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ORTHY DANCES INTO THE HEART
August 8, 2016 12:08 pm

Ian Orth is an Austin, TX songwriter and producer. His dance project Orthy is a perfect example of the wide variation of music coming out of Austin. Besides the more well known acts such as Spoon, Okkervil River or Explosions in the Sky there is another side to the Austin music scene that Orthy well represents.

The project was inspired by a combination of events. A weekly dance party hosted by Orth in Austin went by the name of Learning Secrets. This was an event that Orth and others would host to try and introduce people that were typically fans of rock music to the electronic dance music scene. They would bring in the best DJs around to try to expose the crowd to a night of good vibes and stellar beats. Orth had been writing music for a good period of time, but never felt the urge to share the music with anyone.

That all changed when he met his soon to be wife. Orth said in an interview, “…Then I fell in love with my fiancée, and I know it’s kind of cliché or easy to say, but I just started writing all of these songs and all of it sort of started coming out.” After that, the music had to go somewhere. It came out in the form of Orthy’s first EP in 2011 called Suenos. The three tracks on the EP have a very organic feel to them, as far as electronic music goes. There’s a bedroom production quality to the tunes that is undeniably attractive. The track “City Girl” is a standout cut.

Orthy came back in 2014 with another EP called E.M.I.L.Y that garnered the band a little bit of critical success. They were featured on NPR’s World Cafe later that same year. Most recently, in 2015, the act released yet another EP titled Listen to Her Heart after the Tom Petty classic. Orth reworked the Petty song into a slow pulsing electronic groove. The EP also contains remixes of a few tracks that appeared on 2014’s E.M.I.L.Y.

Orthy will be playing at the Sound on Sound festival in Sherwood Forest outside of Austin with a killer lineup featuring Courtney Barnett, Run the Jewels and Phantogram to name just a few. Keep an eye out for Orthy in the future as they have to be poised to release a full length record at some point.

FLUME GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN
July 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Electronica, Dubstep, Trap, House and Dance are some of your standard groupings for modern EDM. Flume seems to achieve a transcendence of all this while mixing in some profoundly experimental sounds and strong hip-hop elements. His newest album Skin is this great achievement. Suffering from a handful of small issues throughout the album, Flume still brings new life to the genre.

Born in Australia, Harley Streten began making music with a basic production disc found inside his cereal box at 13 years old. At the age of 21, his first album, self-titled Flume, was put out through Future Classic and the next year, 2013, it had a strong US release. With songs like Some Minds that came out in 2015, tours and popular remixes, Streten has been one active young man.

This brings us to Skin. I’ll be upfront, it isn’t my favorite of all his music, but this does not mean that it doesn’t have some seriously impressive tracks that will find their ways to my personal playlists.

flume-skin

From the beginning of Skin, songs like “Helix” and “Numb & Getting Colder” really show off his deep dedication to EDM and the art of music. He throws out the standard formula of builds and drops on many tracks for progressive pieces that feature very unique sounds and samples. Just like Skrillex and Daft Punk have explored what sounds can be made inside of software programs, Streten brings some surprisingly new sounds to the world. Listen to “Lose It”, “Free” and “Innocence” to better understand this impressive creative nature he has deep in him.

This is the main strength of the album, the ability to meld different sounds and use various samples in odd and interesting ways you’ve never imagined would work so well together. Flume is also a master of bass, seriously, your subwoofer probably hasn’t worked this hard in a long time. With pounds of drums and ambient bass lines, I haven’t heard songs with beautiful bass lines like this since Deadmau5’s 4×4=12.   

He also mixes in a lot more hip-hop than I expected and it makes his music even more appealing and more addictive. You Know is such a progressive hip-hop/rap dedicated piece, if it weren’t for the other similar songs, you wouldn’t believe it was actually on Skin. My favorite on the album is Smoke and Retribution featuring Vince Staples and Kučka, its rhythm is so strong and the pauses with light synth parts is downright powerful.

Skin takes some dedicated time to understand and appreciate. It does something that I haven’t seen anywhere else using very different tones and genre melding tracks even including the infamous Beck. It is a hit and miss though, some tracks are great and appeal to everyone, but others might be only attractive to a select few. But if you like any kind of EDM, you’ll find a new favorite song from Flume.

DELOREAN: A MUZIK TIME MACHINE
June 29, 2016 12:04 pm

Delorean has been through more things than your average band since they last released an album. After being kidnapped in 2013 while on tour in Mexico City, the Spanish indie dance quartet have given us their fifth album, Muzik. Dance music requires the ability to be audibly stimulating, but also physically experienced. The majority of the tracks heard on Muzik rely on the driving force of the kick drum and smooth aural landscapes painted by synthesizers. While not a complete departure from their previous sound, this album shows new growth for the band.

The album is nearly 100% electronic with real drums as the only organic aspect of the sound. For this record, Delorean chose to mix their knack for indie pop with their House music influences. In a recent interview, they explained what they meant by House music, “House is a very broad term, so we did not want to focus on a type of House, but to honor all its forms and productions that we have been absorbing throughout our lives.” Those House influences are very apparent on the title track, “Muzik,” opening with an atmospheric synth pad and Ekhi Lopetegi’s vocal part while slowly adding a kick and a snappy high hat before turning into a real dance track for the last half of the tune.

Their DJ mixing abilities that dramatically influenced 2010’s critically acclaimed album Subiza have culminated here on Muzik in an ultra modern fashion. They worked with remixer DJ Kigo to open a local club called Desparrame. This was the launching pad for their remixing skills. The 2013 effort Apar met the critical acclaim of Subiza thanks to a progression in those skills. Since 2010, Delorean has become as known for their marathon DJ sets as they are for their material as a band.

Standout tracks on the new album include “Contra,” “Muzik” and the closer “Parrhesia.” Throughout their career, Delorean have created their own blend of melody and emotions. The sound that they once pioneered is more commonplace these days, yet Delorean continues to deliver the sonic quality that is expected of them. As of now, the band is only playing a handful of tour dates in Europe, but should they announce a tour in the states, they should not be missed. They have toured with the likes of Miike Snow in the past, so it would be fair to expect them on a good tour this time around.

With Muzik, you get a bit less of the indie rock heaviness and more of the 80’s disco vibes that make it easy to see why the band named themselves after a time machine from a classic 80’s film. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that Delorean can and will continue to make modern albums that take us back to a time when dance pop was king.

8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS
April 15, 2016 9:00 am

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

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Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM’S INEVITABLY TRIUMPHANT RETURN
January 14, 2016 1:40 pm

By now the “farewell concert” has become something of a cliché.

Ever since Jay-Z hosted his retirement extravaganza back in 2003 (which didn’t last very long), the legitimacy of other acts celebrating their exit from show business has been somewhat questionable. Let’s be honest though, are we ever upset when one of favorite artists decides to come out of the wood work and start performing again? Absolutely not.

LCD Soundsystem, what hasn’t been said about them already?  For a band with a relatively short life span of only 10 years, they released three critically acclaimed albums, and for many of us, defined an indelible era of musical history.

Although it’s easy to forget sometimes, given how popular music has shifted toward an EDM-dominated landscape, that there was a time when electronic music wasn’t very ‘cool’ at all.

It was flaunted by cool kids, hipsters.  LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy first made a name for himself by co-founding DFA Records, a record label that quickly picked up steam as an underground advocate for house music’s accession into the mainstream.

By the time LCD Soundsystem formed in 2001 their hometown of Brooklyn had already been transformed into the central hub of hipsterdom (yeah I know, I made up a word, but so what?!).  Indie electronic music was about to explode into a global phenomenon.  Albums like Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours, Jus†ice’s , and lest we forget, LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver, received not only rave reviews from the music press, but were starting to cut mainstream pop out of the picture all together. This empowering shift marked the beginning of the digital age, for the first time since recorded music’s inception, listeners were choosing their own music, and plugging their iPod’s (that’s right) into their car stereos rather than listening to overly-glossed Top 40 hits and mainly commercials.

By the end of the decade LCD Soundsystem was on top of the world.  Sold out concerts, packed festivals, and Murphy plastered onto the front page of every music publication possible.

Then, like all good things, LCD Soundsystem decided it was time to call it quits.  On February 5th, 2011, the band announced on their website that they thought it was better to quit while they were ahead and go out with a bang.

On April 2nd, 2011, at Madison Square Garden, the band performed their final show.

Hold on, hold on. Where have a heard this before? This is bogus! You know this isn’t going to last! Come on!

Sure enough…on January 5th this note was posted to their website.  That’s right, they’re back. Like really back.

Of course, it’s no surprise that somehow Coachella managed to cash in on their triumphant return. While we can safely assume plenty of festival-goers will flock to the outskirts of Palo Alto to sweat it out this April, where will LCD Soundsystem appear next?  For now, my friends, the answer to that question is shrouded in mystery.  The only hint is a promising yet cryptic message on their website: “2016 tour dates coming soon.”  I supposed we’ll have to wait it out (although, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be playing somewhere in the vicinity of New York.)

By far the most important tidbit of information is that there’s a new album in the works.

LCD Soundsystem has a pretty awesome discography. It’s dancey, but sophisticated. It’s music that celebrates dusting off obscure records for audiophiles with an interest in obscure music. You know, like cool kids. Hipsters.

So in short, farewell concerts are probably a sham, so don’t drive halfway across the country to celebrate your favorite band’s early–er, I mean, botched retirement. LCD Soundsystem is back and 2016 is going to be an awesome year to ”Dance Yrself Clean yet again!

LEGS: MUSIC FOR THE BODY
June 11, 2015 2:46 pm

As one of Brooklyn’s hottest bands, Legs has a bright future full of riveting music and a compelling live personality. I sat down with Legs’ singer Tito Ramsey, guitarist Charles Larson, keyboardist Jack Ramsey, and drummer Juan Miguel before one of their Brooklyn shows to try to uncover the secret to their success.

Alright, Legs. Tito, Charles, Jack, Juan… Isn’t there a fifth?

It’s five of us, yeah. My brother [Herman Marin] lives in Lima, so we’re coordinating the project long distance.

That’s quite a distance to cover…

Yeah, but we started the project with him being in New York, and since we’re brothers, these two guys [Tito and Jack] are brothers, Charlie is a brother at heart, so we wanted to keep it in the family.

Now you guys are from Seattle, right? Two of you are at least.

Outside of Seattle: a small town like an hour outside where we [Tito, Jack, Charlie] all grew up.

Then why Brooklyn? Why here?

Tito: Charlie came first out of the three of us.

Charles: No, Jack did.

Tito: Oh yeah, Jack came for music school.

Jack: Yeah, I came out here about nine years ago to go to the New School jazz program. I did that, then I just stayed out here after to try to play some music in the city. Tito moved out here and we all kinda met. Him and Juan met by happenstance…

Juan: Yeah it was some kind of Fourth of July party that both of us were kind of forced to go to, and we had a real good conversation and we realized that we both have brothers in the city and we both wanted to play music and we were on the same page.

Tito: Yeah I came for music, my wife came for art, Charlie, you came for…

Charles: Music. I was playing music back home in Seattle, but… I was bored.

Yeah and you guys had the same musical ideas…

Yeah it was a good vibe, for sure. And just a kind of camaraderie. I had spent a long time in Seattle trying to bring various music projects together. That worked out, and then for whatever reason didn’t continue. But right off the bat this kind of just came together.

legs

How would you summarize Legs in one sentence?

Tito: I would say “interesting dance music.”

Charles: “Music for the body.”

Jack: I would just quote our manifesto: “Music for the body, music that makes you feel something.”

Tito: This is more than one sentence, but I mean we make music that we think will be fun to dance to, that kind of fits like an “indie dance” because we’re… it’s not straight ahead funk. We’re not pulling from the straight-ahead rhythms necessarily, but pulling from all of our interests. Jack studied jazz, Juan has varied, wide interests. When we first started hanging out, he had a huge set up of samplers and loop pedals and sound-making devices, so we incorporated that stuff. And Charlie has just played in a lot of bands, rock bands. He’s a songwriter, has interest in song forms…

Jack: One of the things that speaks to me about the music that we’re doing is that it is music to dance to and to feel good to and bring people together, but because it draws from these different influences, it feels different to me than just house music, or party music. It’s an outlet for other things, and we use language from other genres and make it something that means more as an expression than just house beats, which is a tricky line to walk. Especially writing little sketches of ideas on Garageband, everything I write turns into a house song, and you’re like “dammit, not that again!”

Juan: Not that there’s anything wrong with that music.

Tito: No, no, I actually really enjoy that music.

It’s just not what Legs is about.

Tito: Right.

Ian: Cool, so it’s dance music… which of you guys is the best dancer?

Tito: Probably me, probably. I don’t see these guys dance a whole lot. Juan has to be seated at the drums.

Charles: I don’t dance? [laughter]

Tito: Charlie moves…

But you [Tito] have to move to engage everybody.

Tito: Yeah it’s definitely part of the show, I think; moving because I’m able to. I don’t have a guitar strapped around me. Jack has two keyboards. I make a point to turn my keyboard so that I’m open to the audience.

Jack: I’m just waiting for the right moment. It’s like in a kung fu movie, you see the guy who’s not moving a whole lot, not fighting, but you wait ’til the end of the movie, he pulls out the best move out of everybody.

Charles: I’m still waiting on that…

Tito: Yeah well it’s not the end of the movie yet, is it?

That’s awesome. So you guys just released a new album; how is it different from your old stuff?

Juan: I think it was kind of an evolution off an EP that we put out in 2013 that was essentially a live EP. We were just going to the studio with the idea to make some demos, but they turned out nice enough that we decided to put them out as an EP. So it’s an evolution—there’s a little more production going into the record—but we’re still very much a band in development. We’re working on tweaks in the studio. We feel very comfortable playing live, so we try to keep it as live as possible without getting too crazy for the computer.

Charles: I think there’s more maturity in our songwriting. The give and the take of playing with one another, and that whole process.

So it’s kind of an organic development over time, that’s cool. I loved your music videos; where do you come up with ideas for that?

Tito: Juan is the major videographer force in the group, being that he produces videos. So “Jungle” came based on a sketch that he made. I work in a barbershop, and it’s a beautiful space, so that was a main trigger for Juan; he was like “if we could do something in there, that would make a great space.” And we have a lot of really great friends in film. Rafael Salazar…

Juan: …Javier Andrade. He did the “High Time” video for us a long time ago. So yeah, we pitch some ideas, we love collaborating with people—friends—when they’re in town. So whenever we can we go for it.

Jack: Yeah I think that’s another really cool thing about this project is that it’s allowed us to collaborate with some really talented people and kind of bring more people into the project, into the whole thing; it’s fun with such talented people.

Awesome. You guys have toured all over the world, including South American and North America; which is your favorite city to play in?

Juan: Seattle was a lot of fun for me. I don’t know though, I think we’ve experienced opposite things, because when we went to play in Seattle I was blown away, and I felt really loved by the Seattle crew.

Jack: It was kind of a homecoming for us. We hadn’t shown the band there yet.

Juan: And then we did the opposite; when we went to record the album in Quito, we went to play a show there and that was very special for me, but I think it was probably a different dimension for you guys because we were playing in a different country, and the idea of that in itself is weird.

Tito: The show we played there… When we went to Ecuador it was like a house party on a rooftop, and just the vibe of the people that were there… not like here. People were amped just to be involved. The party went until like 5 in the morning. It was really cool.

Your guys’ music was featured in the movie “Obvious Child.” How did you pull that off, and how did you feel about how they used your music? Did you see the movie?

Tito: Yeah of course, it was amazing. Juan was involved…

Juan: I was involved; I did the titles and the key art for the festival run, so before it was bought. Through that project for me as a designer I got to know Gillian and Elizabeth, the director and producer, and I think around the same time we were premiering our EP, and I was sharing it—more in terms of “Hey this is my band, just wanted to share the music”—without even thinking that Gillian was going to pick it for the movie. Through that process I had seen different cuts of the movie and was sort of a big fan, so when that came to be it was really awesome.

Yeah, and the song is called “So Obvious,” so it kind of is so obvious that it would be there.

Tito: Yeah, and it’s in one of my favorite scenes of the movie.

So you really like how they used it.

Tito: Yeah. But just to be in there was great.

Juan: It’s sort of like the thing that just happens in New York.

Yeah you meet people and…

Juan: Exactly.

Tito: Yeah, and Gillian supported our Kickstarter; it’s been a really nice connection.

Are you playing mostly in New York, or are you going out?

Tito: We’ll do several shows in New York, but trying not to overdo it. We’ll pick and choose the shows that we think’ll be really fun, because we play at a lot of little venues around town. We’re going to Ecuador next month, doing at least three shows out there so that’s a big summer thing. That’ll be, like, the release of the album in Ecuador, and there’s been a lot of support to make the record from Ecuador; social media support from there has been huge, bigger than here in a way.

Juan: …and even press there, in a way, because it’s different. I remember when we were recording the album down there, there were like two or three national TV stations coming to the studio for a little bit, and that sort of stuff gives you exposure that’s harder to get here. Plus there’s a lot of really good things happening in the music scene in Ecuador. There’s a lot of bands, so we kind of feel like we want to be a part of that.

Yeah and it’s cool that you can sort of permeate both the New York and Ecuadorian markets. And the Seattle market…

Tito: Yeah we want to go out there in the Fall…  what else are we doing boys?

Jack: We’re playing a little festival upstate called the Wassaic Project. We’re playing that in July.

Juan: And then we wanna get back into writing, to get the new record as ready as possible.

The next record?

Jack: Yeah, we’re pretty diligent about keeping new material ready. We need to keep working.

How many songs do you have ready for that?

Juan: We have a lot of ideas.

Tito: It’s hard to tell at this point what’ll be a song. We record all of our rehearsals, so there’s a lot of material on the table already. Everyone’s got their own little demos at home too, so what’s gonna work actually brought in and played out with the group… There’s always lot of material.

Charles: Which is a good thing.

Jack: Twenty slow jams. [laughter]

Tito: To be a little more specific though, I think one of the big goals actually coming up for the group is just to get everyone singing. At this point it’s a lot of just me, but everyone sings, so I would look forward to that coming up, which I think will actually change the game a little bit for our live show.

Yeah you’ll have harmony and stuff on top of each other. I’m sure it’ll sound great, Atypical Sounds is looking forward to it! Thanks a lot guys!

Tito: Thank you!