Week in Pop: Harlem Sekani, POW!, Sabba Rabba

Sjimon Gompers

POW

POW! sends one straight to the kisser of the nu-tech monarchies,Eilam Wolman returns with Sabba Rabba. (POW! photo courtesy of Sam E. Ferguson, alt photo courtesy of Sabba Rabba)

Welcome to 2014. We're happy we made it, and even happier that you are along for the ride with another edition of Impose's Week in Pop. As we do away with any pretentious resolutions, here is a quick rundown in the headline news that may matter to you. There was the Beyoncé-Challenger row over sampled audio of the doomed mission on “XO“, we also learned Morrissey has both a novel and album in the works, Rick Ross cried copyright infringement over LMFAO's allusory switching the MMG Don's eponymous “everyday I’m hustlin” for “everyday I’m shufflin” on the unfortunately ubiquitous “Party Rock Anthem'', and Lil B dropped a 101 track mixtape over the holidays – but more on that in a moment. So help us ring in the new year right with our friends POW!, Sabba Rabba, and Harlem's latest rising talent, in no particular order.

Over the holiday break, Lil B dropped the hefty (and now legendary) 101 track mixtape, 05 Fuck Em, and on song number 60 he helped introduced the world to Harlem's rising producer, Harlem Sekani with a mind destroying memorable title cut. Born Sekani Bell-Jenkins, he has been making home baked Harlem based beats since 2011, cooking up different scores of choice styles from the El Camino car stereo-ready horns on “Crown the King“, to the celestial cloud crashing atmospheres found on his contribution to the Based God's already future classic. On “Fuck Em”, B delivers that East Bay raised surreal stream of conscious commentary that brings that weight of introspection met with Sekani's production to keep the entire movement pushing into a perpetual climatic bridge adorned with rising angelic vocal cascades.

We all remember the power of what the perfect/strangest production combination can do since B dropped the Clams Casino produced cornerstone, “I'm God” (that ignited everything from the underground to the upper tiers of a now much storied series of interests and successes that transcended the rap game itself, arguably). The title track from one of the most ambitious joints from one of the world's most enigmatic emcees around rides off that experiential sense of overstimulated sensory overload that trips up the hi-fidelity vocal pop against the lo-fi theorems that deconstruct how we understand the unconscious tapping of undercurrent auras of ambience in our favorite music. Listen to more from Harelm Sekani here via Soundcloud.

Harlem Sekani took the time to chat with us today about the creative hotbed of Harlem, NYC, following in the footsteps of Clams Casino, hip-hop and EDM production overlaps, hints at more items in store, 2014 toasts, and more.

What first brought you toward the art of producing around, before and up to 2011?

I've always been interested in creating music, even a young age. I started taking piano lessons around the age of seven and my parents always had music playing in the house, which helped to mold my musical tastes. I started producing in 2011 because of a friend that I met at Millennium High School in New York City. He was a rapper and that made me want to be more involved the music world. Since I can't rap, although I do write poetry, producing music was the next best thing.

Who were some of the producers you first admired?

Clams Casino and he is hands down in the top 5 greatest producers of all time. He created a sound that many, including myself, try to recreate, but it's just not possible. Lex Luger is the other producer who I admired at first, and still do. There is a video of him creating an instrumental only using FL Studio on YouTube and there was a time period, about a month or a little over, where I would literally watch that video every day, multiple times.

From your initial mixing of old school and ambiance with “In Your Head”, “Too Easy”, “War”, “I Am King” to the serenity sound spheres of the Sedated EP, and everything you have been working on up to now, how have you observed your own artistic development?

Every artist needs to understand that the only way to get better is to constantly change. Similar to how Mac Miller, one of my favorite rappers alters his sound with every project. That's what I try to do with my music and it's been working pretty well for me so far. I like how I've developed so far but I feel that I'm not even half-way to where I feel I could/should be, talent wise.

Taking on your home of Harlem upon your own moniker, how has Harlem informed and impacted your styles?

Harlem is the home to many creative artists, A$AP mob, Bodega Bamz, Perrion, etc. When People see my name and hear the music I make, it'll help them to see how creative we really are. I put ‘Harlem’ in front of my name because I want to help expose people to what we can do, not necessarily because it has impacted my production style.

Alright, so give us the story about how you got the honors of producing the mind warping title cut from Lil B's 101 track mixtape massive.

I just followed in the footsteps of one of my favorite producers, Clams Casino. Lil B and I followed each other on twitter then we just began exchanging emails. There will be more collabs whenever he decides to release them.

How did you go about sorting and arranging the cut bridge hooks for “Fuck Em”? Combined with B's down to earth doses of real it creates a sense of straight up other-worldliness…out of this world while grounded, it's hard to explain.

I created that song about a year ago. I just kept tweaking it until I felt it was right and I sent it to him a few months after.

What are some of the connections, correlations and differences with hip-hop and EDM productions in your eyes and experiences?

There actually aren't many differences besides maybe different sounds you will use but aside from that I don't see any others. I used the same drums and hi-hats for both my hip-hop and EDM songs. If you listen to my song “Purple Skies” I even use the standard EDM drum pattern at some parts of the song.

What other productions do you currently have in session? Any other mic masters your working with you can mention?

I'm working on some R&B songs now so I can expand my sound even more. It may turn into an EP. There are but I'd rather not mention them now. You'll be the first to know.

Toasts for 2014?

A toast to my family, all of the people at Millennium High School and Indiana State University who have supported me and continue to support me, Impose Magazine, and last but not least all of the brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Look out for the clothing line “Creative Minds” that I'm starting with Luis Rodriguez. The first item will be out in a month. Be sure to follow me on twitter @harlemsekani.

Listen to more from Harlem Sekani, here.

Also from the 101 track strong 05 Fuck Em tape, check out Lil B's video for “Praying 4 a Brick” where he offers the following toast before dropping his desperate plea. In short, thank you yet again, Based God.

“I cannot wait for violence and crime rates to lower,
this is truly how I feel and I love you and will work for your family to be safe.”

I became a POW! believer back when they played Impose's 2011 Thanksgiving Pre-feast Freakout in the Upper Haight district of San Francisco. On a night that featured them on a bill with Mikal Cronin, The Burnt Ones, and Al Lover; the admiration of their dadaist audio blitz made an impression that POW! packed their own punch ripped from something even greater than the onomatopoeic verbs backed in pulp comic word balloons. The triple threat of Byron Blum, Melissa Blue, and Aaron Diko kick up unapolegetic energy and utilize every instrumental noise maker available for a blessed storm of guitar rhythmics, synth squelches and drum kicks. With news that their album Hi-Tech Boom will arrive January 14 from Castle Face Records, these three warriors band together to ward off the out the of this world take over of the techie sort.

In one of the first listens to “Cyber Attack!!”, the effects hover in like helicopters as the war against the invading technocrats begins. Synths swing like battering rams and melt as the guitar drives shreds of schrapnel into the machines of evil empires that seek to erode the affordability of anything resembling DIY sanctuary. POW! marches ahead with a defense blaring noise shield while switching up the noise to attack mode, exploding the arrogances of their yuppie oppressors. In a style that manages to maintain while obliterating the line between chaos and control, this latest incarnation of “Cyber Attack!!” finds POW! fine tuning their sound of rebellion that starts their own instellar overdrive right here on earth. On this operation payback, the three hack into the mainframe in a culture jamming maneuver to keep the mainstream stream-rollers from plowing down their Bay Area bastion of paradise. Stay with us after the premiere, as Byron Blum has plenty more to share on the issues, and attitudes of their upcoming album, Hi-Tech Boom.

First, how was everyone's holidays? Any dinner with family episodes, adventures worth sharing?

Hey, it's Byron here. Just got back from LA last night after being there for New Years. I had a nice memorable moment smoking a cigar on a rooftop that was like an adventure within itself trying to finish it.

I still remember when you all played our Thanksgiving Holiday Pre-feast Freakout at Milk Bar in Upper Haight a few holidays back, what have the last few years been like for POW! ?

Oh yeah… that was pretty fun. We've all just been lifting weights over at Aaron's house.

(photo courtesy of Sam E. Ferguson)

Hi-Tech Boom is a great referential title to the new ominous movement that our entire Bay has had to contend with, and arguably affecting the whole world in an externality sense of things. What initial events as a result of this new technocratic bubble began the song writing processes for Hi-Tech Boom?

It was when we started to hear the stories from our friends, and how difficult it's become to sustain living in SF, and you could feel the stress. It was when we started to notice all the construction and redevelopment going on all across the city. We felt obligated to write something about it.

How do you feel that this nu-tech movement has created new so-called opportunities while shifting the power to oligarchical start ups that bring bridge and tunnel out-sourced crowds with tax incentives invading and evicting the DIY tenants in favor of suburban squares and the new awkward money hustling, power-tech players?

We think it's great for that class of people. However it's not so good for our friends who aren't able to currently compete at that income level and want to continue to live in this city. It's a mixed bag…

(POW! playing Sutro Baths Cave Show, photo by Amelia Sechman)

Fellow San Franciscan-futurist visionaries Future Twin got really deep down with us earlier this year about these problems, discussing how it has affected the Mission, and so forth; what do you all feel would be the best affordable housing plan that the bay, the nation and the world to adopt?

Free 99, and all tings ire, mon. Love-full heights. Jah!

Walk us through the album, the stark “Glitch”-es, the enchanting “Hope Dealers”, the blight and plights of “Vertical Slum”, through the “Sugi Walks”, the turned-on “Switchboard Scientist”, the highways of routes like “66”, the DDoS boom of “Cyber Attack!!”, station to station travels on “@ The Station”, the new soft shoe of “Shoes (PLEH)”, closing it out and blowing it out with “Fire Hose”.

No thanks.

We're pretty stoked that this is dropping on Dwyer's Castle Face, although we're devastated by the news of Thee Oh Sees' hiatus. How are you all dealing with this? Have you talked to John and the gang about it at all?

Man, it's crazy. They're last show at The Great American [Music Hall in SF] was really special and they are the best. They will definitely be missed while on hiatus but I'll say, John seems like the guy [that's] always full of surprises, and we all know he's a work horse. So maybe he has something up his sleeve for us that we don't already know about?

Leave us with some combative and some commiserating advice to counter the culture vacuum of the nu-tech movement, a forward to the antidote of your album, Hi-Tech Boom.

Keep it Zen. Fuck the hope dealers. And Sugi walks.

The upcoming POW! album Hi-Tech Boom will be available January 14 from Castle Face Records.

Also from Castle Face, look for John Dwyer's compiling of Providence, Rhode Island's The Traps with what Mr. Dwyer refers to as “Six tracks from a CD-r only EP as well as 4 tracks pulled from a dusty box of cassettes” that make up Boom Pow Awesome Wow, slated for release January 28.

About a year ago, we turned you on to the frenetic world of Eilam Wolman, with the Ariel Pink approved world of vegetable lives and more mythic adventures with Manicorn. During these recent holidays we were catching up with Mr. Wolman and learned of his new solo-sometimes-collaborative endeavour, Sabba Rabba. Late to discovering their contribution to Fuzz City Records Summer of Fuzz Vol. 2 (the imprint also home to our favorites Big Tits, Warm Soda, Burnt Ones, etc) Preparing their debut self-titled EP release for January 7 on the international Tar imprint, it is our honor to bring you the debut listen to the opening aggressive firestorm of, “Hm Mm Mm”.

Compared to the new wave indie cool of “Yo Play It Cool” and “Something Cruel”, opener “Hm Mm Mm” takes no prisoners, spares no weak-hearts, asks questions later, while throwing everything up to and including the kitchen sink into one basher. Wolman and friends kick out a loud jam with big drums and vocals thrown over to the right speaker channel while drums guitars and the sound of a real or imaginary back up band burns up everything and anything else around. Eilam shouts out a new crazed kind of punk order that encourages the mix of guitars to percussion to explode into one another like a great sound collision of barely controllable bursts of ecstacy.

After nearly a year, we caught up with Eilam Wolman to get a closer look at the development and journey from Manicorn, to Sabba Rabba, the art of delving into different styles, and more.

It's been a minute, curious to hear how your work as Manicorn became the solo project of rotating drummers that is Sabba Rabba.

I've just been moving around a lot. I think drummers mind playing with me less when they know I'll be in another city and out of their lives soon enough.

From the split channeled vocals and massive percussion & guitar explosions on “Mm Hm Hm”, how did you and friends make this? Which drummers were all featured in the making of this song?

“Mm Hm Hm” has that unique sound because we recorded it in Uri Kleinman's bedroom, really great producer. Uri Zelig plays drums on that. He's such a visceral musician, and very technically skilled. This makes me feel inadequate and guilty, which I relish.

“You Play it Cool” acts like it's too cool for the digital age, and I love it. What is it about the very primitive, primordial, or whatever it is within that controlled chaos that you wield to make these kinds of cocksure songs that have the ambiguous era echoes?

It's difficult to distinguish, I'm not sure.

I love that it seems your musical methodologies seem to change or just shift all together for each songs. Do you have some kind of “throw the whole jukebox into the pie” approach when it comes to your songwriting, particularly in those early sketches and compositional forms?

Maybe the hope is to defect to a different genre where you won't be able to find or recognize yourself. But then no matter where you land, you're always already waiting for yourself at the airport. 'Not me again'. 'Maybe if I move to Sweden and play death metal, I'll have no way to find me, and once I go looking for myself elsewhere and stop bothering me, I could finally have some alone time.' And so on.

Tell us a bit about the Tar Records.

Tar's run by PBDY, a really cool artist who works at Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus' label. Its premise is three track releases only. All free digital. Artists from all over the world, all genres. Australian hip hop, Belgian electronica. They have something for everyone. Cohenbeats is on their roster so you know they're not messing around. Wearetar.com is where you can hear and download all the free music.

What other recordings are in the works?

There's an entire album in the can, I don't know when and how it will be released. Another one is half done and will either get finished this month or probably never.

You are always collaborating with folks, any particulars in the pipeline you can discuss?

I don't know, man. I was emailing back and forth with Colleen Green about a duet. Then it turned out that it wasn't really her. Just some dude in a mask. So I went solo again.

Sabba Rabba's EP will be available January 7 from Tar.

Some months back The Landing joined us for an interview, and today they bring their video for “Anxieties”, directed by Alexander Koht with choreography by Izzy Man and Vivake Khamsingsavath. The Landing introduces the visualizations to their moody key-tones with this following blurb:

“The laws of this Universe mandate our existence, making Us not only a symptom of reality but also an obligation of the Cosmos. We are what this Universe does. As we inherit this grave responsibility, we also must take time to celebrate ourselves…sometimes irresponsibly. Happy 2014.”

Oakland California's own independent Record Store, all ages venue and imprint 1-2-3-4 Go! needs your help in continuing to provide access for all to independent arts, resources and more. Taking their cause to Indiegogo, your East Bay friends need help with the following items:

Knock out the adjoining wall.
Paint the interior and exterior to match our existing space
All new lighting that will stretch the length of both spaces.
Build additional custom fixtures; record bins, shelving etc.
Purchase new product; Records, books, supplies, turntables etc.
Purchase new Mic's, Cords and Stands for the venue.
Close the store for 7 to 14 days (oof!)

Check out how you can help via Indiegogo.

Well$ dropped the cut “Black Swan” ahead of his tape, MTSYD: The Revenge Of The African Booty Scratcher. Note the Shlohmo production vibes with reinforcements from Jackie Kwenda's vocals. Tales of caution spin stories of getting caught up and in-too-deep in the game of selling yourself to the world, that is further dramatized by the basement-house-bassed out (and based out) production.

A post came across the socials from Tera Melos's Nick Reinhart floating around this cut, “Moon Depression”, with the following explanatory statement:

“Came across this song today. I wrote it a couple years ago for a solo record that never happened. Maybe one day. It's a mellow pop jam. i really like Air, obviously haha.”

From the Tera Melos release that never was, get a load of this fun one.

From the same sesh as the “Moon Depression”, Nick Reinhart dropped the would be Tera Melos cut, “Accidents” here with the following statement:

“Everyone was super nice about ['Moon Depression'] so here's another new/old tune from that solo session. Hope you like!”

Victoria, Canada's Drew Harris dropped his third album Reconnect under his name Germany Germany, with a few featured synthed out listenings. The first is “On Your Own” that sounds like the openng introduction to a 90s CD-ROM adventure game designed for Japanese console firmware that would play out in the flashing lights and colors of animated sprites.

The Germany Germany heroics keep on coming, as you too can beat the game by dashing to the end on the most triumphant, “Run” featuring Brothertiger.

Tracy Shedd prepares her winter tour with Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, beginning January 11 at Washington DC's The Black Cat through January 18 at Knoxville, TN joint, The Pilot Light. Shedd's album Arizona is available now from New Granada Records, and you are invited to check out gentle revolt of heartwarming proportions, with her take on Sonic Youth's “Teenage Riot”.

Get more fuzzy-feel-right-feelings with Tracy Shedd's “Broken Arrows”.

Ane Brun released Rareties from her own imprint Balloon Ranger, and keeps the holiday cello-heavy sentiment flourishing with her live performance cover of Beyoncé’s “Halo” with Linnea Olsson.

Houston's The Beans spilled their desert drifting dirt and sand storm journey drag with, “Carnal Constant”, from their 2013 self-titled release. The song picks up a galloping pace that continues with a optimistic but hesitant weariness that has a soft rock appeal of odd honesty.

Listen to “Carnal Constanthere.

Happy New Year from your boy Alexander Spit, who dropped the fancy and flossing single, “Bitter Suite Symphony”. Keeping the glasses going in the hotel suite, Spit lives out some big boss living fantasies and wild west sort of shoot outs in between ordering the pimpest room service around. This is 2014, and Alexander lives it up like a Speakeasy soiree. As always, any track from this Bay by LA artist can never be confined to the conventional; Spit kicks and and spits this on a scale larger than life and theater movie screens.

Check out Death Of Samantha performing the jangle and shred cut, “Rosenberg Summer”, live at Studio A Rama, from a few Septembers back at Case Western Reserve University. Here is a summer to last all winter for you.

Exray's released another transmission with the galactic traveling, “e m p t y _ s p a c e”. Jon Bernson sent out a cable that chronicled their travels and findings further with the urgent message of:

“Our time grows short and there is still much to tell. Do not delay!”

Slide overlays sent through correspondence channels told of final transmissions yet to be sent, as Exray's continue to observe the outer limits and enter the densest depths from those dimensions.

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