspiring musician should act, Ellison taught himself to sample and produce - and thus came the FlyLo sound.

Now whether what follows is irony or a testament to an artist's greatness, mentorless Stephen went on to inspire millions worldwide and in turn became a mentor to a host of formidable new talent through his label, collaborations, and generally warm nature. What comes with that territory is an army of copy cats - or as he put it: "I hear a lot of stuff now that sounds like old shit that I got up to. It sucks when things get stale like that."

Maybe that's why we didn't have as many thematic records as we had hoped. Brainfeeder has redirected its course to releasing records from musicians over producers (Austin Peralta, Thundercat), Leaving Records dropped Julia Holter's gorgeous - if cold - Tragedy, Friends of Friends has pressed little more than Shlohmo records...

I guess what I've really learned this week is that my West Coast radar may have lost focus over the past year. Anyone have any recommendations for new artists/producers with releases worth scooping?

*Editor's Note: Flying Lotus performed his first NYC show at a Percussion Lab event. 

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

Posted by Cam Curran | 0 comments