Culturedarm’s Songs of the Month (August 2017)

Kelela – ‘LMK’

Kelela announced Take Me Apart last month, her upcoming album and a relaunch of sorts as her full-length debut, even though Cut 4 Me, her breakthrough mixtape, and the Hallucinogen EP already firmly established her reputation for cutting edge, sleek and sinewy, menacing through its emotional honesty, beat-driven, minimalist, alternative R&B. The turn of August brought a release date of 6 October, and a new single, ‘LMK’.

‘LMK’ sees Kelela reunited with Jam City, the producer who helped furnish ‘Keep It Cool’ and ‘Cherry Coffee’ from Cut 4 Me. Built on the tension between ominous synths and glimmering keys, muscular beats entwined with superslick handclaps, Kelela opens bluntly and forwardly with the threat of retreat, telling her prospective one-time partner ‘Look, I’ll give up right away / And you’ll never figure out / What you said, but it’s cool, baby’. The song addresses a possible intimacy while gesturing towards the wider gender inequality of the club, where men are presumed to favour brief dalliances, one-night stands, quick in-and-outs lubricated by the lure of intense but fleeting attraction, while women are burdened with expectations of commitment, even marriage.

Kelela’s point is that she wants what she wants when she wants it: ‘No one’s trying to settle down’, and whether they hook up for the night ‘It ain’t that deep, either way’, but if the object of her interest can muster the capacity to treat her as an equal, to read the signs barely masking her almost palpable desire, then the outcome is simple, ‘All you gotta do is let me know’. The video for ‘LMK’ was directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, who has previously worked with Björk on ‘Mutual Core’ and extensively across the innovative video installations accompanying Vulnicura. He writes:

‘We wanted make a video that showcases the multiplicity of who Kelela is and who she has the potential to be. The video is essentially a grand unveiling featuring Kelela wearing different wigs and guises as she pushes through the club with her friends, ultimately revealing herself.’

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Fumio Miyashita – ‘Live on The Boffomundo Show’ (Excerpt)

The Boffomundo Show existed between 1979 and 1981, the ‘early daze of cable’, as a talk show devoted specifically to the musicians of progressive rock and jazz fusion. Hosted by Ron Curtiss and Aaron Weiner, co-produced and co-written by Len Peyronnin, and developing a relationship with Tony Harrington of All Ears Records, the show featured interviews with such luminaries as Robert Fripp, Phil Collins, and Al Di Meola, which Curtiss and Weiner have been remastering and reissuing over the course of the past year.

The Boffomundo Show’s first live in-studio musical performance came courtesy of Fumio Miyashita, who was then embarking on a solo career after the best part of a decade as the frontman for The Far East Family Band. Widely regarded as the first Japanese progressive rock group, The Far East Family Band released five albums with Miyashita contributing on vocals, synths, guitar, and bamboo flute. Now Drag City are set to release the full recording of Miyashita’s fledgeling solo performance, with Live On The Boffomundo Show out on 22 September.

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Carmen Villain – ‘Borders’ (feat. Jenny Hval)

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Forest Swords – ‘Raw Language’

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A$AP Twelvyy – ‘Hop Out’

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Rae Sremmurd – ‘Perplexing Pegasus’

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Vindata + Skrillex + NSTASIA – ‘Favor’

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Jackie Shane – ‘Any Other Way’

‘Any Other Way’ was the biggest hit of Jackie Shane’s relatively short but storied career. Originally from Nashville, she relocated to Montreal and then to Toronto after linking up with the saxophonist King Herbert Whitaker and bandleader Frank Motley, before going solo with a cover of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ in 1962. ‘Any Other Way’ soon followed, reaching number 2 on Toronto’s longstanding CHUM Chart, but although she began to receive a modicum of airplay in the United States with the follow-up ‘In My Tenement’, and was releasing her music through Sue Records based out of New York, Shane subsequently faded from view and recorded nothing for the next couple of years.

A black transgender woman working in soul before the word ‘transgender’ was coined never mind commonplace, her Southern roots and elaborate stage presence brought unfounded rumours of a familial relationship with Little Richard. Across 1962 and 1963 she performed regularly at Toronto’s Sapphire Tavern, her booming voice and teasing manner making her a popular figure at other clubs like the Zanzibar, Club 888, and The Blue Note. When she returned to the scene in 1967 it was with a reissue of ‘Any Other Way’ and a new album, Jackie Shane Live, taken from one of her Sapphire Tavern appearances in 1963. Two more singles came and went, and in 1971 Shane returned to the United States, turning down an offer to join George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic and all but disappearing after several brief and fruitless tours.

In 2010, CBC Radio’s Inside the Music aired ‘I Got Mine: The Story of Jackie Shane’. Only subsequently was Shane found alive and well back in Nashville, putting to bed untoward rumours of her demise. In 2011, Jackie Shane Live received a couple of reissues, and amid bonus tracks and compilations the resurgent interest in the singer saw Jackie Shane Live twice shortlisted for a Polaris Music Prize Heritage Award.

Now the Numero Group are set to release the first artist-approved collection of Shane’s work, a double-record offering comprising all six of her singles plus live sessions at the Sapphire Tavern with previously unreleased tracks. The title of the collection – which will be released on 20 October – is Any Other Way. The song remains Jackie Shane’s defining track, its blaring horns and slinking percussion supporting Shane’s voice, at once soft yet authoritative, forlorn but defiant and proud. Shane subtly changed a lyric from the opening verse of the song, a cover of the original by William Bell: where Bell offers dwindling assurances in the face of his former lover, ‘Tell her that I’m happy / Tell her that I’m okay’, Shane opted for something more resilient and revealing, ‘Tell her that I’m happy / Tell her that I’m gay’.

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Ariel Pink – ‘Feels Like Heaven’

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Machine Woman – ‘Camile From OHM Makes Me Feel Loved’

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Julia Michaels – ‘Worst In Me (Stripped)’

With a slew of songwriting credits already to her name – from her work alongside BloodPop and Justin Tranter on the songs ‘Sorry’ and ‘Friends’ by Justin Bieber, to wholesale contributions to albums by Hailee Steinfeld, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, and Gwen Stefani – 2017 has seen the birth of Julia Michaels’ solo career. Her debut EP, Nervous System, was released at the tail end of July, and although it weighs in at just under 22 minutes, in scope and realisation it feels like an album’s worth of songs, featuring seven eloquently expressive, impeccably constructed, perfectly concise snatches of modern pop.

Michaels teamed up for Nervous System with some big-hitting writers and producers, including Tranter, Stargate, and Mattman & Robin. Yet it’s impossible for her to sound any better than she does here, on this stripped-back performance of ‘Worst In Me’ which arrived via Vevo LIFT.

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Bomba Estéreo – ‘Amar Así’

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Pia Mia – ‘I’m A Fan’ (feat. Jeremih)

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Lil B – ‘Global’ (feat. iLoveMakonnen)

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DJ Python – ‘Yo Ran (Do)’

Variously recording under the monikers DJ Wey, DJ Xanax, and Luis, the Queens-based artist DJ Python – real name Brian Piñeyro – is set to release a new album, Dulce Campañia, which will be out on the fledgeling label Incienso on 25 September. With a palette that throbs and lingers across the genres of deep house, shoegaze, trance, and reggaeton, as DJ Python Piñeyro homes in on what he refers to as ‘deep reggaeton’, a style and a mood well exemplified by album closer ‘Yo Ran(Do)’. The deceptively quick pace of the dembow riddim and the incessant humming of the bass is glossed by squiggly and spacious synths and redolent vocal fragments, for a song at once propulsive and contemplative, and airy enough to lift you out of a tight spot.

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GoldLink – ‘Meditation’ (feat. Jazmine Sullivan & Kaytranada)

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Grouper – ‘Children’

 

The delicate, enveloping piano-led songs which comprise Ruins – recorded on a portable 4-track during a residency in Portugal in 2011 – for their heartrending intimacy and lyrical content always seemed to centre upon love, lost and forsaken, resigned, shapeless and fighting self-abnegation, restless, lingering, enduring, the possibility of love. But even with that record Liz Harris gestured towards a political content often overlooked: ‘political anger’ alongside ’emotional garbage’, ‘failed structures’ intensifying or rudely disrupting the feeling of ‘living in the remains of love’. Now Harris has released ‘Children’, an offshoot from the same sessions, a much more explicitly political song with some of the proceeds going to the Silvia Rivera Law Center, Transgender Law Center, and Trans Assistance Project. Harris wrote:

‘Towards the end of making RUINS I wrote a song that never made it onto the album. Though it felt aesthetically similar, something about the content and energy felt distinct in a way that didn’t fit the rest of the music. I pushed it away, unsure what to do with it, and eventually forgot I’d recorded it. This year, amidst chaotic and painful political times, while working on another project, it reemerged and made more sense.’

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Jessy Lanza – ‘I Talk BB’

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Martin Glass – ‘Sound & Image’

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A$AP Mob – ‘Feels So Good’

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dd elle – ‘latin aphorism’

 

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Babyfather – ‘Benzo Amore’ (feat. A$AP Rocky)

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BICEP – ‘GLUE’

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K Á R Y Y N – ‘MOVING MASSES’

Over the past six months, the Syrian-American-Armenian artist K Á R Y Y N has been steadily uploading songs to SoundCloud and YouTube: ‘ALEPPO’ with its celestial, layered vocals over droning and buzzing electronics, the lusciously alliterative ‘BINARY’, by turns cooing and jarringly chopped up, the sustained and unfolding narrative hum of ‘PURGATORY’, some of these accompanied by short films showing Syria and family footage from K Á R Y Y N’s youth. Her latest, the breathtaking ‘MOVING MASSES’, is taken from the opera Of Light, for which K Á R R Y N was the composer. ‘A durational performance, an incantation of celestial rhythm’, performed largely in darkness and inspired by Icelandic nature, it was directed by Samantha Shay, and premiered at the Tjarnarbio Theatre in Reykjavik – to the acclaim of Björk and Marina Abramović – in the summer of last year.

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Zola Jesus – ‘Exhumed’

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Wolf Alice – ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’

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So Much Light – ‘Let It Absorb You’

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Open Mike Eagle – ’95 Radios’

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Kodie Shane – ‘Full Clip’ (feat. Lil Wop)

Few artists can boast a month as busy as Kodie Shane’s August. The Atlanta native and first female member of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team, still just 18 years old, began the month with the late-night neon of ‘Full Clip’ featuring Lil Wop, following it up with a new video for last year’s breakout ‘Drip On My Walk’, before ‘Level Up’ coincided with the release of her latest seven-song EP Back From The Future. She is currently part of Lil Yachty’s ‘Teenage Tour’ which runs until the end of September. And even after releasing Back From The Future, she still found time to round off August with the swarming, stretched-out dub-meets-club of ‘Start a Riot’. Her endlessly malleable voice within the same verse, phrase, or sentence can sound loose and drawling or taut and articulate, her songs – running the gamut from hip hop to dancehall to R&B – threateningly coy, blissfully summery, or seasonless and carefree.

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The-Dream – ‘Summer Body’ (feat. Fabolous)

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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – ‘To Follow and Lead’

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Jorja Smith x Preditah – ‘On My Mind’

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Bonnie Prince Billy with The Roots of Music – ‘The Curse’

‘The Curse’ is the opening song from The Curse of The Mekons, which back in 1991 proved the relatively sprawling and unheralded follow-up to The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll. Bonnie Prince Billy’s version sees him capably and clamorously backed by The Roots of Music, the brass band of a non-profit educational organisation which serves kids aged between 9-14 from low-income households in New Orleans. In the process Bonnie Prince Billy and The Roots of Music turn a driving, rollicking statement of intent into something more whimsical, and more exuberant too.

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William Patrick Corgan – ‘Aeronaut’

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Blue Hawaii – ‘No One Like You’

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