Again is a new EP from Keren Botaro, a Tel Aviv born artist who currently lives in the US. I expected this to be a rather standard “pop” release, but it turned out to be much more impressive and interesting than anything I anticipated. Keren’s (and her fellow performers’) eclectic range of rock influences and keen sense of style are on full display here.
Botaro may photograph like a pop star, but the music blends elements of psychedelia, lounge, blues and even mod. The awesome Farfisa sounds incorporated into these songs are the stuff of a combo organ fetishist’s dreams. Everything just sounds so authentic. If I heard this album on the radio, I would genuinely think these songs had been recorded in 1968. These people really have nailed the vintage tone and classic rock essence flawlessly. The guitars are awesome and made me feel like I was listening to a Jefferson Airplane record in an old coffee house. I highly recommend watchng the videos for these tracks because they really do a great job of conveying the ambiance.
Keren’s vocals certainly keep up their end of the bargain as well. Her voice is excellent, and stylistically she’s like a rock’n’roll version of a lounge singer. She projects passionately and belts out the songs with confidence and emotion. Her voice is full and combines with her dynamic visual stage presence to really make a performative statement. Really, not enough can be said about what a fine vocalist Keren Botaro is. Style, substance and technical singing ability, most singers tend to find ways to compensate for whichever one they lack, but she actually excels in all three categories.
The first two tracks Fire and Free Bird are guitar driven and the most hard hitting (rock wise,) while Drops in the Rain and Again are more mellow paced and indie pop, kind of like The Velvet Underground and Nico if I had to make a comparison. All in all, this is a powerful little EP that punches well above its weight musically. I don’t even have any criticisms or nitpicks of it, but I will say that I’m jealous when I watch the video and see the room full of amazing vintage musical gear these guys have at their disposal.
Toronto based lyricist “7even 2wenty 8ight” recently released a video for his single, Holy Water. The video was filmed at The Happy Place in Toronto and was directed by CanadianYardy. D.W1ZE & Trixx Beatz produced the song. The video has a very retro vibe, with VHS style elements and performance art style edits. It actually reminds me of a lot of early 90′s hip hop videos, which is a great aesthetic. The song is darkly ambient and socially conscious. The backing music is haunting and ethereal, unusually refreshing for a hip hop jam. This is one of the better hip hop music videos I’ve seen in recent times. It’s very dreamlike, a virtual kaleidoscope which juxtaposes well with the subject matter of the song.
Translator Signal is a new album from Optivion. It features 16 tracks, mostly instrumental, but a couple which include vocals. Most of the release could be described as a retrofuturistic odyssey, with action packed electronic beats that wouldn’t seem out of place in an 80′s science fiction film. A few of the tracks have Asian elements, particularly prevalant in Future Geisha and Space Kuma Chan. This isn’t surprising, given that the artist spent time teaching in Japan to earn money.
One thing which separates this album from most contemporary electronic music is that it’s very avant garde. It’s not just beats thrown together for cheap party jams with generic, contrived meaning. Translator Signal was clearly made by a depth driven artist with technical proficiency, not some club DJ looking to plaster his name all over the nightlife. One gets the sense that there is a broader, abstract artistic vision at work here, and that this album is part of a longer spiritual journey. The content has a certain richness to it. The pacing varies througout and often changes within individual songs, but the music is consistently entrancing. When I say the album is “16 tracks” I mean it. The songs are brimming with variety and musical complexity. We’re talking a high level of difficulty here. Ive reviewed hundreds of electronic and instrumental oriented releases, and this is one of the most advanced I’ve ever come across.
Letter To Cecil is a new single from Delaware based hip hop artist, “Royal.” Royal is known for being community conscious, having performed at many schools and often donating revenute from concerts to various causes. Letter to Cecil is really well produced. The clarity and fine mix on this track make it easy on the ears. Royal has one of those voices that just naturally sounds good. He projects well and would make a great public speaker. His delivery style is a combination of conversational and musical. The whole thing is very “stream of consciousness” in nature. There’s both passion and frustration in the lyrics. It’s almost like if someone were writing a heartfelt letter to someone and working out in their head what they’re going to say. Letter To Cecil is explicit and frank while remaining uplifting and quietly motivational. Hockessin, Delaware is lucky to have this guy.
What Matters is a new single from avant garde, multi-genre artist, songwriter and producer, Sienná. She is a Japanese expat living in Norway, which is only noteworthy because she combines traditional japanese music with electronica. In fact, when What Matters begins it seems as though it’s going to be a lovely spoken word / Japanese folk song, but then it bursts into an artful, full blown, electronic pop piece. It manages to accomplish this eclectic blend while retaining some detectably Japanese elements in the musical backing as well. The song is very surreal, presenting as a kind of dream sequence or out of body experience in musical form. The editing and imagery in the video for the track contributes to this sensibility. What Matters is a sensitive, softly expressive song which has the capacity to evoke a kaleidoscope of emotion. It’s a delightful listen, really.
Frozen Fasho is a new single from hip hop artist “Kaseeno,” featuring Kade Fresco and produced by Mon Dillinger. The chill beat that backs this track is minimalist, making this feel almost like a spoken-word poetry jam at times. Frozen Fasho is catchy through use of repitition. I didn’t count the number of times I heard the word “fasho” but it had to be a lot, enough for me to remember this song forever in fact. There’s a lot more substance lyrically though than meets the eye, as the song breaks in and out of crisply delivered dynamic verses. The rapping on here is tight with the beat and just very precise. Frozen Fasho is one ice cold and conceptually creative jam. Great performance, solid production… If this were being backed by a major label, I guarantee you every kid in school would be repeating the catchphrases in this song, driving the teachers bonkers.
California based DJ, Kid Loose has been a staple of the dance scene since the mid 1990s. Having performed at zillions of raves, club events, private parties, pro sports games and prominent Bay Area radio stations, this guy has probably seen it all. Pretty much anyone with a MacBook can call themselves a DJ these days, but Kid Loose is a product of the days when being a DJ represented a mastery of actual turntable skills. There were hands-on mechanics and craftsmanship involved. The barrier to entry is lower now, but the artful craft of DJing endures with Kid Loose’s latest endeavor, LIVE Mix on Ghetto House Radio, which consists of a 27 minute dance mix featuring 8 fun-filled tracks.
This mix is crisp and bears the mark of pure professionalism. This eclectic collection is danceable from start to finish, with smooth transitions and a high energy ambiance througout. The substantial amount of vocals in these mixes differentiates this piece from straight up techno or more typical “dance club” music, and also gives the listener something to sing along with while gettin’ down. The tone ranges from funky deep groovin’ to hypnotic and ethereal. There’s plenty of musical variety packed into this 27 minute, chewy chocolatey mix treat, but it’s all very cohesively put together. I honestly don’t recognize many of the songs, but without question my favorite jam in this collection is Nicola Fasano, Dual Beat – Macaco Mata El Toro, which is the most “retro” sounding dance track, bringing back memories of the stuff I used to dance to at quasi-raves and all ages dance club nights in the early 90′s. It just has the perfect combo of melody and energy and really gets you going.
Overall, I’d recommend this entire mix to any wouldbe party-thrower looking to light up a dancefloor or just anyone curious about what it’s like to witness a seasoned professional, and all around legit DJ in action.
Dried Up is a new single from artist Ryan Klem. Guitar and vocals driven, the song is a heartfelt alternative / indie folk track. It reminds me a bit of early-mid 2000s artists like Bright Eyes. Klem even sounds a bit like Conor Oberst. The lyrical delivery oscillates back and forth from quietly sensitive to explosively passionate as emotions build, settle and flare up repeatedly. What I really enjoy about Dried Up is how even though it seems at first like a pretty straightforward indie / emo song, the lyrics are peppered with delightful cynicism (“the world has gone to shit, what am i to do?”) which is both refreshing and unconventional for this style of music. It takes an interesting angle on sentimentality / romance with lines like “You’ll kill youself eventually and find that love is all you need.” This contrasts well with the tone of the song, leaving the listener with the realization that Dried Up is deeper, more honest and more creatively imaginative than most indie fare.
Dried Up Credits:
Performed by Ryan Klem
Produced / Arranged by Joshua Rumer / Invengo Productions
Mixed / Mastered by Atom Smith / Hydraulic Klownhead
Who We Are is a new song from RYNO (the name for the musical project of Ryan Jacob Doyle.) This is apparently an acoustic version of the song which also appears on RYNO’s album, The Pervade Collection. I could already tell I was going to like this jam due to the retro-futuristic cover art, but the music did not disappoint. Who We Are has a very uplifting tone. Hopefulness and and optimism emanate from every facet of this recording. Ryan can actually sing quite well, which is a good thing because the song’s focus is basically structured around the vocals and the message. He’s clearly a multi-instrumentalist though, too, the type that can master almost any instrument. He could make a version of this song with nothing but a kazoo and some bongo drums, and you just know it would still sound like the work of a trained professional.
The best way I could describe this track in its current form is that it’s like if you were to take the feel good vibes of EDM and combine them with a slightly different musical style, such as pop or adult contemporary. Who We Are is powerful and passionately performed. I could honestly imagine this being played at the olympics or something. I highly recommend checking out this artist’s other songs as well. This guy is very versatile musically and has something for just about everyone.
Drama Queen is a new jam from New York based performance artist, “Kfir.” The song is a pop / dance number that mesmerizes with style and fashionability. The well choreographed framework of Drama Queen is impressive enough, but what stands out is the supreme vocal performance. Seriously, I’m not going to name any names, but there are major label pop stars whom are mass promoted to the public, and they cannot sing at anywhere near the level of Kfir. Really great stage presence and charisma on display here as well…confidence with the talent to back it up. No idea where they’ll ultimately end up, but this artist is going places. Be sure and check out the vid for this song for the “full effect.”