One of my Official Favorite Albums Of 2016 (So Far) is The Avalanches’ Wallflower, released this July and a whole sixteen years (read: musical lifetime) after the Australian genre-mashing outfit’s critically acclaimed first, Since I Left You. The new album is a rich scrapbook mosaic of samples from all kinds music cut and pasted together to make a pretty dope journey through bouncy hip-hop, shimmery sheeny disco, Beatlesy textures and smile-inducing pop references – like the distinct ‘na na na na na na na’ of ‘Getting Jiggy with It’, and a schoolyard chant rendition of ‘Come Together‘ by the Beatles in a song that reminds me of Gorillaz’ ‘Superfast Jellyfish‘.
My favorite sample though, is from ‘Because I’m Me’, the video for which was just released. The track opens with the ever-so-slightly distorted voice of a young boy singing what sounds like an old blues song, accompanied by a sampled snippet of the Honey Cones’ ‘Want Ads‘ which loops throughout. The kid’s voice is from this amazing collection of recordings called Street and Gangland Rhythms, Beats and Improvisations by Six Boys in Trouble: six black children aged 11 and 12 in a room with an audio recorder playing bongos, singing songs they’ve heard or made up in a sad, beautiful, funny and poignant snapshot of their lives living in a group home as future black men in New York City in the 1950s. The “song” in ‘Because I’m Me’ is actually a patchwork of words from a number of songs on the recordings, stuck together to make a tune about unrequited love.
I think one of my favorite things about hip-hop music is the use of samples because of the way those snippets can introduce you to a whole other world of music. Their use also shows the actual depth that goes into true hip-hop production- the work it takes to pick out an undercover piece of a song and make it “the get down” – the groovy baseline, the just-right beat, the thing that makes it fire, as the kids would say. (Related: if this is in any way interests you, you *need* to watch Baz Lurhman’s The Get Down.).
Wallflower contains so many great references you could make a whole other, pretty great diverse mixtape, and I also just love this recordbecause the tracks melt into each other so one song’s ending is another song’s beginning. It’s just so beautifully crafted that I pretty much can’t stop listening to it. And luckily, the videos for the singles have turned out to be just as charming, like this totally appropriate one for ‘Because I’m Me’ with a kid with an afro dancing in the subway backed up by horn players. How could you resist that?
Since music is basically the bricks that line memory lane (well, that and the sense of smell), and I’m also always listening to something old while discovering something new, it only makes sense that I appropriate #ThrowbackThursday for a bit of aural nostalgia.
Sometimes I think that the universe puts certain music in my life (does that sound nuts?), and lately it’s been reminding me of the electro-rainbow melodies of Electric Guest and their first and only album Mondo, which was stamped with the trademark disco sheen of Danger Mouse production. Even though the album was released in 2012, one of my favourite tracks, ‘Waves’, is currently being (ab)used in a TV ad/commercial, and I recently ‘found’ an old Spotify playlist with a couple of beloveds from the LP.
It was nice to hear that the record still holds up, especially ‘Under the Gun with its ominously cool machine melodies, and that I don’t just crave Electric Guest because of the memories of living in L.A (where the group is from) when I was loving Mondo. The music still makes me want to move, and I’m looking forward to what the band puts out for their sophomore project without the help of the genius producer.
Word on the street (aka the band’s Facebook page) is that the new album is in the works; in the meantime, I’ll be jamming to this.
Just be prepared because your mind may be blown a little. When the song first comes on (after you get past some eerie beeping) you definitely hear hip-hop and you definitely feel something in your nerves that makes them twitch in a dance-y fashion. But this song goes just beyond that and takes you into some other type of galaxy , much like Flying Lotus does with completely otherworldy sounds that simultaneously don’t fit but do make sense in this universe. It’s something like future sounds, spacey handclaps and autotune voices that make you see stars and colours. There is a middle section – a bridge if you will – that is an utterly spectacular strip down that leaves you jamming to the sounds of a shaker and a single beat.
Javelin is a set of cousins making DIY electric music with layers of technology and ordinary sounds out of Brooklyn, New York and has been since around 2005. Their entire second album, called Hi Beams, is out on March 5 and available for preview on the Luaka Bop record page, which is a trip of its own with the 90’s neon jukebox flashing colours and, like a Google doodle, there’s stuff you can click on to make music.
But for now here’s “Nnormal” — and seriously, be prepared for four minutes of an ear-shaking ride because this track is anything but.