These producers, artists, bands and emcees all go to great lengths to exemplify Los Angeles' wildly original, fiercely independent spirit, check out their best work below.
Blu is the leader of West Coast Hip Hop. Since the days of Pharcyde, Freestyle Fellowship, and Jurassic 5, there have been few wordsmiths that have grasped the attention of listeners worldwide. Introduced to NWA and Public Enemy by his father, Blu later was captivated by the likes of Black Star, The Roots, and Common, creating a unique balance that is displayed in Blu’s personality and music.Blu’s first full length LP, “Below the Heavens” pairs Blu with producer Exile on the Sound in Color imprint. His first single, “Narrow Path” has rocked stages across the world, as fans begin to feel the impact of Blu’s music. His delivery flows flawlessly, while the content reflects the joy and pain of working class youth everywhere. Since the release of “Narrow Path,” Blu has performed alongside Slum Village, X-Clan, Platinum Pied Pipers, Lyrics Born, DJ Houseshoes, and many others, while participating in 3 high-profile nationwide tours alongside musical family members: Ta’Raach, Aloe Blacc, and Exile. The buzz has fans salivating for new music. Worldwide, people are looking to put hope into the ‘next’ emcee that will give them the same feeling when they first heard Black Thought, Common, or Slum Village. Blu fulfills this need, but maintains something that is entirely new, while not recycled.
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Forever a wildcat and wild card, Los Angeles' bassist/songwriter/vocalist Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, is impossible to tame artistically. A true master of his craft, he can be found playing bass with Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu and Suicidal Tendencies, in the same breath as performing live with the likes of Stanley Clarke, Snoop Dogg or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His 2011 solo debut (The Golden Age of Apocalypse, co-produced by Flying Lotus) created an equally genre-blurring enigma of indie rock and jazz, with a touch of electronica. On his second album, Apocalypse, Thundercat pairs up with executive producer Flying Lotus to pull the veil back and reveal the simple truths of the cycle of life, for all its beauty and destruction. An album about loss and rebuilding, trying to gain something back, and capturing that moment of clarity where one finally finds feet back on the ground again. Bringing a fusion of pop, soul, electronica, prog rock and funk into an unexplored dimension, the album slowly descends and tunnels to the core of what it takes to grasp peace, at a time that it seems most far. From the deep, rumbling entrance of 'Tenfold,' each of the 12 tracks coalesce with Thundercat's signature bass, his riffs and basslines gliding sky high to meet Fly Lo's astral touch. Bruner's vocals and harmonies also soar with open honesty, rising above heartbreak with uplifting odes to love and companionship ('Tron Song') and wise mantras to live by ('Special Stage'). The album plays as a comedy and tragedy at the same time, delicately addressing tracks like 'We'll Die' while bringing the all-out cosmic funk of the anthemic 'Oh Sheit, it's X.' As heavy as the lyrical weight may be, the divine musicality of Flying Lotus, and Thundercat's instrumental collaborations, brings light. Navigating dense rhythms and intense harmonic progressions, the LP pushes through the hypnotic strands of 'The Life Aquatic,' the analogue explorations of 'Lotus & The Jondy' (recorded in Adrian Younge's studio with drummer Thomas Pridgen), and Thundercat and Lotus' prog rock jam 'Seven,' a spontaneous improv recording that organically materialized in less than an hour. It's no wonder the kindred pair often refer to their freeform sessions as "going to space." Continually pushing tracks to their furthest point, they take the listener to another place completely - somewhere beyond time, a place that transcends this realm. As the aforementioned track 'Seven' (named for its challenging time signature) asks, "Can you hear the sounds of infinity?"
Birthed in the back alleys of Baltimore, nurtured by NYC, and ultimately coming-of-age on the highways of the southwest on their way to California, Silk Rhodes are the dynamic duo of astro-traveling producer Michael Collins and singer Sasha Desree. Their voyage began in a 1997 Honda CRV turned DIY recording studio built to capture and share light-bulb moments as they happened. The approach was simple: run a microphone into loop pedal, connect the looper to the car stereo via cassette-tape adaptor, and start spitting out ideas.Then Collins and Desree, alongside a host of roving lunatics and pranksters, would broadcast their experiments to the streets, commenting on their observations in rhyme, soliciting ideas from strangers, and inviting people into the car to contribute vocals, or loop beats.These experiments spawned sound collages, and stream-of-consciousness hymns, as well an an electric boogie tune with nods to Joe Jackson and George Benson (“Face 2 Face”), and a lonesome ballad that sounds like a still-lost Donnie and Joe Emerson song produced by Gamble & Huff (“Pains”). Under the banner of Silk Rhodes, Collins and Desree challenge preconceived notions of what Soul Music is, can, and should be. Steeped in the human experience, Silk Rhodes debut is a collection of songs that exemplifies their free spirited vision for future soul music.A touchstone for exploring inner visions.
Deluxe vinyl package includes the album on 3xLP white vinyl, download card and a gorgeous, reflective silver triple gatefold jacket. Damon "Dam-Funk" Riddick is the epitome of funk. Ever since debuting with Stones Throw in 2008, Dam-Funk has become one of the genres most passionate proselytizers. In 2013, he released his celebrated partnership with hip-hop's Snoop Dogg titled 7 DAYS OF FUNK. Fresh for '15, Dam returns with a solo project nearly six years in the making: Invite the Light. Dam's partnership with Stones Throw includes everything from his 2009 LP Toeachizown, to an anthology of early productions, Adolescent Funk (2010), to 2013's 7 Days of Funk. As always, Dam flexes his multi-instrumentalist talents by handling all the production but still makes time for guests including rapper Q-Tip, the father-son duo of LEON SYLVERS III & IV, and funk giant Junie Morrison of the OHIO PLAYERS, who opens and closes the album with dire warnings of what could happen in a world without funk. Rest assured, Dam is here to make sure that never comes to pass. As he puts it, "funk is the underdog, the black sheep of black music," and if that's true, Dam-Funk is its shepherd.
Second album by the rapper, producer and member of the Los Angeles-based hip hop collective Odd Future. Includes collaborations with Dash, Wiki, Na'kel and Vince Staples.
It has been a year since Fade to Mind released the critically acclaimed Cut 4 Me, a ground breaking collaboration by genredefying vocalist Kelela and the producers of the Fade to Mind and Night Slugs family. 2013 saw Kelela ascend from secret performances at ethereal warehouse raves to a staple of international music festivals, and she has been critically hailed as a voice to watch of her generation. To celebrate the success of this collaborative record, Fade to Mind releases Cut 4 Me Deluxe Edition, the original 14 tracks alongside 8 new remixes. Expanding on the power of Kelela’s vocals in the club, the deluxe edition revisits underground anthems with dramatic reinterpretations. This also marks the first time Cut 4 Me will be available in its entirety on vinyl. Original producers Jam City, Girl Unit, Kingdom, and Nguzunguzu return with new takes on previous productions, while Fade and Slugs affiliates MikeQ, Massacooramaan, Rizzla and Neana cast their signature styles on four of the tracks, ranging from ballroom beats to bubbling trance. With 22 tracks in total, Cut 4 Me Deluxe Edition is the deô€ƒ¶nitive version of Kelela’s breakout record. Cut 4 Me followed Kelela through heartbreak, melancholy and finding the resolve to go on fighting. The remixes explore five of the original songs, each pushing them in exhilarating new directions. Kingdom’s aptly titled Destruction Before Paradise Mix is a war chant for the brokenhearted, an enraged, pulsing halftime take on Enemy. Girl Unit’s Send Me Out remix places Kelela’s vocals over a supple synth lead, only dusted by incredibly restrained percussion. Nguzunguzu’s very different take on Send Me Out captures the feeling of a their legendary live performances, the stuttering acapella slowly giving way into a crisp grime beat. Jam City’s remakes his own original production Keep it Cool into a personal VIP. MikeQ, Massacooramaan, Rizzla and Neana all twist the original songs into their own sonic universes, rendering a collection of heavy club tools for a diverse dancefloor.
For the best part of a decade, Los Angeles native Ariel Rosenberg has been carving out some of the most intoxicating music going, a reclusive pop surrealist whose corroded productions have led to a cult following that has often been difficult to keep up with. Now signed to 4AD, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are back with Before Today. With roots going back as far as 1996, the West Coast act are as sublime as they are surreal with a sound loaded with hazy nostalgia and a fiercely experimental pop palette. From the Haunted Graffiti series (from which the full band’s name is now derived), which featured the likes of Worn Copy (2005) and House Arrest (2006), Ariel Pink has established himself as one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation, a visionary producer in the vein of Joe Meek and Ariel’s hero and previous collaborator, tape deck dilettante, R. Stevie Moore, creating a world through certain production touches.
Mayer Hawthorne (Aquarius) and Jake One (Taurus) – they are descendants of the one- word moniker family of funk, where you will find groups such as Chic, Shalamar, Plush & Zapp. The Tuxedo collaboration began with an exchange of mixtapes back in 2006. The fruits of a long-standing kinship were three tracks that mysteriously showed up on Internet doorsteps nearly two years ago. In between personal projects, these three tracks became a full album's worth of Tuxedo. The album was mixed by original disco don dada John Morales at his home studio in South Plainfield, New Jersey. "I flew out there," Mayer says. "His wife made me spaghetti and everything."The duo is excited to release the upcoming album on Stones Throw Records, which also marks Mayer's return to the label since his debut release of A Strange Arrangement in 2009. Until then, stay classy.
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Limited edition of 300 units worldwide. Includes lyric sheet. "Jazz is supposedly a grown folks’ genre, played by aging bohemians in tiny clubs. Tell that to the Breathing Effect—a self-described electronic group influenced by soul, rock and jazz—whose debut album, Mars Is a Very Bad Place for Love, toes a line between traditional and turn up. As a unit, producer/keyboardist Eli Goss and drummer/bassist Harry Terrell merge the standards of conventional jazz with modern bounce beats. By definition, it scans as "jazz fusion," but the results conjure '70s R&B as well as the contemporary Los Angeles beat scene and hip-hop. Clearly, Goss and Terrell study Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine, but it seems they dig Thundercat and Stevie Wonder, too. The genesis of the Breathing Effect can be traced to its fascinating 2014 EP, on which Goss and Terrell spread aquatic rhythms over five tracks. From "Layers of Thought" to "Losing My Mind", the resulting mixture was equally soothing and mesmerizing; the EP as a whole worked just as well under clear or gray skies. Mars is more upbeat than its predecessor, though the opening tunes—"Forestial Things" and "Cloudy Afternoon"—continue the EP’s mellow ambience. Yet by the third song, the two-tiered "Cold Meteor Showers", Goss and Terrell hit a stride. In a way, Mars plays like musical theater: It’s driven by space travel, and follows the story of two lovers cruising the galaxy with no concept of time. Tracks like "One for the Mountains By the Sea" and "Twenty Years Altogether" recall spacious isolation, of couples escaping life’s hustle to be alone with each other. It’s a notion evoked on album standout, "Weightless Reality", where Goss, Terrell and guest vocalist Kalia Vandever sing of a fantasy world of waterfalls and underwater utopia. Whether or not they’re depicting planet Mars is anyone’s guess. Still, the music conveys a very real narrative while using few words, which is usually a tough task for most instrumental albums. The vocals, sparing as they are, come from Goss, Terrell, Vandever and Michael Mayo, who tend to float along the periphery of the music, underlining the instrumentals. On "Streetlights Out of Focus", Mayo drifts softly, his wails a breezy compliment to Goss and Terrell’s composition. And of all the great things happening here—the Isley Brothers vibe on "Fireflies", the dense layers of "Visions"—you can actually feel the melodies, which remain at the forefront even though the music drifts in all directions. The blend seeps into the background if you let it, but dominates your attention in headphones, played loudly. "Rising Inside"—the LP’s best song and one of the group’s finest to date—uses swift percussion, bright synths and a Vocoder, working up a loud bounce that would fit comfortably within rap circles and jazz crowds, two sects that couldn’t be farther apart these days. It’s a grand culmination for the Breathing Effect: experimental jazz with the potential for huge resonance." -Marcus J Moore, pitchfork.com
Have You In My Wilderness is Julia Holter’s most intimate album yet, a collection of radiant ballads. Her follow-up to 2013’s widely celebrated Loud City Song explores love, trust, and power in human relationships. While love songs are familiar fodder in pop music, Holter manages to stay fascinatingly oblique and enigmatic on her new album. Have You in My Wilderness is also Holter’s most sonically intimate album. Here, she and producer Cole Marsden Greif-Neill lift her voice out of the layers of smeared, hazy effects, putting her vocals front and center in the mix. The result is striking—it sounds as if Holter is singing right in your ear. It sounds clear and vivid, but also disarmingly personal. The focused warm sound and instrumentation — dense strings, subtle synth pads — adds to the effect. Like Holter’s previous albums, Have You in My Wilderness is multi-layered and texturally rich, featuring an array of electronic and acoustic instruments played by an ensemble of gifted Los Angeles musicians. Have You In My Wilderness deals with dark themes, but it also features some of the most sublime and transcendent music Holter has ever written. The ten songs on the album are shimmering and dreamlike, wandering the liminal space between the conscious and the subconscious.
120g vinyl with spot gloss and matte finish, with 4 color insert. Los Angeles experimental quartet HEALTH originally formed in 2006 around the noise/punk scene emerging from downtown club The Smell. The band combines incredible musicality (vocals, drums, guitars, bass, keyboards) with visceral electronics to form a sound unlike anything in music today. New 12-track Loma Vista Recordings/Fiction Records release Death Magic is preceded by the lead single "New Coke" and follows-up their 2007 self-titled debut and 2009's Get Color. Collaborators on the highly anticipated record include Mars Volta producer Lars Stalfors, longtime Kanye West engineer Andrew Dawson and U.K. electronic artist Haxan Cloak. Bassist John Famiglietti on the album to NME: "There’s a lot of stuff we wanted to reflect in the new music, like how our taste in music has changed and how music has changed. There’s a lot of electronic sub bass on the new album!"
It's a tricky thing, re-working a completely unique and peerless piece of music. It is made even trickier when the personality behind the original music is so vivid and otherworldly that it is almost sure to continue to cast its long shadow over whatever new form is chosen for it. It didn't hurt that Gonja had made fans out of quite a few incredibly talented artists. So, The Caliph's Tea Party was slowly summoned to life. Like the Caliphs of the Ummahs of the 7th century, orchestrating affairs from their palaces, Gonjasufi has assembled a collection of artists in his musical world and invited them to exchange ideas. In this spirit, the symbolic and musical centerpiece of the album, as well as its namesake, is the result of the mutual admiration formed between Gonjasufi and Broadcast and The Focus Group. A bewitching, drastic re-working of ''DedNd'' it takes the form of a suite of layered compositions and radiophonic transmissions. Elsewhere, reinterpretations from new talents shine while established artists continue to surprise. Mark Pritchard (Harmonic313, Africa Hitech) channels Ennio Morricone with epic orchestral dystopia on his remix of ''Ancestors'' while retaining the inherent gravity of Flying Lotus' original production. Young guns Shlohmo and Jeremiah Jae eschew their labeling as ''beatmakers'' and tap into a fractured emotional core within ''Change'' and ''Holidays'', respectively, giving them new leases on life as subtly mechanized melancholia. Bibio smooths out the rough edges of ''Candylane'' for a remix indebted to the 1980's R&B leftfield, while Brooklyn's Bear In Heaven and Oneohtrix Point Never deal in heavy motorik meditations and ethereal musique concrete.
"I mostly listened to cassettes until I was around 14 because my brother and I just never put a CD player in our shitty old car," says NATHAN BROADDUS, the 22 year old Harlem by way of Palmrya, Virginia producer known as EVENINGS. The newest signing to the Friends of Friends squad, Evenings is prepping his first release on the label, Yore, a remastered LP consisting of songs previously included on his North Dorm EP and Lately LP. After developing his aesthetic through a steady intake of analog equipment, old cassette tapes, and reel-to-reel machines dug up at yard sales and thrift stores, Broaddus emerged from the vein of second-hand lo-fi haze to produce crisp, crystalline hi-fidelity art that encourages introspection and zen-like meditation. It's music for the morning after the after party to save your soul; drawing inspiration from a wide musical spectrum that spans from Minimalism and Psychedelic, to the Ambient, peripheral electronic explorations of Boards of Canada, and Brian Eno.
Mild High Club is the home for the musical output of Alexander Brettin, a jazz-schooled musician transplanted from the Midwest to Los Angeles. Premiered originally via Stereogum, they write of the blissed out psych track, “it feels like a lost ‘60s tune, each note sustained with a twirl of vibrato creating an elongated nonchalant West Coast vibe...it’s sweet, in all senses of the word.”Recording with a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder, MacBook, 12-string electric guitar, PortaSound keyboard, bass, drum machine, software instruments “and whatever was lying around,” Brettin began recording Timeline in 2012. In addition to the pure pop of singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren, sixties psych wields an obvious influence over Mild High Club’s music. Brettin strips away the opulence and over-thetop arrangements and oddball tomfoolery commonly associated with it in favor of phased melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Mild High Club recently toured with post-punk pioneers Wire and has shared the stage with the likes of Mac DeMarco, Ariel Pink and Mikal Cronin. This summer, he’ll embark on a string of North American and European dates with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, so make sure you catch KCRW’s “local artist we love” with the “woozy dream pop” sound that has NME excited.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
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