“Untitled Art,” the musical project of musician/athlete David Sempier has been around for decades. A previous release was in fact featured in this magazine a couple of years ago. I love it when people stick with things for many years and continue to crank out new and exciting artistic content into the void.
W.A.M Part 1 is the most recent release from Untitled Art. Suffice to day that this jam evades easy classifcation. It’s fast-paced retrofuturistic electronic rock with some 80s vibes but without any of the cheesy pop elements. A good way to describe the sound is that it combines 80s electropunk backing music with late 90’s, angsty indie rock vocals. The result is something powerful. This song really gets the adrenaline going. Musically, it’s very dynamic and juggles a lot of complex changes in pacing and tone throughout. It’s very quick witted and unpredictable in that respect. From a technical standpoint, everything is very precise and you can tell you’re dealing with a seasoned musician who really knows what he’s doing, even if this is sort of recording is inherently “experimental” in nature.
The video (which also includes Part 2) is an aesthetic wonder. The animation is badass. If you want to get an idea of what I mean, just picture what it would be like if you watched the original Tron after drinking a cup of coffee that was laced with an unknown substance. Or you could just watch and listen for yourself. W.A.M Part 1 is high energy, melodic and slightly sinister.
Problems is a new jam from Tampa based hip hop producer, “M.A.D. Smooth.” It also features the artists “L-Quote” & “Reason.” The song combines futuristic, synth style beats with minimalist vibes. The rappers’ confidence is apparent and justified as the song frequently breaks into freestyle-like, spoken word poetry bursts. In other words, Problems doesn’t rely on smoke and mirrors and flash, preferring to ride it out on substance. The mellow pacing allows the track to make creative use of timing, with strategic pauses evoking moments of suspense and unpredictability. The accompanying video helps illustrate the song’s story about a couple struggling with (as you might have guessed) relationship…well, “problems.” Both the video and the song are professionally produced and well done. Problems captures the dueling relationship states of confidence and vulerability.
Baby Blue is a new album from singer/songwriter Quinn Pickering, a 19 year old artist based in New Westminster, British Columbia. My first impression upon hearing this release is that these songs are precociously powerful. The music is simply very technically advanced and mature for someone so young. In terms of style, Baby Blue displays plenty of versatility within its indie framework. There are elements of acoustic folk, with songs like Cecilia channeling the classic Simon and Garfunkel spirit. Other songs have more of that “rainy day coffee house” vibe, exploring the melancholy aspects of romance with righteous sincerity.The best way to describe the sound is that it’s like a cross between John Mayer and Modest Mouse.
Quinn saves the title track Baby Blue for last, and it’s worth the wait. It’s emotionally charged and features a stellar performance. I have to mention too that Pickering is a worthy vocalist. Though the songs are largely guitar driven, it’s the vocals which ultimately carry them and provide the album with its personality. He doesn’t cut any corners either and is not shy about pushing his vocal abilities right to their limit. It’s a shame that the music industry is so saturated with marketing and performers now, making it difficult to stand out. An album like Baby Blue deserves much more exposure and attention than it is likely to receive. Luckily this dude is only 19 and has plenty of time.
Forging a False Reality is a new single from “Oh Well,” a one-piece progressive EDM project based in Chicago, Illinois. Stylewise, Forging a False Reality is actually a very eclectic jam. The song is mellow and melodic. With the addition of some rather charmingly innocent vocals, the sound strikes me as a cross between EDM and The Aquabats. The music features xylophonic tones and “fairytale-esque” vibes. Bright and creative synths evoke a setting which is one part Candyland, one part Alice in Wonderland. Oh Well’s adventures as an experimental, EDM alchemist open the door for the listener to experience an avant garde odyssey.
High on Wheels is a new single from hip hop artist, Speaker Child. This song is the title track of the upcoming EP. What stands out about this particular jam is that it has a very retro 90’s hip hop vibe. The beat, the vocal effects and the delivery all seem to draw inspiration from hip hop’s golden age, and that is a very good thing. I can picture my old teenage self bumping this in a lowered 1992 Honda Civic hatchback on the way to the skatepark. The lyrics are catchy, and the repetitive chorus gets the song stuck in your head almost immediately. Speaker Child’s voice is deep and commanding while maintaining a stylish diction. The song ultimately deals with the concept of fluidity, and the importance of living a life that is always remaining in motion, never stagnant. The pacing and tone of High on Wheels reflects the content, and remains fresh througout.
Operation Bifrost is a new EP from Nuell Martin, a conceptual music artist. The electronic compositions on this album are ambient, enigmatic and very avant garde. The music has a very science fiction soundtrack feel to it. Stylewise, I would describe it as “refined retro-futuristic.” The songs contains elements of early 80s electro but without any of the cheesiness. These tracks are more artful and meditative. If listened to chronologically, the songs form a kind of narrative, like a short film. The Gift for example is brimming with intensity and represents climactic action in the “story.” Stealing the Secret operates as an attention grabbing opening, while the mellow Monegros eases us in with intrigue and sets the stage for the rising action. The final track Betrayed features a dark and bleak intro, which transitions into an ethereal finale, the ending open to interpretation. The album is very engaging, and I would recommend it for meditation, especially for those that want to traverse to the darker, more brooding corners of their mind.
In A Jam is a new single by TonAsh, a hip hop artist from The Bahamas. The song actually is available in two different versions, a “clean” version and another which features uncensored lyrics. It’s actually kind of a romantic track. The title, In A Jam refers to the feeling of being all wrapped up emotionally in one’s love for a girl. Intense feelings for someone can cause a person to lose control and put their life responsibilities on hold. In the song, our protagonist vows he will “get his shit together” but that it will have to wait until tomorrow.
In A Jam features a colorful, EDM style beat. TonAsh’s delivery is laid back and sincere. His dynamic pitch fluctuations mirror the backing music and are a good fit for the emotional roller coaster associated with the song’s content. The whole thing has a very bright and upbeat feel, and TonAsh’s confidence and willingness to show a vulnerable side is refreshing. Both musically and metaphorically, In a Jam is the good kind of jam.
The Mexican Plug is a new mixtape from Pittburgh based rapper “Stunna Quad.” Stunna classifies his sound as “flava music,” and that is actually a pretty apt description, both literally and figuratively. The first track on the album is titled Nachos and includes lyrics like “We make a lotta nachos.” So yeah, some of these jams are ineed flavorful. Most of Stunna’s songs on here are impressively catchy. He utilizes a lot of repetition in his creative delivery and incoporates a lot of interesting vocalizations in addition to just spouting words. His voices functions like an instrument in its own right. Blue Snow is probably the second cathiest song on here after Nachos, and in my opinion Ignition is the track with the grooviest backbeat. Overall, this mixtape showcases Stunna Quad’s lively and vivacious personality. His performance exudes an upbeat confidence while maintaing a chill vibe.
Philly based jazz/funk outfit “Hambone Relay” is one of those bands that seems to radiate professionalism and musiciansmanship from the moment you hear them. You just can’t get away with playing this kind of music without seasoned musicians and technical proficiency. In their new album Say Hi To Earl, the trio demonstrate that they have the style, the chops, and the know how required to create top notch jams. The organic opening track, Dustbowl Circus, has a crisp and gritty analog quality to it and reminded me of indie bands from the early 90s funk scene (although minus the ska and hip hop elements which were prevalent at that time.)
The band plays tight together which works well with the minimalist style. The guitar and organ playing on this album are absolutely killer, which is vital because there’s no place to bury anything in this mix. There are of course zillions of great guitar players out there, but what elevates the work on this album is that it’s combined with really authentic vintage tones. Guitarists experiment with vacuum tubes and boutique amps for decades looking to achieve the kind of tone which manifests throughout this entire album. The same can be said for the organ, which oscillates between a classic Hammond and Farfisa-like sound. As for veteran organist Mark Brown, well he can can really play.
Songs like The Low Down and New Soul Tune II have more of smooth and mellow vibe. Here Come the Fuzz features some groovy retro-futurist synths, straight out of Buck Rogers. It’s probably my favorite song on the album. Every track on here though is solid though. It’s just a question of your particular flavor or mood. Say Hi To Earl is slated for release on May 3. It’s not out yet, but you can pre-order it from the band’s website, and I recommend you go ahead and do that because it’s worth it.
Holy Water is a new single from Clelia (pronounced Clay-Lee-uh) Jane Sheppard, a Los Angeles based up and coming artist, originally from Cape Charles, Virginia. In addition to making music, she also has a passion for photography and dogs. Holy Water features an ambient synth backing and ethereal, dreamy vocals. The song overwhelms emotionally with its powerful and bright, atmospheric aura. This is the second track in recent memory I’ve come across which blends EDM positivity and feel good vibes with pop music. In this case, the lyrics to touch upon memories and missing someone, so even with the colorful energy, there is a hint of bittersweet. The vocals are passionate, yet also not afraid to convey emotional vulnerability. What ultimately elevates this song is the way Clelia’s willingess to lay it all on the line in a kaleidoscope of emotional expression. She doesn’t conceal her power level, and this allows the listener to revel in the realization that they are listening to something genuine and real.
Clelia’s music is organic and has sound lyrical instincts (she comes up with many of her lyrics on the spot.) Her songs tend to focus on beauty and innocence. They project a kind of emotional purity, both musically and lyrically. One of her other songs, Beauty in a Wicked World captures this spirit very well. Holy Water is in fact a very pure song, not pure as in “chaste” but pure of heart. It’s a romantic song which focuses on the best parts of falling in love, while excluding the ugly stuff which can end up creeping into any relationship. Wouldn’t we all love to have someone feel about us the way Clelia feels about the subject in Holy Water? I know I would. I think I will listen to the song again.