Week in Pop: Frank Lenz, I Love You, Underpass, Young Karin

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Ashan, Bam Spacey, & more, co-curated by Bad Blocks.

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Sjimon Gompers | August 15, 2014

Young Karin's Karin Sveinsdóttir. photographed by Alísa Kalyanova.

Guiding you by the hand through the dog days of summer, Impose’s Week in Pop brings tomorrow’s headlines and indie stars to today’s audiences. This week’s hype saw a rough draft ‘leak’ of Kanye’s new single “All Day”, as Yeezy parted ways with tour DJ Million Dollar Mano; Courtney Love talked about blowing through $29 million of “Nirvana money“; Drake’s comments got the Toronto Raptors fined $25,000 by the NBA; Yalls will be playing on a boat in the SF Bay on September 21; the plug got pulled on London’s Jabberwocky Festival; some real talk from Killer Mike on Instagram; Black Lips versus Gene Simmons; the NWA biopic filming had a close call with a real drive-by; and speaking of Drake, we can now all thank Mr. Aubrey Graham for ‘YOLO’ being added to the Oxford English Dictionary. No joke.

But moving ahead, we got a big round of exclusives and interviews with Young Karin, Frank Lenz, I Love You, Underpass, Ashan, Bam Spacey, co-curations from Bad Blocks, and more — in no particular order.

YOUNG KARIN

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Young Karin’s Karin Sveinsdóttir and Logi Pedro Stefánsson photographed by Alísa Kalyanova.

Icelandic duo Young Karin [fka Highlands] are the latest to sign to the Bella Union family of imprints, via Pannonica Records, who debut the shared heartbeat romanticism on “Hearts”. Heralded as a favorite by producer/instrumentalist compatriot Ólafur Arnalds, Karin Sveinsdóttir and Logi Pedro Stefánsson make up the duo Young Karin who have been working on their debut album among the creative artist communities of Reykjavík. Penning what the two refer to as “melancholic pop” inspired by Iceland’s winters — the sun-fall downing of the summer season is commenced with “Hearts”.

With Denmark and Sweden synthesizing sensation and sentiment on pop platforms, “Hearts” strikes the core of the most clandestine recounted trysts and confessions. “I couldn’t see myself, breaking fast with you, we did our one night stand, we snuck off from our rooms, we woke up guilty alike, like we tore apart our souls”, Karin sings in doted recollections, where fond memories keep the Nordic-American-winterland-pop fire burning with passion. Karin and Logi borrow the underground bedroom-beat reserved for hip-hop projects found Stateside between coasts sending Sveinsdóttir’s delivery and looping vocal stems into the flutter of spinning melody machines (similar to the Icelandic-centered music championed by Mosfellsbær’s own, Ólafur Arnalds). Following Young Karin’s premiere of “Hearts”, the duo gives us an exclusive look at Icelandic indie pop relatively unknown outside of Reykjavík.


Tell us about how the two of you first struck up a bond, and realized you had creative chemistry.

Logi: We met when Karin was singing at a talent show in her school. I was fascinated by her voice and charisma. I invited her to the studio to sing over some tracks and it all clicked together.

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How do you both write, produce and arrange you tracks? Do you have particular rituals, methodologies, or superstitious approaches?

Karin: For the EP we kind of just locked ourselves inside when the cold winter came and started recording. “Hearts” was recorded in Logi’s living room. We also decided to do everything in-house. The mixing, mastering and album cover are all done by either us or close friends. We used a lot of tape echo’s and Juno 106 pads on the EP. And then we like to play around with samples. We listened a lot to David Bowie’s Heroes when we did the record. And also King Louie, his stuff is raw, and of course Drake too.

When we finish the songs they all really differ from their first demos. We are always changing choruses and synth-lines in the last minute. Logi writes the songs and lyrics.

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What have the experiences of recording been like for you both in Reykjavík?

Karin: It’s nice. It’s a fairly small community of producers/artists so things are always smooth. We’re also heavily inspired by the midwinter in Iceland, we all get seasonal affective disorder because of the short hours of daylight during the winter. But we figure it kind of helps writing melancholic songs.

Some Icelandic artists that you feel deserve more recognition, or artists that we might have never heard of?

Logi: I like Gísli Pálmi a lot. He just has insane production on his stuff and a full-on mafia vibe. I think that Björk is one of his biggest fans.

Also bands like Hermigervill and Uni Stefson. That’s kind of our crew.

What should we expect from your upcoming Pannonica Records / Bella Union debut?

Karin: Just kind of a new take on melancholic pop. We don’t really think it sounds like anything else. It’s naive but full of thought, still not too serious. It’s supposed to be kind of fun.

Young Karin’s debut album for Pannonica Records / Bella Union will be available soon.

UNDERPASS

Underpass, photographed by Ryan Rose.

Underpass, photographed by Ryan Rose.

Alienation, isolation, and displacement have become threads throughout the world’s conflicted and often argumentative discourse. Giving a voice and taking a stand for marginalized peoples without a country, identity or sense of naturalization is Alexander Miranda, the frontman of Underpass. Based out of Olympia, Washington, Underpass drives down an interstate that knows little-to-no sense of nationality, as the bandmates are referred to as N.C., D.L., and M.W. for purposes pertaining to border legality matters of documentation. The attitudes of estranged and alienated trajectories and post-colonial concepts are the cornerstones that make up their forthcoming album, Assimilation, available August 19 from Desire Records, as we proudly present the world debut of the single, “Pain of Trust”.

The bonds of trust and blindness are put to the test by chords in the key of struggle. Alexander and the band illustrate the ties that hurt in the lyrical complexities, with a cold arrangement that sometimes feels complicit; like people with Stockholm syndrome find a malevolent connection to their captors. Miranda draws from aspects of his Native American heritage and upbringing. And like the bound but broken connections, “Pain of Trust” pushes for a conversation to see people beyond borders, skin color, constructs of race, nationality, documented, undocumented, and so forth. The allowances of trust are renegotiated at the table like a plea to the United Nations to stop the pain and suffering in the name of perhaps a better and more conscious union. We had the chance for a candid conversation with Alexander, who took us deeper into the upcoming album Assimilation, and inside the agony, angst, and ecstasy of their debuted single.



How did Underpass first form as a group?

Well, the current line up is the second incarnation on Underpass. The first line up was just my friend Celina and me. We did a short tour down the west coast last year. I was in San Diego for a month after the tour and when I got back to the PNW she had to do some other things and could not play with me anymore so I asked some of my house mates and partner to join and so far it’s been great. Everyone really adds a lot to the group. I like it.

The choice of title of Assimilation is so heavy. How did being brought up in a Native American context inform your songwriting?

Growing up in America and being a Native American is dangerous. I am lucky that I have not been killed by the police or been put into prison yet. It’s a heavy thing. So writing music that is reflective of this seems naturally more heavy. Having had many of my family members violently forced to forget our culture and unlearn our language to the point where a few years ago there were only a handful of elders who could speak Luiseño, these issues run very deep with me.

What was the songwriting and recording process for this album like?

I wrote the majority of Assimilation while I was staying in Vancouver last winter. I was pretty depressed during most of the writing of this record. But after I would finish a song I would feel like something was lifted from me. So I just wanted to keep that feeling going.

Recording was a whole other story. We recorded in Vancouver with our friend Joseph [Hirobiashi] at his house and finished recording most of the instruments in one day. It was a really nice and felt great to be recording with a full band in such a comfortable place. Then we spent a few days mixing it and it was done.

“Pain of Trust” is a real grinding track that reminds me of analog goth cassette tapes soaked in the melting heat of the sun. What betrayed trusts and anguish underlined this song for you and the band?

To be honest, that song was not written about a specific betrayal. But you know, it feels like I hear about friends getting into a new relationship with someone (either romantic or not), and them feeling very hesitant to completely open themselves for fear of getting hurt. Age old. Also I was writing it from the view of so many people blindly putting so much faith into the ‘state’ only to find themselves being exploited and ultimately left with nothing. Hopeless. You know, it’s kind of like all these army folks who come back from killing brown people and are really fucked up and then are just left to rot by the VA. It’s a real lose-lose situation.

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What are you thoughts on the scenes, worlds, political and social environments of Vancouver, Seattle, and Olympia, from when you were younger to now?

Well, I moved to Seattle when I was 19. I’m 24 now. And in this fairly short period I’ve seen many whole blocks be torn down and be turned into condos. A wild sweeping storm of gentrification is here pushing all those who cannot afford to live in a high rise and shop at the local artisan yuppie stores to the far edges of the city. The heaviest display of gentrification I’ve ever seen is in Vancouver B.C.’s Downtown East Side. Its really wild.

Favorite groups from Vancouver, Seattle and Olympia that you adore?

Screaming Queens (Vancouver), Broken Water (Olympia), Morning Coupe (Vancouver), Health Problems (Seattle).

End of summer/fall plans for Underpass?

We are heading out on a tour at the end of August. Going as far east as New York and and far south as Miami. Its going to be nice.

Parting words of hope, words of wisdom, and/or words of warning from Underpass?

Yeah, never forget that if you are native, black, brown, poor, trans, queer or a woman, the police want you dead. My heart goes out to all the lives that have been taken by the hands of police. Not only the ones who have been shot but all those behind bars and those who have been pushed to the ghettos and barrios and forced to stay there.

Underpass’s new album, Assimilation, will be available August 16 from Desire Records.

I LOVE YOU

 I Love You, aka Justin Randel in Bragança, Portugal.

I Love You, aka Justin Randel in Bragança, Portugal.

From Humboldt Park, Chicago, Justin Randel is the MIDI mix master who kicks out grooves that transcend genre and geography under the working title of I Love You. From his Psuedodoxia album from We Be Friends, Justin presents the premiere of the Jenna Caravello-directed video for, “We Will Bury Your Student Debt Beneath the Sands of an Australian Beach”. Watch as the stresses of mortgages and debts become crumpled into spirals of silver gray ribbons, as Mr. Randel gets the extracurricular dance party in full effect.

Caravello’s video version of I Love You’s “We Will Bury Your Student Debt Beneath the Sands of an Australian Beach” takes the narrative of helping a friend in need (and over their head in outstanding payments) and flips the frowns and worries upside down in gold tone-kissed dance party that features the moves and footwork from Ellen Nielsen, Eric Rivera, and Etta Sandry. The great escape from financial Swords of Damocles displayed like a secret basement or cave show, where the party does not, and will not stop — even after the student loans are paid off and amended. Stay with us following the video debut, as we got an opportunity to talk with Chi-town’s Justin Randel.

How was the project of I Love You born? We’re imagining clandestine afterparties and illicit gatherings in the after, early-morning hours.

Yeah, I guess it came about by a couple of us asking ourselves, “can we live more life?” And the answer we found was, “totally. We can do better than this.”

What brought you to take on the moniker, I Love You? Was it a way to sort of share the love, so to speak, in that free-associative, free of genre spirit that you extol to all listeners?

Originally, it was the Russian translation of I Love You, but yeah, the free association is what brought on the name. It served the function and allowed for change and growth. I can’t be writing the same song forever, you know?

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What inspired the the subtle, synth-sparse haunt of “We Will Bury Your Student Debt Beneath the Sands of an Australian Beach”?

At the time of writing this song, a good friend was having her physical and mental health totally crushed by the intimidation of an inconceivable amount of student debt and debt collectors. For me, it’s important to help those dear to me at any cost. I’m pretty willing to drop whatever is going on if a friend needs help. It’s truly painful to watch those you love suffer and not be able to help.

Why the Australian beach? What is about an Australia that lent credence for this title?

Australia is this friend’s paradise. You know, the place where we imagine we can run away to and our woes won’t follow. We all have a dream place like this from time to time. My current one is Prague. I have no idea why. I’ve only seen it from the train…

How much student debt do you, Justin Randel owe, if any?

Luckily, I smooth-talked my way into a performance scholarship and made it out of the post secondary education system alive.

What was the video shoot like with Jenna Caravello?

Shooting with Jenna was incredibly fun! This is the first video I’ve ever done and have always been a little nervous to do one. If someone would have explained to me long along that shooting videos is just hanging out with friends while someone else takes care of everything, I would have shot way more by now! Jenna is great. I basically came to her with just a mood I wanted conveyed and she came up with everything else. She’s a wellspring of good ideas.

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What’s the latest from Humboldt Park, Chicago?

It’s been feeling like a lot of the people whom like to try to push the biggest boulders have been moving to the neighborhood. We might not all be pushing the same boulder, but it’s nice to have people around to relate on just how big the boulders are sometimes. You know?

Other local artists that you enjoy, whom we should be listening to?

I’m interested in where both Banglamesh and RXM Reality go next. Also, K Starke is always an awesome hub for finding something new from the neighborhood.

What was the process of recording Pseudodoxia like, and what are you recording next?

Writing this album was definitely exciting. I was going through a change in the way I wanted to perform and started using my live equipment as the primary way to set the guidelines of what is possible; whereas previously, I would use multi-tracking in a studio as the primary and then later, figure out how to perform it. “The Boston Dom Perignon Party” is a leftover from that method.

I’m actually putting the finishing touches on another album right now. I’m pretty sure it has more focus and sounds like I can use my equipment better. It’s going to be released under the moniker ‘Reaches’ though. Recently, one of the founders of I Love You passed and I find myself emotionally incapable of continuing on with the name. We miss him and he forever changed my perspective for the better.

Change can be nice though and quite inspiring. Sometimes you have to delete the cookies and make way for new meta data, as someone probably says.

Additionally, I’ll be doing a West Coast tour with Golden Donna this September! We are both ecstatic about it! I haven’t been out there for few years.

Pseudodoxia is available now via Bandcamp and We Be Friends Records.

Catch I Love You playing the following dates with Golden Donna (100% Silk, Not Not Fun):

September

06 Minneapolis, MN
10 Iowa City, IA
11 Omaha, NE
12 Denver, CO
13 Sante Fe, NM
14 Phoenix, AZ
16 San Diego, CA
17 Los Angeles, CA
18 Los Angeles, CA
19 San Francisco, CA
20 Portland, OR
21 Eugene, OR
22 Olympia, WA
24 Vancouver, BC
26 Seattle, WA, Cairo
27 Tacoma, WA

FRANK LENZ

Frank Lenz, photographed by Jesse McGrady.

Frank Lenz, photographed by Jesse McGrady.

Bringing the merry sound of Christmas to August, Franz Lenz debuts the rich, lush, pet sounds of his single, “Summer’s Coming Soon” available from Velvet Blue Music. A session player and solo artist in his own right, Lenz last left us with the acclaimed Water Tiger album, currently working with artists like Josh Ottum, Michael Deekers, Dustin Lovelis, with his next full-length a work in progress expected in 2015. Lenz tries to capture the aspects of big band pop that dominated the AM radio waves heavily in the 60s and 80s. The old concept of bringing the scale of the big screen to the transistor radio is the medium bridge where Frank operates.

On the debut of “Summer’s Coming Soon”, the sunset of the solstice never truly ends. To create this endless summer, Frank Lenz adapts every trick from Hollywood’s hey-day. The secrets are in the tones and effects placed on the stone-skipping rhythm organ, the Theremin synth settings, the strings that tighten the entire song together, the light touches of horns, and the three-part over-dubbed harmonies that recall the concept album wars of 1967. Like the attractions found at a state fair, “Summer’s Coming Soon” concludes as it began with the Wurlitzer tilt-a-whirl excitement and anticipation for hot August nights, and evenings that feel like they could last forever.

From a solo artist to a session player, where do you find much of your creative information and inclinations?

When I’m a session player or a sideman my creative information comes from the artist I’m supporting or the person who’s leading the band. I have a mindset of being a slave to the song and I try to listen deeply to find the right thing to play. You can learn a lot from watching and listening to a songwriter play their songs solo, their strumming pattern or the way they voice chords, the emphasis on certain words or the way they phrase. When doing my own thing I have to wait for inspiration. When it comes I have to sequester myself for a while and follow the idea with no distraction. I’m afraid I’m not the type of prolific composer that can write during business hours and have a life after. It’s hard work for me and gets a bit lonely.

How do you switch between collaborations and those situations where you’re the one conducting your own orchestra?

Well first of all I’m not a very good collaborator as far as composition or arrangement goes. When I’m working as a sideman the work is of its nature collaborative but the composer/producer is in charge. My job is to make their vision come to life. When I’m working on my own music or arranging strings or horns for someone else I have yet to really collaborate. When working on arrangements for others I do it alone and submit the material for review by the artist. It becomes a collaboration through that process but I can’t write the parts with someone else in the room with me. When composing I have yet to really collaborate, I’m way too insecure for that.

Frank Lenz in the yard, photographed by Jesse McGrady.

Frank Lenz in the yard, photographed by Jesse McGrady.

What to you is in the enduring legacy of those modern, Bacharach-ian, Gold Star Studios, and wrecking crew kind of musical ensembles that has permeated all of our consciousnesses?

They embody the legacy of doing it right, to listen for the heart of the song, of keeping your part clean and true. Those great players played the way Hemingway wrote, with one true sentence. There was a great balance of ego as well. Enough ego to assert your ability and talent and enough humility to bend and enhance the other musicians around them. Hal Blaine is one of my idols.

How did this collaboration with The Shins and Black Keys bassist Richard Swift come about?

We worked together during his time in LA. We fooled around making a bunch of recordings. That guy is lightning-in-a-bottle brilliant.

So give us the whole lost and found story on how this track was lost and then subsequently found.

Sorry to say it’s not much of a story. I dislike nostalgia so I have a weird habit of erasing old music that I have recorded but not released. I don’t know why I do that… I just don’t like hanging on to things, it makes me feel like I’m not moving forward. I found it on an old disk labeled, “Old Shit” and realized it survived my destruction. I’s a cool little piece. Jeff from my label always loved the track so he insisted it come out.

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re planning on recording for next year, what you might be recording now, and who you might be recording with?

I had a great year playing on great records that should be coming out by next year. Jr High is a band with Josh Ottum and Michael Deekers that I played on and it’s the balls — 80s dance music with time changes and surreal lyrics. Dustin Lovelis will be putting out a record soon that I got to play on. I just finished up working on new music for The Weepies and Sylvie Lewis. Both are the best they have made and I’m so proud to be a part of them, all great songwriters. I’m sure there will be no shortage of output.

I’m currently starting to put together some things for my next record. It is going to be drum-driven with little vocals, an intentionally self-indulgent record. Should be fun!

The new Frank Lenz single Summer’s Coming Soon will be available August 16 from Velvet Blue Music.

ASHAN

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Oakland based artist Sean Conrad records under the name Ashan, assembling field recordings and modern mantras. From his new album, Breathknow from Constellation Tatsu, Conrad turns nature’s light switch on through electrified sounds found along Berkeley’s calm creeks in Codornices Park to the friendly trails of Humboldt County.

On our premiere of “Lana”, Ashan chops up the traditional folk progressions to cause audio ripples reverberating through the rooms of place, time, and the constituency of climate spaces. Sean’s voice fills the empty patches and blank spaces in the track’s sonic exercises in harmonized chants. The connection between earth and the ethereal other forces can be heard on the wind chime dazzling crescendo “Wyn” that opens Breathknow with a grand feast and open-armed welcome. “Eru” adds to the journey, featuring more Tibetan-like chants from Ashan, weaving an enriched epic that updates the electronic fields of dance music evolutions. The ways of water are captured on the recording, “Faern”, where you follow the trickling stream down paths, and falls, while Eastern woodwinds emulate the calm of wind. “Annwn” is the epitome of the Ashan aura. The closing “Doeg” breaks into what feels like an ancient and sacred tribal ritual, leaving the listener wondering what natural worlds of wonder Ashan will take us to next. Sean Conrad joins us for a conversation, immediately following “Lana”.

Describe for us what you have been enjoying about the Oakland scenes and environments lately. Seems like there are always so many creative folks over there.

Now that it’s summer there are more outdoor shows! My friend Stephen has been organizing this series called Infinite Space. Both I and II were on the water and it’s amazing to look out onto the ocean while people are playing and to see and hear the tall grass blowing in the wind — all the environmental sounds mingling with the performers. On another note, the bus bench across from my house keeps getting repainted with different, fantastic designs. There are so many things going on in Oakland really.

What was the process and road like that took you from recording Breathknow to releasing it through Constellation Tatsu?

The songs came together real quick over a couple months. I recorded a bunch of field recordings on my birthday last year — I would swipe my hands on leaves and bark and things and make beats out of it. The rest kind of just fell into place. I was thinking about the first music I recorded at age 13 on Fruity Loops. Just goofy techno stuff inspired by half-downloaded remixes from Kazaa. Half-downloaded because I still had dial-up internet and most of the time they couldn’t finish downloading before my parents needed to use the internet. But I released with Steven and Constellation Tatsu because I played at his house in San Luis Obispo about three years ago and things just came together in a natural progression.

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What did you find different about this recording experience versus previous recordings?

I was dancing a lot while making it. Definitely hadn’t had that experience much in the past. I used to lie on the floor with headphones on and stare at the ceiling while listening back to stuff I was working on, but these songs resonated in my body a lot more.

Like the organic mantra march of “Lana”, how do you capture these meditative moments in your sound?

I remember being inspired by some of the reggae bass grooves from that film Rockers and this one Lucky Dragons live video from Upset the Rhythm and probably some other subconscious forces. Somehow it all just mellowed out into that song.

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Do you have your own favorite Bay Area meditation spots?

When I meditate I just do it in my bedroom usually. But Point Reyes is probably my favorite spot in the Bay Area to go and reconnect with wild and thriving things. The air out there smells so invigorating and it’s a great spot to find edible mushrooms after it rains.

Favorite Bay Area artists right now that we should be listening to?

Some folks that I love to see play are Bleak Tails, Gossimer, Forest Floor, PINE, Former Selves, and Selaroda. Seriously though there are so many rad people to see play.

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End of Summer/Fall/Winter plans for Ashan?

I’m in the midst of planning an October tour with my buddy Stag Hare. We’re gonna travel up and down the west coast. Most of it is still in the process of being booked. So excited though to be sharing my sounds and to see Stag Hare play every night for a few weeks. Also gonna release a new cassette/art book called Earth Magic Life Celebration on Inner Islands in November. Stoked to be sharing that as well!

Ashan’s Breathknow is available now via Bandcamp and Constellation Tatsu.

BAM SPACEY

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The time has come for the advent of Bam Spacey’s full-length, 1998, set for release October 14 from Ceremony Recordings. Gothenburg / Malmö Sweden’s Magnus Johanssonson was one of the early signees of the Ceremony imprint, releasing the works Vi delar samma grav, Land, River, to the upcoming late 90s titled, 1998. And in the culmination of Euro pop found in the most ambient and sections of radio pop hits , “Upplyst” provides that new millennial sense of monumental but disparaging prospects of possibility. There is the comforting hug like the motherly embrace of the near and present future, the pre-Y2K epic-trance builds, and some curious choice of sample to synth arrangement, not to mention the irregular heartbeat rhythm found on the track’s final minute. Like the richness in sound brought out through the dichotomies that traverse inside (and outside) the polar plains between the natural and the synthetically manufactured. “Upplyst” should encourage listeners to explore Magnus’s output via Ceremony in closer detail, as Bam Spacey becomes an artist that creates ambiance, and auras to illustrious to be ignored.

Bam Spacey, born Magnus Johanssonson, wrote us the following beautiful thought-companion works for the single “Upplyst”, the upcoming album, 1998:

“Upplyst” is a memory. A memory that sometimes seems lost, but it’s still always present. It’s about what is lost on the road toward adulthood, all our devastating break-downs and slow build-ups, all collected and stored forever in our youthful bodies. The opening line “Our parent disappeared/We saw them for the last time” (roughly translated) is both symbolic and literal. It’s a deeply personal song but as I’m not a fan of spelling things out, I’m leaving it open to interpretation. If you know Swedish that is.

The 1998 LP is by far my most personal material to date. It’s the year of my definite break-up with childhood, and the long, slow walk towards being an adult. A process that still seems eternal. It’s the year I turned 18, and the year I started seeing things differently. The LP is both political and philosophical, in 1998 I wanted to see change, but I’m still waiting. I guess it kind of sounds hopeless, and it is sentimental, but there is hope in there. The whole LP circulates around this idea of memories, how we are all just a collection of them, both on a personal and a collective level. We aren’t different as humans, just born in different places and brought up to think in unique ways.

1998 has been in the making for around two years. I wanted to make something that was more personal, where the lyrics and melodies were given more space. I didn’t want to force anything, so I let it take time, until things came together naturally. We actually had a record late last year, but something was missing, it just wasn’t 100%, and we (me and Vanja, who sings and is part of the live set-up) spent the winter and spring writing new songs, and producing new music for the old songs. And in the end, the puzzle just fit, it finally all came together. The tone is definitely a bit darker on this album, but at the same time, it is more of a pop record than the previous releases.

Bam Spacey’s 1998 will be available from Ceremony Recordings and Luxury in Scandinavia.

BAD BLOCKS

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New Zealand by Australia duo Bad Blocks are Daniel Neeve and Hamish Lang, who joined us for a conversation, a listen to their cutting edge new single, “Turning”, a some of their favorite musical picks. With their Circulate EP slated for availability October 2 from Brooklyn’s home of the new beat, Stars & Letters; Daniel and Hamish take control over the world’s tilt and turn with a new axis of electronic authority. “Turning” brings about broken ground from releases found in the Felte stable, where Aussie styled ghostly electronic vapors nearly materialize into physical matter from the mouth of the speaker. We are thrilled to be joined in a discussion round with Lang and Neeve, as they discusses their upcoming EP, and even co-curate a Week in Pop of their own that concludes today’s feature:

After a couple of years, tell us about breaking new grounds and sounds with “Turning” and the Circulate EP.

Being able to dial back the tempo on this release has been hugely cathartic for us. When we started working together we decided to focus primarily on creating “dance music”, but over time this limitation became suffocating and restrictive. Letting go of this idea and allowing our slower influences to shine has completely changed the way we write. The creation of our Circulate EP was a slow process of deconstruction, which allowed us to break free from the idea of being just another electro two-piece. “Turning”, in particular, was an exercise in space and silence, and after spending years creating dense music, its creation was a breakthrough for us in a small, but crucial way.

How have the NZ and AU scenes and so forth shaped both of your musical consciousnesses?

Growing up in New Zealand has definitely shaped us in a positive way. There is a huge amount of originality tucked away in different corners and it has it’s own musical micro-climate. And although you tend to find some bands who mirror other international acts, in a lot of ways the international scene can feel quite out of reach (though that it starting to change with some bigger acts now emerging from of New Zealand). Our move to Australia was mostly done out of a fondness for exploration and growth, and the Melbourne music scene has been massively inspirational.

Describe how the two of you balance your creative dichotomy in composition and production.

We tend to shape the vocals and the production simultaneously, which can make for a slippery slope. The majority of the songs on this EP have undergone several transformations before they reached their final stage, often ending up with none of the original parts. It’s important to us to try and convey an idea as simply and purely as possible—being a listener first, and a creator second, is something we strive for.

Fall-winter plans, post-release?

We’ve started working on our debut album, which has been really exciting, and we’re aiming to have this completed in the next couple of months. After writing our Circulate EP we’ve felt completely free to make anything we want. It’s been great getting back into working with ideas which are upbeat and abrasive, whilst not being afraid to express a melodic and melancholy side, as well—expect jazz flute solos and cosmic guitar house. We’re also prepping up our live show and experimenting with using more live instruments.


Top 5 favorite NZ/AU sounds you all are into right now, and why we need to hear them.

Yvnalesca, “Misdemeanor”

This beat is SO DOPE!! We love that it’s only a minute and a half long. No unnecessary decorations. So fresh, so potent.

Lower Spectrum, “Khlever”

The production on this track is incredible. Subtle, engaging and beautiful.

@Peace, “Dust”

Hands down the best hip-hop out of NZ right now! It’s immersive, thought provoking and alien. It’ll change your life.

Oscar Key Sung, “All I Could Do”

Great production, emotive words, classic rnb melodies. What more can you ask for?

Kirin J Callinan, “Embracism”

Provocative presents a message about masculinity and stereotypes in the most absurd and playful way.

Bad Blocks Circulate EP will be available October 2 from Stars & Letters.

Off their album, Just Hip Enough To Be Woman at available September 16 from Dine Alone Records, BRONCHO brings us more infectious lo-fi-satisfaction with hooks at all the right times — hitting in all the right places.


Our girl Chippy Nonstop is back on the scene, dropping the cut, “WATA” featuring Prince Zimbo where the grime-pop flows down like synth waters.

Should you need swim lessons or added sunny season zaps of rays and vibes, then listen no further than LA’s Christopher Lintner, and his album, Winged and Wounded. This is that acoustic, fuzzy recorded tape of that takes the somedays of wires, stones, and sails today’s visions down the straits of tomorrow’s started fires that knowledge from the back seats to the front like a five hour drive into the Pacific’s horizon a of a million somedays.

A little late to the Albuquerque indie party, introduce yourself if you haven’t already to YOU, as we catch up with their single, “Cadillac Sweep” that caught our ear, b/w “Shining Atop The Pyramid” that brings switched-on desert melting jams of mirages made out of fermented cacti dreams.

Souls Of Mischief x Adrian Younge’s delivered the new-jazz of the single, “Panic Sruck” ahead of the concept joint, There Is Only Now, available August 26. It’s Souls like you haven’t heard, or as producer Adrian describes it: “I wanted to make an album that was like Native Tongues meets Souls of Mischief meets Herbie Hancock and Bob James. I wanted them to be like four horns, so each person is a separate horn player in, for lack of a better term, this hip-hop jazz production. I wanted them to bob and weave between each other, and when you listen to the record, you can hear them playing off each other like that.”

Their album Loom is available now from Topshelf Records, and we got the Florida boys from Frameworks’ video for the title track directed by Samuel Gursky & Eric Teti that alternates between the gnarliest skate video and obligatory performance sessions, with enough chaos, destruction, and analog decay to make anyone smile.

Peep the Adi Parige video for “Anything I Do Is Alright” from Happyness’s album of the same name, available September 1 on Weird Smilling, and also from the Weird Little Birthday EP (available now). The UK indie-popsters get weird with the green screen, men dressed in green, bubbles, cats, hot dog buns, and whatever they can get their hands on to compliment their alt rock steez.

On the heels of MTSYD: The Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher Mixtape; Charlotte, NC’s Well$ dropped the loosie, “Youth In Revolt Pt. 2” (feat. King Mez) with reinforced production from Sipho the Gift. This is the sound of the new revolution from the new generation. The added words at the track’s beginning and end excerpted in samples from the 1964 Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech given by Martin Luther King Jr.

Brooklyn’s The Britanys lent the summer blissful daze of the season’s sunset days with, “Blow” off the upcoming album, It’s Alright, available September 9.

Ritual Howls serenade the post-apocalyptic Detroit landscape on the single, “Zemmoa” from their upcoming album, Turkish Leather, available September 30. Listen to the slow simmer, soft burning rock that pits luck against fate in a metropolitan atmosphere of crumbled, gothic estates of fallen industry giants. In this aftermath, Ritual Howls thrive with a primal croon, rising forth from the rubble.

Johnny Aries of The Drums is bringing more of that Union Jack waving guitar pop crack on “Ambulette”, ahead of his debut album Unbloomedavailable August 26 from Frenchkiss.

Help Mick Jenkins celebrate his big signing to Cinematic Music Group, and bump his mixtape The Water[s]. Listen as the Chicago emcee kicks it with his trippy styles with further introductions, and a Joey Bada$$ cameo on the closing cut, “Jerome”.

In case you haven’t heard it, Zola Jesus’ “Dangerous Days” got remixed by MAPS (otherwise known as James Chapman), with the first listen from Zola Jesus’ upcoming debut album for Mute coming this October via TAIGA.

Off their upcoming album, 77, available October 21 from Don Giovanni Records; Nude Beach gives a special toast made just especially, “For You”. These Brooklyn dudes got the cure to lift your spirits when the claustrophobia of enclosed and stifling city spaces get the best of you.

Fiancé’s debut EP1 will be available September 23 from SQE, and you can jump, swim, and float through the gorgeous guitar gloss of “Era”. While you sit and stand still, let the eras flow right through you.

Octave Minds, Boys Noize and Chilly Gonzales collaborated to bring us the forthcoming album, Octave Minds on September 15 from Boysnoize Records, and we got a view of the Rolf Bremer video for “Symmetry Slice”. Walk through the piano dotted dreamland where a symmetrical world awaits to unfold in front of you.

Brooklyn couple Connie Lynn Petruk and Christmas Davis are the husband and wife team behind The Tall Pines who gave us this summer’s Black Ribbon EP, that grabs you out of the city and throws you to the groves and foliage upstate for a barn breaking hootenanny or shed shaking, tree-trunk smasher. The title track featured here transplants you off the grid, past the luxuries of metropolitan life for a bayou in your own backyard kind of down home type of fare.

Featuring that club-friendly Red Wine rolling production, and features from G-Eazy & Mila J, get a listen to East Oakland songwriter Bobby Brackins’ new track, “Hot Box”, currently being bumped in vehicles idling at west coast intersections everywhere. Heard writing for folks like Jeremih, Nicki Minaj, Tinashe, Zandaya, and so on, Brackins currently is flexing some of that California state summer slap that attracts big name/big game artist artists and producers across the nation.

Slowing it down for a moment while turning the lights down low, Ellis Martin takes you by the hand for a night out with with his new-lounge-blues in the video for, “Just Like A Baby”, ahead of his upcoming Pornotopia, available October 21. The cat, and mouse, and lion sport and paradox of needs for relationships are explored in emotive and evocative terms and vibes.

Northeast Los Angeles’ Gala Bell, Torg, and Kamer Maza are Music Go Music who will release their album, Impressions, August 19, and share the wild song, “Speed of Light” from a soundtrack they made for a movie that was never made. It’s a long story that you can read more about here, but for now get a glimpse into what is poised to be the next great indie rock opera: Active Savage: Rise of Menergy.

Listen to “Speed of Light” via Soundcloud.

As part of Singles Club, check out the newest cut from Woodsman, with “Further”, as Trevor, Mark, and Dylan show you were they’ve been and a little bit about where they might be headed. Having released their impressive self-titled this year on Fire Talk Records (read our coverage and interview here), the newly established Singles Club is a subscription based service that provides 45RPM 7″s quarterly. More information available here.

Off their Baltimore EP available August 26 from Cascine, check out Kamp!’s new cut, “Parallels”. Kicking the can toward the future trends, Kamp! breaks down and illustrates with ease what the future of electronic parallel existences and dance floor designs will be made of, carefully selecting every key as if it was a bouquet of light emitting thousands of different colors along a sequence that seeks solace through finding corresponding similarities in other sounds and entities.

Letting all their inner wild horses run free, check out Brown Shoes’ latest big presentation with the single, “Circus”, that gallops off their forthcoming Lonely Beast Part II available August 19. These are the brothers that keep riding fearlessly up ahead with arms, heads, and hearts wide open.

Asteroid No.4 scrapes those special nooks and crannies in the back of the cerebellum on, “Back of You Mind”, from their upcoming self-titled available September 23 through the UK imprint, Bad Vibrations Records. The guitars get heavy and sludgy, while the echo-laden vocals soar between the dimensions of the normal, paranormal, and the extra-normal.

You take Jack Cooper from Mazes, and James Hoare from Veronica Falls and get Ultimate Painting, who are about to warm that December state of your mood with the beautiful, “Winter In Your Heart”. Found off their upcoming debut self-titled available October 24 from Trouble In Mind Records, Jack and James make a song to throw you out of your summer vacation mode and into dull-doldrums of winter.

Ruby Fray, aka Emily Beanblossom continues to capture our attention, minds, and psychic senses through the power of “Photograph”, off her upcoming album, Grackle, available September 30 from K. Beanblossom continues to carve her own floating foundation of evoking the lives spent living in those moments caught in the photographic frame back to a perpetual state of existence like the lofty promises made by nearly every religious body’s system of metaphysics that propagate ‘afterlife/eternall life’ hype.

Valery Gore takes us to tomorrow on, “With The Future”, from her forthcoming album, Idols In The Dark Heart available September 9. Check out our recent interview piece here.

Off the forthcoming album, Songs available November 3 from Rough Trade, Deptford Goth redefines the rocky, synthetic rules of attraction where every instances becomes a static artistic display in the flashes of the moment.

YAWN keeps giving us tastes of their forthcoming chiller-thriller, Love Chills, available September 9 from Old Flame Records, with “Wasting, Waiting”. Wasting away the moments that make for an either interesting or dull day click, tick and tock to a steady and measured performance of patience, and biding one’s time until that person returns by your side once again. Hopefully projected occurrences are doted with a longing that defies time albeit under the auspices of the forward marching clock.

Peep the Gobinder Jhitta video for Jaws’ “Be Slowly” off the forthcoming album of the same name, available September 15 from SideOneDummy. These dudes take their pick of the litter from their favorite Melody Maker and Sounds idols that provided a platform for expressions in conjunction with chords of perpetual bliss, not to be missed.

Field Report dropped their new single, “Home”, giving you something to tap the steering wheel to as you make your migrations to old hometowns and childhood abodes to see old friends, family, and strike up new memories. Their new second album Marigolden will be available October 7 from Partisan Records.

Anita Lofton plays Oakland’s The Stork Club in Oakland this Friday evening (2330 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, California 94621) with Kofy Brown, from Sistas in the Pit. Hear Anita’s latest via The Anita Lofton Project, with the album, Neo Black Folk that is steeped in the modern jazz traditions and histories of the Bay Area.

The History of Apple Pie dropped the flashy analog vintage-esque visuals for, “Tame”, off their second upcoming album, Feel Something available September 29 from Marshall Teller Records. Piano lead UK indie pop the way history always intended for it to sound.

San Francisco indie heroes The Aislers Set will re-release Terrible Things Happen and The Last Match September 23 on Slumberland, with How I Learned To Write Backwards will be reissued on October 14 from Suicide Squeeze. On the following minimix, relive the moments and pains from only the purest of hearts.

BAD BLOCKS’ WEEK IN POP

bad blocks week in pop 2

Celer, “Honey Moon”

One of our favorite ambient artists. Distant, warm and beautiful.

Shabazz Palaces, “They Come In Gold”

Alien, confusing and cool. Great to see an artist constantly changing and pushing boundaries.

Kool A.D., “OPEN LETTER (PROD. AMAZE 88)”

This guy manages to continually deliver playful, thought provoking rap songs full of dense imagery. Effortless and aware.

Ricky Eat Acid, “In Dreams We’re Almost Touching”

This has the unique ability to be mind mumbling, catchy, hypnotic, and uplifting all at once. This whole album is glorious from start to finish.

Caribou, “Can’t Do Without”

Been following his work for a while, and this feels like a change of pace. More minimal, melodic. Excited about the new album!

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