The cinematic aural experience that post-rock can create is really quite unique to the genre. Arms and Sleepers have previously toured with Aurgasm favorite, The American Dollar, but they were spotted back when I went to an event called Split/Signal. There, bands performed live, providing score to silent short films. Unquestionably, Arms and Sleepers’ performance was the most stunning. The songs below come from their older work; vocals fans may enjoy their newest release, Matador.
Belfast artist Duke Special, a.k.a. Peter Wilson, is a de-facto Vaudeville revivalist. Duke’s songwriting is highly theatrical and colourful, somewhat recalling the aching beauty of such artists as Rufus Wainwright and Antony Hegarty as well as the Dresden Dolls’ cabaret extravaganza. In “Our Love Goes Deeper Than This” Duke merges a variety of inspirations such as melodramatic Vaudeville, big band and Bebop with rich and bouncy piano, clarinet, trumpet, drums and quirky sound effects. “Wanda, darling of the Jockey Club”, taken from his latest release The Stage, The Book And The Silver Screen (2010), parades the jaunty and retro swinging side of Duke’s song crafting.
We here at Aurgasm are big fans of the folks at KCRW in Los Angeles. Aside from being a leading NPR affiliate, it is home to a wide variety of both locally and nationally-based arts, news and culture talk programs. KCRW might be headquartered in a basement at Santa Monica College, but maintains a worldwide fanbase due to the station’s 24/7 live-stream, web-exclusive music and news content, and podcasts. Musically, KCRW is perhaps one of the most influential independent radio stations in the world, garnering a “tastemaker” reputation due to their tendency to break the next big acts in music. Jason Bentley, KCRW’s Music Director and host of the venerable morning show, Morning Becomes Eclectic, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions and discussed discovering new acts, the “digital revolution” and his favorite new music.
Before you became the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic and the Music Director for KCRW, you hosted “Metropolis” (on KCRW) and “Afterhours” (on KROQ) for a number of years. “Metropolis” was especially connected with electronic music and global club culture. How was the experience transitioning from an evening show to a morning show? Does the musical aesthetic change when you’re talking about a morning show versus an evening show?
Yeah, the vibe is totally different. Having been a champion of electronic music and club culture for many years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to broaden my musical horizons. I still bring my love of dance and electronic music to the mix, but my responsibilities as Music Director are different now. I still play out in clubs, underground events, art galleries, etc to fulfill my need to rock a dancefloor, so it’s all good.
[Fun Fact: The first artist Jason had on Morning Becomes Eclectic after he became the host was an Aurgasm feature! Oren Lavie performed on MBE on December 2, 2008. We first featured Oren in early 2007.]
Last September, you became the first DJ in North America to perform using the Pioneer CDJ-2000 when you spun the Gizmodo Gallery in New York. The player itself is a huge leap forward in terms of technology and as a digital player for DJs. In the last few years, KCRW has also digitized its entire music library. How do you think the transition to digital music affected how you listen and what you play on air?
The most immediate benefit of the digital revolution has been access to music – both in terms of finding/reviewing new material but also being able to call up a track as soon as the thought occurs. There’s definitely a lot more music out there and theÂ casual music fan will always need filters/curators so, on that level, the DJs role is even more important. I like to say that “I listen to bad music so you don’t have to.” In the end, technology is just a tool, there still needs to be a creative impulse driving the mix to make the magic happen.
KCRW is notorious for breaking new artists and keeping things fresh, musically. How have you discovered some of your recent finds? Word of mouth? Live shows?
I review a lot of new music, but word of mouth is legitimate as well. I kind of approach it as a fan and collector of music, so I’m initially looking for a few indicators – label, producer, general buzz, cover art, back story, etc… Having done this for a while, my ear is pretty well tuned. I can get a sense of whether something will work for me very quickly. Live shows are usually good for me to get a better sense of the true potential of an artist, whether there is any longevity.
At Aurgasm we always like to provide our readers with new music they probably haven’t heard before. Are there any songs or bands that have caught your attention recently? What music have you been excited about lately?
Tame Impala from Perth, Australia is stoner rock bliss, and Baltimore, MD band Future Islands‘ “In Evening Air” is a darkly personal record that haunts me still.
Editor’s note:Future Islands will be on Morning Becomes Eclectic this Thursday, July 24 at 11:15am PST. You can listen live at kcrw.com. Morning Becomes Eclectic airs every Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm PST.
Praised by such music figures as Laurent Garnier and Gilles Peterson, Lizzy Parks is mostly known to a wider audience for her collaboration with Ben Lamdin and his Nostalgia 77. In her solo work, Lizzy blends singer-songwriter tradition with modern day jazz. While Nostalgia 77’s influence is evident, it does not overshadow Lizzy. Taken from her album Raise The Roof (2009), “Take Care” embodies complex nu-jazz arrangements, rich vocals and excellent Lamdin’s production. Her cover version of Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool” is a real old-school R&B meets funky jazz treat.
If you think that April Smith and the Great Picture Show sounds like the name of some 1930s vaudeville act — well, you wouldn’t be so far off. The upbeat and retro stylings of April Smith and her band bring to mind cabaret acts, jazz, and swing with an indie twist. As we saw at SXSW, there’s a swagger to her live set as well as the band’s recordings. April’s brassy vocals are well matched by the myriad of instruments backing her, including piano, upright bass, horns, accordion, drums, guitar and even a ukulele. Her album, Songs For A Sinking Ship, was a true-blue grassroots effort, financed by her fans on Kickstarter.com and the result is stunning, quirky and lively. This is burlesque with a swagger… and a heart. Take a listen to “Colors” and “Movie Loves A Screen” below and just try to refrain from clapping along.
When it comes to Hip-Hop, at Aurgasm we enjoy the abstract, the instrumental and the funkier side of the genre. Paris based Namasté provides me with that kind of melodic, funky tune I enjoy playing any time of the day. A mixture of urban style beat, soulful saxophone and bass, some neat sampling and an Indie approach would best describe the vibe of Namasté. “L’absurde”, taken from the band’s first EP of the same name, carries mid tempo stylish grooves and catchy French lyrics.
Undeservingly forgotten and ignored for decades, in the late 70’s Lagos, as a large Nigerian metropolitan, was home to many recording studios and the real disco queen of West Africa. Lagos Disco Inferno (2010) is the first compilation of rare and groovy Nigerian disco tunes released outside of Africa. The compilation offers 12 examples of the 70’s disco era where African rhythms meet irresistible urban grooves. “Boogie Trip”, the opening track of the record, gives a taste of this funky and vibrant 70’s spirit, carrying that somewhat familiar disco vibe, yet unique and exotic. Put on your dancing shoes!
The story of Okou begins in a Parisian bar. Tatiana Heintz, originally from the Ivory Coast, and Gilbert Trefzger, a Swiss guitarist with Egyptian roots, are truly world artists. Their debut album Serpentine (2010) blends sounds from around the globe. Serpentine captures the spirit of soul, blues and roots music, evoking the best American folk traditions and New Orleans’ sound with a delicate European touch. The acoustic guitars and banjo arrangements with the somewhat old-fashioned groove make “To The Bone” a perfect road trip soundtrack. Seductively mellow, French sung “A L’aurore” is a real West Africa meets New Orleans musical gem. The outstanding song carries rich instrumentation that includes strings, banjo and tuba.
At Aurgasm we love warm Brazilian saudade quality in our music (and our drink). Seeing Brazilian CéU live in Seattle a couple of weeks ago only came as reaffirmation. CéU, along Bossa princess Bebel Gilberto and the funkier Cibelle, is a fine contemporary Brazilian artist. We featured CéU back in 2007 with her stunning take on Fela Kuti — Africa meets South America. Since then, the Brazilian songstress released a few EP’s, was featured in Starbucks’ Hear Music Debut series and was nominated to both Grammy and Latin Grammy awards. Her 2009 album Vagarosa is a beauty fusing everything from funky, cool rhythms to the slow and easy-going percussive grooves. So felt we need to tell you again about her, in case you missed last time.
Singer-songwriter Laura Jansen has popped up a few times on Aurgasm before: once last year on the Jason Kanakis track “Anything,” and most recently when we covered her set at SXSW last month. It’s about time for a proper introduction. Laura’s unique indie piano-pop is exceptionally lovely, and manages to showcase her incredible songwriting and ethereal vocals at the same time. She skillfully combines rich instrumentation and sweet melody, with gorgeous results. The songs on her latest EP, Single Girls, run the gamut from playful to reflective and wistful, but they all manage an expressive eloquence that is mesmerizing. Take a listen to “The End” and “Single Girls” from Single Girls and see for yourself.