With hip-hop vocal samples and snare/hi-hat rolls aplenty, 20-year old Slam Skillet‘s “Rachis” EP seems to check all the pre-requisites of today’s electronic music production. Yet unlike most music by basement beatmakers, the first track, “Yukon,” begins with a bird-song sample that soon becomes a mainstay of this decidedly avian record. Olivier Messiaen he ain’t, but evolutionary biology major Slam Skillet – also known as Sam Stevens – has found unlikely Ableton inspiration in the outdoors.
“Yukon” continues with a filter sweep that brings in some rhythmic horn jabs and a heavily processed rap hook. With subtle but banging basslines and several funky synths used, the EP gives nod to Com Truise and the more dancefloor-ready sounds of Grenier. “Gemsbok/Chamois” stands out for its laidback Nujabes vibe, credited to the cabasa sound that keep the track shuffling along.
Stevens’ skill is in his ability to joyfully weave common and unexpected elements into a beat that makes you want to sit back, bob your head and watch the world go by. This is music made for headphones and spring days – so start vibing.
We’ve been away for a while lost in the dreamland of the real world. Apologies.
As I’ve been skating through life, one track that’s come across my radar has been a little offering from London’s Still Corners. Set to debut sophomore LP Strange Pleasures, the Sub Pop-signed project of Greg Hughes feeds off of 1980’s synth pop influences to produce gems like “Berlin Lovers.” With a video set to a retro roller rink, the teaser to the group’s second album is Grimes’ lovechild with Victoria Legrand, pumping a heavy synth over the wafting vocals of singer Tessa Murray. It’s dreamy–enough to take you away from the dullness of daily routine.
Ed. note: Friend of Treeswingers Jonathan Hall gives us a first-person account of what it’s like to get caught up in a haze of pandas, teeny boppers and Starfucker.
It’s the loaded Friday night of Noise Pop and I am going to a Starfucker show for the first time. Words and phrases like “insane,” “cross-dressed” and “floor-bouncing” buzz in my ear.
I arrive early and do my best to blend in with the adolescent crowd leftover from Blackbird Blackbird. Eventually I settle in, upfront and early, only to realize I’m the only one in the front row old enough to drink the whiskey and ice that’s in my hand. As I down my plastic cup of booze and wait for the teenage dance carnage to begin, a brief flashlight guides the four lanky members of a group now known as the more radio-friendly STRFKR into position.
That’s neither 1 Chainz nor an Americana Jacob Marley. We’ll explain later. (Ellen Huet/Treeswingers)
The best part of Noise Pop — or, really, any festival — often isn’t the act you come to see but the openers you didn’t even know you were going to love. We headed to Brick and Mortar in the neighborhood of disputed names (is it North-North Mission? The Elbow? Division Heights? Far East Duboce?) Thursday night to see Warm Soda, the local boys about to do to good.
Instead, we found ourselves wooed (and whooped and hollered) off our feet by Miner, a foot-stomping good time of a band from Los Angeles. They’re an adorable family affair — frontman Justin Miner, his wife Kate on various diminutive stringed instruments, cousin on keyboard, brother on guitar and the occasional electro-acoustic banjo — with a genuine joy of being on stage. Sort of like the Lumineers if they took themselves less seriously and were more talented.
Ed. note: Friend of Treeswingers Ashley Dotterweich very graciously reports back from Bottom of the Hill, with a personal connection to Wednesday night’s headliners. Everyone, say hello.
Full disclosure: The Fresh & Onlys saved my ass once, so I’m predisposed to like them. Back in the spring of 2011 I was finishing up my stint working in Los Angeles on the Natural History Museum’s First Fridays program when our headliner cancelled- the day of the show. Luckily for us, the Fresh & Onlys , by some miracle, were free that night and headed down from San Francisco to play the show and save the day. Last night at Bottom of the Hill, they didn’t disappoint.
Openers the Burnt Ones started off the night like a punch in the gut and didn’t let up. Their lo-fi psych/punk sound left my ears ringing well into the next set, but they set the tone for the rest of the night. The Burnt Ones’ lead singer has a Jagger-esque flair for theatrics, occasionally sliding onto his knees and playing his guitar behind his head, that made seeing them on stage a stripped-down spectacle; put them in big hair and makeup and they wouldn’t seem out of place at an ’80s glam rock show.
Will Sprott opens Treeswingers’ coverage of Noise Pop, your favorite itinerant San Francisco festival. (Kelvin Tse/Treeswingers)
Ed. note: Today’s dispatch from Noise Pop comes from Friend of Treeswingers Kelvin Tse. Everyone, say hi.
On the first day of Noise Pop 2013, we rolled over to Brick and Mortar to check out a set of four bands headlined by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy fame. Michael Stasis kicked it off with extremely danceable beats and catchy melodies including a song about stumbling onto a Goth party in Oakland in “Land of
the Goths.” Although the room still wasn’t quite full yet when Stasis ended his set, he provided a strong start for the night.
But the contrast between Michael Stasis and Will Sprott‘s music was dramatic. Sprott, of the Mumlers, may strike you immediately as the shy boyish type that struggles internally with questions of the existential sort. His music is of a decidedly different tone and stuck to earnest inquiries about love and heartbreak. While fingerpicking his semihollow body guitar, his bassist laid down an easy groove, and two backup dancers (one rocking shoulder pads) thumped a simple beat on the bass drum and tambourines. But what really pulled the whole thing together was his smooth-as-molasses voice as he crooned crooned classic soul lines like “I don’t want to be free / I just want your arms around me.”
Tw0-and-a-half years ago when we first caught a whiff of Magic Man, the band was just a pair of college kids from starched-collar Northeastern universities jamming from their Macbooks. Today, the duo, formerly just elementary school buds Alex Caplow and Sam Lee, has grown to a quintet, fleshing out their sound and direction without losing any of the charm that made us fall in love with self-released debut, Real Life Color.
Magic Man as we know it now has relocated to (the musical mecca of?) Providence, Rhode Island and released new track “Paris” last week. When we last caught up, Caplow and Lee told us their debut LP was influenced by a trip to France. This time around, it looks like the pair are drawing from the same inspirations. Turning the City of Light into a metaphorical lover on “Paris”, Caplow develops an infectious hook that’s supplemented by synth blasts and a faded, but perfectly worked piano melody. Improving on production and recording quality since their last outing, Magic Man loses a bit of that novel DIY-quality felt on Real Life Color. But that’s not to say “Paris” is anything less genuine than older tracks like “Monster” and “Darling.” The energy and verve are still there, and keeping that in spite of change is a beautiful thing.