Thanks to Austin Antoine for You’re Very Welcome

The new album from renowned underground performer and Hodgepodge artist Austin Antoine does not disappoint. Produced, mixed and mastered by the talented Mister-he and sporting a gorgeous cover by Amy LeeYou’re Very Welcome opens with a sense of narrative foreshadowing, teasing the listener with things to come. Vocal processing, lush production, anything goes. You know we’re sonically referencing heroes here, just as the opening monologue suggests, but you’re not sure which ones. Is this Andre 3000 at his most spacey? Gambino at his most theatric? We’ll see.

Wasting no time, Antoine’s first full track is the classic banger, self aware on several levels. We discuss the artist’s place in the scene; we’re assured the artist is young and strong, connected but humble. The rhymes flow, the chorus bangs, the beat bumps. This track knows what it is, and Antoine wants everyone to make sure we know where we’re at.

With Streets of Broken Dreams, Antoine starts to throw the listener some curves. This beat swings pretty heavily, and one can almost imagine some old music-man with white gloves, a cane and skimmer hat, airing out biting sarcasm as if the suffering performer’s woes are just another part of the show.

As the album progresses, it seems like Antoine starts to introduce this crazy new idea where he’s more than “just” a rapper. He’s a performer, and he’s got the pipes to prove it. I love when an artist has put some real thought into their track order, and it’s no accident that the hints of Austin singing toward the end of the woo-me track Summer Days leads into the astoundingly soulful interlude, Kelsey. Contrapuntal, a cappella melodies sung entirely by Austin take us deeper down the rabbit hole, exploring into what hip hop means besides some dude rapping over beats. With You’re Very Welcome, Antoine is taking the listener through a lesson in first impressions. Every artist has a journey that transcends genre, and few albums I’ve heard capture that concept as well as this one.

Got a problem with his singing? Unless you’re Nas (or even then, maybe) you better get over it. That’s the message in Rahzel/Aaliyah, a raw callback track that says, who gives a shit? Austin knows where he’s coming from, and he knows he can freestyle circles around anyone who steps to him. How many rappers out there can use the words “Guinness World Record” in their list of accolades? He’s been killing it for years, but this album is a new step for Antoine. He has accomplishments to back up his confidence. Listen to POWER!!, and tell me you’ve heard anything like this before. Just like with the intro, we know this style is coming from somewhere, from Austin’s heroes, but amalgamated into that dope freshness that speaks for itself. Hell yeah he likes video games, and hell yeah he’s watched Dragonball Z, and hell yeah he can rap like a beast.

You’re Very Welcome represents the new breed of artist. We don’t know if it’s hip hop. We don’t even know if it’s a record. It’s a work done by an individual who is navigating this strange new experience of becoming a performing adult with integrity amidst peers who don’t remember a time without email. Austin has really captured a moment here, and demonstrated tremendous personal growth in a truly relevant release.

You can follow Austin on his website, SoundcloudTwitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can find him on Hodgepodge Records, and you can pay what you want for You’re Very Welcome at his Bandcamp.

Austin Antoine

Trabajo – Gamelan To The Love God

The ever-changing landscape of what type of music bedrooms produce has another contender for future in the epic sleep chambers of Trabajo, a New-York-City-Once-Williamsburg-Now-Queens-based duo composed of the likes of TJ Richards and Yuchen Lin. When once this tale would begin with a hand-stamped burned CD changing hands in some steamy back alleyway, when I met up with TJ on my most recent excursion to NYC I received a Bandcamp download code. This, as far as I’m concerned, is the new homemade mixtape.

I first knew TJ as merely one of the best guitarists I know, and I, like you, know a heck of a lot of guitarists. But TJ was always a little different, seeking out new compound meters, new tunings, new non-Western traditions so he could stay at the forefront of his craft. I watched him go from Poet Named Revolver to brick walls of noise and shoegaze, eventually embracing sampled sonic landscapes in the form of Trabajo in 2011 with SLOWPAGEANT EP. While TJ had other live acts, all of which were at various levels of amazing, I watched with delight as he began dedicating his focus into Trabajo’s completely un-quantized, pseudo-electroacoustic-hip-trip-hop-indie-rock-noise-worldbeat sound.

The word for my reaction their new EP Gamelan To The Love God is in no way “surprise”. It has long been the habit of extremely talented guitarists in the modern era to move away from the actual guitar, finding other ways to coax music from the universe via their brains to their fingers. But in this case, I hear that certain type of humanistic dexterity that was in TJ’s playing, and a bit of a dawning excitement on his part that you don’t really need a guitar to play one, and that’s what makes all the difference here.

This is electronic music, but it’s also a series of performance recordings. The world rhythm samples, the non-equal-tempered tuning systems, the ancient traditions all merge seamlessly with a modern aesthetic in this case (where so many others fail) because the source materials were manipulated live, with respect and virtuosity and a really solid quartet of ears. Trabajo’s music succeeds where a bevy of chill/worldbeat mashups have not, because this music is not premeditated, but felt.

Gamelan To The Love God references the ancient Javanese love poem Smaradahana, which in the Western world would be roughly analogous to Romeo & Juliet in terms of fame. The album begins with a fairly recognizable gamelan mashup, then proceeds to add more changes and fucked-with-beats as each two-minute track unfolds. Both The Myth and I Am Tetsuo feature major changes about halfway through, adding some gorgeous melody or trunk-rattle kicks, then without wasting time moving on to the next track. In this way the album seems more in line with the J Dilla aesthetic. Indeed, that disregard for traditional structure, informing a new modern narrative for what we confusingly still call “albums” might be the overarching schematic for the future of sample-based music.

The album peaks structurally somewhere around Skidoo 23, a mildly ADHD succession of beats melded seamlessly and sometimes almost humorously. From there we are taken back down by way of several guitar pedals to end with the gorgeous wash of the EP’s final track, Mortal. It’s a perfect ending to an excellent EP, and I can’t wait for more from Trabajo in this direction. I just want to see where this performance-based electronic duo can take us. The EP is available for you-name-it price at their Bandcamp.

Joomanji’s new album free for 48 hours

In a soundscape overwhelmed by inhuman beats and 200late electro-wobbles, groove collective Joomanji follows up their 2012 self-titled debut with Manj, taking us even deeper into what’s possible when good production meets virtuosic jams from across the cultural divide. With its core of instrumentalists, including producer/wizard Jonah Christian and drum prodigy Amir Oosman, Joomanji brings with it a small army of talented friends, each with their own individual flavor.

This collaborative mentality, the fearlessness of appropriation from any musical tradition, never shying away from getting further outside than expected, and the electronic samples and textures are what make the overall soundscape of this release so relevant in the current hip hop/jazz scene. This crossover genre needs to happen more, and California seems like the perfect breeding ground, spearheaded of course by the likes of Joomanji.

Check out Jamal Moore’s deep flute freakouts between Arielle Deem‘s vox on earworm Around the World, or Nick Bianchini’s beautiful trumpet textures sprinkled throughout. Not to mention soon-to-be-world-renown entertainer Austin Antoine rapping, often freestyle, in his default blow-your-mind state. You’d never expect it all to come together, because you probably haven’t heard it work before. But Joomanji pulls it off, and that’s why this is one band to keep an eye on in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Listen for free below, or name your price and download from their bandcamp for the next 48 hours. This blog does not take responsibility for any excessive head bobbing injuries sustained while listening to Joomanji.

Squarepusher, LaTlateh

I am back from a whirlwind roadtrip to San Francisco to see Squarepusher play at the Regency. It was quite an experience which I will elaborate upon later, when I’m not so tired. Also upcoming is the new JI/microtonal concept album Micropangea in some fashion or form. I will leave you for the weekend with this article and lyrics of Syrian hip hop act LaTlateh, from my mom’s native Damascus. There is a one-minute audio clip on the BBC’s site, and below is the player from their ReverbNation.

“I don’t like the music, but I like the words. I am Syrian. I feel the words. The lyrics really express my feelings. We aren’t dancing because we are listening to the lyrics.” From the above linked BBC article.

If you are looking for music completely devoid of materialistic motivations, this type of revolution music is the answer. It’s pure, heartfelt, and beautiful.

Buried at Home
Buried at home, like a statue in a wall

I stretched out my hand waiting for sustenance and pleasure

I’ve become like a bird chained to the wall

Tomorrow when I travel and the homeland grows old, the new generation, the extinct generation, will understand that we really had no choice

I have a desire to walk naturally along my road

My name has become that of the free who remains incarcerated

The Port of Homs
Its ironic, the regime got stuck in a street called Syria

The atmosphere of the city is one of incurable faces

The sky is squeezed, but there will be no revolutionary rain without stones

We’ve started to bury the cities and soon Qatar’s turn will come

And we’ve eaten so much death just so that you can stand on your feet again on Homs