ON REPEAT: How To Dress Well – “Repeat Pleasure” (A. G. Cook Remix)

How to Dress Well

How To Dress Well (aka Tom Krell)

ON REPEAT is a feature at Chickens Don’t Clap! that draws special attention to my favorite, faaaavorite tracks. It’s all love here, but these jams are the cream of the crop in my world right now.

PC Music founder A. G. Cook and Numbers producer Sophie (all but an official member of the PC Music crew) are currently leading a revolution of self-aware, warped, club-leaning pop music that is as infectious as it is innovative. Cook continues to prove himself as the most measured and accessible producer of the bunch, capable of the kind of hyped-up, distorted club music that characterizes the collective, but also something far more patient like this slow-burning rework of How To Dress Well‘s “Repeat Pleasure”.

From its bizarrely bent intro on through its climactic finish, this remix is nothing short of ingenious. Cook dismantles the entire composition and restructures it to his liking, twisting the first verse into a jagged mess of pitch shifts and light sprinklings of synth in a reimagined introduction for the track. The second verse of the song is cut completely, as are the soft and warm acoustic sounds of the original. Instead, Cook relishes the refrains of “Repeat Pleasure” and allows Tom Krell’s vocals to soar over cold, otherworldly walls of synth. The sharp falsetto of “broken my heart will go on” is looped and layered with backup vocals to brilliant effect, helping to create incredible levels of tension in conjunction with Cook’s crescendos of heart-wrenching chords. Finally, as the power of that moment builds upon itself exponentially, the tension snaps and this rework collapses into a subtly unresolved ending that subconsciously drives me to want to play the song again. Intentional or not, this little detail feels reflective of the song’s subject matter— the search for closure amongst anxiety and pain, driven by a nagging pull of chronic dissatisfaction and longing.

For me, this masterful rework from the King Midas of PC Music markedly improves upon the original. Or, at least, turns it into something far more powerful and affecting. An impressive feat, but I’m pretty convinced I shouldn’t expect any less from A. G. Cook  or his affiliates at this point.

Pick up How To Dress Well’s acclaimed new LP, “What Is This Heart?”, over here and peruse the latest releases from PC Music right here.

Tobias Jesso Jr: Take Away Show, 09.10.2014

Tobias Jesso, Jr. is surely the Internet’s indie wunderkind of the moment. This young Vancouver songsmith has entered the scene very cautiously since he was “discovered” after he sent his demo to Chet ‘JR’ White from the now-defunct San Francisco band Girls. A little anticipation goes a long way in this age of instant gratification, but Jesso’s output over the last year amounts to only two fragile and impressive demos uploaded to his YouTube account. That is until his live session for La Blogothèque‘s ongoing “Take Away Show” series, performed at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, cropped up last week.

Jesso’s sound has been likened to any number of piano man singer-songwriters and vulnerable indie darlings— Daniel Johnston, Harry Nilsson, Elton John, Cass McCombs, Jackson Browne, Sparklehorse, and the list goes on. Personally, I’m hearing flashes of Ben Folds, Elliot Smith, and John Lennon at their most tender shine through, as far as increasingly loaded comparisons go. Wait, Ben Folds covered Elliot Smith for The AV Club? Okay, maybe this is it. No… not quite. Maybe Jesso’s just internalized Lennon’s Dakota Demos and put his own spin on the sound. One thing’s clear: wherever he’s coming from, we should be glad he made it here and is crafting such quiet, emotive, and lyrically warm tunes. So far, they all feel pretty timeless.

His live session for La Blogothèque features a performance of his first demo, “Just a Dream”, as well as the previously unheard stunner “Without You”. “Why can’t you just love me? / Should I move on, or should I wait? / And how’d you get so high above me…? / I reach higher, every day”, Jesso aches over the heartfelt nostalgia of his piano melody. He’s not reinventing the wheel here, but he commands a real power nonetheless.

Look for Tobias Jesso, Jr. to release his debut LP on True Panther Sounds sometime in the spring of 2015.

Diggin’ in the Carts: Episode Two

Yesterday, Red Bull Music Academy released episode two of Diggin’ in the Carts— their new series exploring the history of video game music and the far-reaching influence of Japanese composers and game studios on contemporary electronic music, hip-hop, and Western pop culture. So far the series feels more like a pastiche of fascinating little stories from the intertwined development of game music composition and game hardware rather than a fully realized chronicle of the history with complete context. Regardless, there’s much to be gleaned from these first couple episodes.

This installment covers the monumental legacy of Konami and lesser-powerhouse Sunsoft, the raw power of Castlevania and Contra, Masashi Kageyama’s masterful soundtrack for Gimmick!, the convergence of Jpop composers like Akio Dobashi (of Rebecca) and video game music, and the use of additional sound chips within game cartridges to push the sound capabilities of the NES to their limits. Lagrange Point, a game that featured a soundtrack composed by Dobashi, actually had a six-channel FM synth chip embedded in the cartridge. Just amazing.

I’m also reminded that I need to give a shout out to comedian Brent Weinbach’s amazing video game music podcast, The Legacy Music Hour. These guys have definitely been diggin’ in the carts and have covered some of the best game music of all time, including some truly deep cuts even for those well-versed in the genre. Enjoy the new Diggin’ in the Carts episode above and be sure to go check out their podcast afterward.

Ryan Hemsworth & Tomggg: “Cream Soda”

Ryan_Hemsworth_Tomggg-creamsoda

To celebrate his upcoming tour of Japan, Ryan Hemsworth went and dropped an excellent collab with Japanese producer and Maltine Records-affiliate Tomggg a couple weeks go. It should come as no surprise that this track has been in heavy rotation ever since.

On “Cream Soda”, saccharine melodies as sweet as the song’s namesake float along with the whimsy of Earthbound (which receives a deserved nod in the single’s awesome artwork above) and ultimately crescendo into jaw-dropping, nearly tear-inducing heights of joy. Only Hemsworth could flip a “Move That Dope” sample into a track this adorable so effortlessly— whippin’-and-flippin’ the yam never felt so kawaii. Tomggg’s hand is also palpable here, as his distinctive use of those metallic xylophone samples really carries this composition.

Stream and download this triumphant gem below… good luck trying to turn it off once you do.

Sophie: Boiler Room, 08.22.2014

sophie_br

Sophie’s immaculate avatar twiddlin’ knobs like a pro

The Ray-Ban sponsored Boiler Room LA session celebrating the upcoming release of Hudson Mohawke‘s Chimes EP was an awkward spectacle to behold. The live stream went down the rabbit hole quickly after Oneohtrix Point Never‘s solid ambient opening set. Between the kabuki dancers, Eric Wareheim’s decidedly odd and disconnected performance as host (not in the good, Tim & Eric-absurdist way), the concept heavy unveil of QT‘s impossibly sweet debut single “Hey QT”, Busta Rhymes’ cringe-worthy, “I’m not gonna lie right now, I’m high-as-fuck” grade guest performance, Hudson Mohawke’s haphazard mixing, and the lengthy pauses due to continuous technical difficulties, this was certainly a head-scratcher for the ages. Also, is it just me or did HudMo play more songs from the new Rustie record than from the EP he was supposed to be hyping? Lunice eventually brought everyone back to Earth with one of his characteristically energetic trapped-out sets, but he also felt misplaced as the closer for the night.

In my opinion, the reps from PC Music easily stole the show as the only performers who, at least in part, actually set out to confound the audience. QT’s performance of this summer’s bubbliest, and decidedly divisive, dance-pop anthem was equal parts commentary, troll, and genuine statement. A consistent outpouring of internet adoration and rage has ensued. Sophie’s set was packed with swirling, fizzy, forward-thinking club sounds— much of it unreleased— and was laced with its own bit of performance art in that it was performed by an unnamed drag queen DJ stand-in. Some attendees reported that the actual Sophie was there, disguised as a security guard for the duration of the set. Some were so ecstatic they couldn’t contain themselves:

Either way the PC Music movement is only getting more impressive and I’m glad to see them infiltrating more and more spaces that need to be challenged. As great as their tunes are, half the fun is watching the ol’ stick-in-the-muds of electronic music and music criticism explode in a ball of rage and demand to know why everyone is pretending to like these tracks. Of course, the jokes on the detractors; the vehement hatred leveled at QT, Sophie, and their ilk only makes them stronger. I’m looking forward to the next great boundary push from PC Music. Until then, I’ll keep these unreleased Sophie jams on repeat.

Diggin’ in the Carts: The Unsung Heroes + My Favorite 8-Bit Jams

Episode one of Diggin’ in the Carts, the Red Bull Music Academy’s new miniseries that explores the history of video game music and the influential composers of Japan, came out yesterday. This first of six weekly installments gives a brief overview of the origins of sound and music in video games, from Pong to Pacman and beyond, before moving on to the importance of early soundtracks by Namco’s Junko Ozawa and Nintendo’s Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka. A composer and hardware designer, Tanaka had a hand in the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sound chip and also went on to design the sound hardware for the Gameboy.

As a child of the NES epoch, these 8-bit sounds are burrowed deep into my psyche and bring forth a flood of nostalgia and emotion, as they do for much of my generation. I’m excited for the rest of the series and will be sure to post the episodes here. After all, many of these composers haven’t received their due credit, considering the far-reaching influence of their works. It’s great to see them getting it here.

To commemorate the series’ kickoff, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite 8-bit compositions from the golden NES era (presented in no particular order). Peep the list after the jump and feel free to share some of your own favorites in the comments.

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ON REPEAT: Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

Flying Lotus - "You're Dead!"

ON REPEAT is a feature at Chickens Don’t Clap! that draws special attention to my favorite, faaaavorite tracks. It’s all love here, but these jams are the cream of the crop in my world right now.

To be honest, Flying Lotus‘ latest LP, Until the Quiet Comes, felt like a bit of a step back from the ball of frantic and uncompromising energy that was 2010’s Cosmogramma. But that’s probably an unfair comparison in the first place given that, in my opinion, Cosmogramma is Steven Ellison’s masterpiece, unlikely to be surpassed by any of the man’s subsequent works, no matter their quality. At least, that was my opinion before I heard the two new tracks that Ellison has revealed— “Moment of Hesitation” and “Never Catch Me”— from his upcoming LP You’re Dead!, due out Oct. 7th on Warp Records.

Both tracks solidify that not only has FlyLo returned to the ambitious jazz-influenced textures of his 2010 masterwork, but he appears to be pushing those sounds into incredible new territory. In particular, his much anticipated collaboration with the young God Kendrick Lamar showcases the best of all artists involved. Flying Lotus and Thundercat have created the kind of spastic and layered composition that completely melts all expectations. Only a handful of other MCs besides Kendrick could capably navigate this dense soundscape, but I doubt any could do so as gracefully and powerfully. “Never Catch Me” is nearly smothered by the complexity of it all, yet remains anchored by the strongest of grooves and is peppered with the perfect moments of respite. No one oversteps and steals any of the limelight— all shine equally, each a virtuoso in their own right, balanced against one another perfectly.

It might be a bit premature to start chanting “album of the year!”, but take a listen to “Moment of Hesitation” (featuring the old God Herbie Hancock) and try to tell me you don’t want to start making proclamations too. Oh, this LP preview doesn’t hurt either. Brace yourselves, kiddos.

Pre-order You’re Dead! over at Bleep right now.

James Blake: “200 Press” + BBC Mix

jamesblake

“Keep James Blake Weird”

James Blake is no stranger to eschewing expectations, moving from forward-thinking post-dubstep producer to more recent major-label backed successes that layer his enigmatic compositions with his surprisingly soulful croons. James’ strengths are many, but all remain firmly grounded by his ability to command emotion, rhythm, and melody in a way that feels very much his own. Straight to the heart, through a brilliantly cracked lens.

I have a soft spot for those who get a taste of success and continue to keep things jarring and new. And “200 Press” does just that. For this new tasty bit of filth, James affixes samples from an obscure Andre 3000 feature spot and Three Six Mafia’s “Late Nite Tip” to a clang of interlocked percussive rattles, sparse synth stabs, caterwauling vocal clips, and rumbling low-end. This slow burning sway builds into a claustrophobic climax before plunging back into the cold rhythmic refrain.

While James could be poised for serious crossover success on his next effort, his consistent left field bent is still obviously a central component to his works— a brief perusal of recent Harmonimix edits will provide additional confirmation of this fact. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

Look for “200 Press” to drop on 1-800-Dinosaur (yes, only 200 copies will in fact be pressed) and listen to Blake’s recent, eclectic mix for his BBC Radio 1 Residency show in its entirety over here.

Julio Bashmore: “Peppermint” (feat. Jessie Ware)

Julio Bashmore and Jessie Ware, who already have a number of impressive collaborative works under their belt, recently dropped a new addictive and dance floor-ready jam. “Peppermint” effortlessly fuses timeless house vibes with a decidedly contemporary UK-pop bend that recalls Brit counterparts Disclosure. That being said, this track is unmistakably Bashmore– the lush synths, pulsating sub bass, remarkable builds, those 909 claps and that groove. And, of course, Jessie Ware’s vocal work is as on-point as ever.

It’s also nice to see Bashmore recover from his previous single “Duccy”, which was one of the first tracks I ever saw roundly panned by the typically positive SoundCloud community. Perhaps “Duccy” was a failed attempt at minimalism, but “Peppermint” makes no such missteps. Expert production right here.

Watch the awesome stop-motion animated video for “Peppermint” above, which explores evolution, the cosmic (dis)order of nature, and creating infinitely from a small handful of building blocks as an allegory for house music.

ON REPEAT: AWE – “Crystals”

AWE - "Crystals"

ON REPEAT is a new feature at Chickens Don’t Clap! that draws special attention to my favorite, faaaavorite tracks. It’s all love here, but these jams are the cream of the crop in my world right now.

Young Los Angeles producer AWE has been compiling notable accolades since his debut EP Eagle Soul dropped on Terrorhythm last May. Though that release dipped a little too far into the hardstyle-trap set for my tastes, it remains an impressive collection of massive, genre-blending tracks that run the gamut from ice cold festival bro-bangers to warm, melody-driven vibe-out anthems.

More recently, AWE’s following has been losing its collective shit over his latest offering, “Crystals”, ever since Plastician premiered the track on his Rinse FM show last year. It’s been a long wait for its release in this Internet-defined epoch, but this bit of triumphant future-bass wizardry finally arrived in full 320kbps non-radio rip form this week. “Crystals” unquestionably finds AWE at his most Rustie; the builds, drops, breakdowns, layers of excellent melodies, serious low-end grooves, and then that lead synth that rides in at 4:17? Jeeeeeeez. It’s over. This is 2014’s walk-into-the-sunset end credit music for the 16/32-bit video game kid in high-fidelity.

It might’ve been best to strike when the iron was hottest, but this track is killer enough that AWE should find himself with legions of new fans. As an added bonus, we now also get Djemba Djemba‘s hyped up chipmunk-Jpop DnB remix as a companion piece. Well worth the wait, I’d say.