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Music to Work To: Art Department

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Art DepartmentIf you’re like me you like to listen to music while you work but, if you’re like most of humanity, you know it’s hard to do so when you’re distracted by lyrics. However, those of you who have experienced the wonders of electronic music you know that it’s some of the best music to read and write to. While there are lyrics from time to time, it’s usually a repetitive phrase for rhythmic purposes or subtle enough that it fades into the background.

In this occasional series, I will recommend excellent mixes available for free through Mixcloud and then a proper album for further listening.

Art Department: Boiler Room Mexico
Crosstown RebelsArt Department has quickly become my favorite DJ duo. Together, Canadian techno/house legend Kenny Glasgow and No.19 label owner Jonny White spin earthy house tunes, mellow and melodic. When they drop vocal tracks, it’s hard not to recognize a trip hop influence. A perfect example of this can be found at the 24 minute mark on this mix. “Say You Won’t Ever (Larry Heard club mix)” by Wallflower can only be described as heartbreakingly good. Bottom line, if this mix doesn’t turn you into a house fan, I’d say it’s a lost cause.

For further listening: If you do wind up enjoying this Art Department mix, I highly recommend the latest compilation from their label Crosstown Rebels, “10 Years of Crosstown Rebels.” The 3-disc collection features tracks from their various artists, including Maceo Plex, Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, Soul Clap, and, of course, Art Department. The collection as a whole leans towards minimal, tech, and electro house, with a good number of vocal tracks — some moody and smoky, as opposed to soulful and disco-inspired.

::[Links]::
Crosstown Rebels’ official site
Art Department on Resident Advisor
Crosstown Rebels on Resident Advisor

Written by Gabrielle

April 22, 2014 at 6:56 am

New in Paperback for April

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When you head out to the bookstore this month, keep your eye out for these new paperback titles and you won’t be disappointed.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

Truth’s Ragged Edge: The Rise of the American Novel by Philip Gura
From the acclaimed cultural historian Philip F. Gura comes Truth’s Ragged Edge, a comprehensive and original history of the American novel’s first century. Grounded in Gura’s extensive consideration of the diverse range of important early novels, not just those that remain widely read today, this book recovers many long-neglected but influential writers—such as the escaped slave Harriet Jacobs, the free black Philadelphian Frank J. Webb, and the irrepressible John Neal—to paint a complete and authoritative portrait of the era. Gura also gives us the key to understanding what sets the early novel apart, arguing that it is distinguished by its roots in “the fundamental religiosity of American life.” Our nation’s pioneering novelists, it turns out, wrote less in the service of art than of morality.

Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda
Summer in Red Hook, Brooklyn, an isolated blue-collar neighborhood where hipster gourmet supermarkets push against tired housing projects. Bored and listless, fifteen-year-old June and Val take a pink plastic raft out onto the bay.

But on the water, in the humid night, the girls disappear. Only Val will survive, washed ashore, bruised and unconscious, in the weeds. The shocking event will echo through a group of unforgettable characters, including Fadi, an ambitious Lebanese bodega owner; Cree, a lost teenager who unwittingly makes himself the cops’ chief suspect; Jonathan, Julliard drop-out, barfly, and struggling high school teacher; and Val, the grieving girl who must contend with the shadow of her missing friend and a truth she holds deep inside.

Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel
Fiona Maazel’s Woke Up Lonely follows a cult leader, his ex-wife, and the four people he takes hostage. It’s about loneliness in America, North Korea, espionage, a city underneath Cincinnati, cloud seeding, and eavesdropping. It’s also a big, sweeping love story.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. InGive and Take, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharon’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom. Praised by social scientists, business theorists, and corporate leaders, Give and Take opens up an approach to work, interactions, and productivity that is nothing short of revolutionary.

Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side by Rayya Elias
When Rayya Elias was seven, her family fled their native Syria to settle in Detroit. Bullied in school and rebelling against her traditional home-life, Rayya turned her sights to fashion and music. She became a hairdresser and started a band that played the club scene in the early 1980s before she moved to New York at age twenty-three to further her musical career. She lived on the Lower East Side at the height of the punk movement and had passionate affairs with both sexes, but her casual drug use turned to addiction and Rayya was often homeless—between her visits to jail. Yet, her passion for life always saved her.

Written by Gabrielle

April 3, 2014 at 6:49 am

Week in the World: New music, new love, British TV, and more

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Here’s a roundup of what’s been occupying my time these past few weeks.

St. Vincent’s new album, eponymously named St. Vincent, is out this week. If you haven’t heard her music yet, think Bjork and Tori Amos and you’re pretty close. Studio 360 spoke with her and The Guardian is streaming the new album.

New York magazine spoke with television producer Lorne Michaels about Saturday Night Live, the comedians he’s launched, and the various shows that have come out of his legendary late night program.

NY Mag: Have you ever felt restricted by the standards of broadcast TV?
LM: No. I believe that there’s no creativity without boundaries. If you write a sonnet, it’s got to be fourteen lines. If you write one that’s nine lines, it’s not a sonnet. So we have to be clever. We’re in a medium that goes into people’s homes, and, very often now, people watch our show with their kids.

Marc Maron is now dating Moon Zappa, and appears to be very happy. He tells the story of how they got together in the monologue of this episode. It’s a great reason to go back and listen to his interview with Moon from October 2013.

Speaking of podcasts, I can’t believe it took me until the 123rd episode to start listening to Throwing Shade, an irreverent comedy show hosted by Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi. Together they take on the pop culture topics of the day with blatant disregard for political correctness. They are hilariously brilliant — and brilliantly hilarious. If you want to break out of the winter doldrums, put this on your iPod.

If you’ve finished watching House of Cards and are waiting for the second season of Orange is the New Black to start this summer, you should consider watching Shameless, a British TV show about a family (and their surrounding neighbors) who live in a public housing community. There are no connecting themes to either of the Netflix shows, except that all seasons are streaming and it’s awesome. The first season features James McAvoy if you need some incentive.

I just plowed through Will Self’s 2006 collection of essays, Junk Mail. Spanning much of the 90s, these nonfiction works are taken from places such as the Evening Standard, the Observer, the Independent, Esquire, GQ and the like. The opening piece, “New Crack City,” describes a crack den Self once knew and the second, “On Junky,” is an introduction to William S. Burroughs’ popular work of semi-autobiographical fiction. But it’s not all drugs in this one. Self also writes about his stay at a hotel made of ice, there’s a profile of Bret Easton Ellis, a thought piece on Morrissey, and interviews with artist Damien Hirst and author J.G. Ballard.

The other week, The New York Review of Books ran the short story To Kill a Child by Swedish writer Stig Dagerman. It’s eery and compelling and might just bring back those winter blues so have Throwing Shade handy after reading.

Written by Gabrielle

February 25, 2014 at 6:53 am

What to Listen To: Rinse FM

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RinseUntil 2010, 16 years after its founding, Rinse FM was a pirate radio station, broadcasting illegally from many east London rooftops. Although now outfitted with a proper license, operating in the open, Rinse holds true to its underground roots and continues to champion dubstep, UK funky, grime, and, in general, “youth-orientated music culture.”

That last part about youth culture is an integral component to Rinse’s philosophy. Rinse began when owner Geeneus and his DJ friends were kicked out of the stations where they had shows and were told they were too young when they went looking for new gigs. Frustrated with the politics of the scene, Geeneus and his friends decided to go out on their own; and so Rinse began.

During the early years, Geeneus didn’t have much of a plan beyond keeping ahead of what was new and hiring talented DJs but in 2009 he started a compilation series of mixes from Rinse’s all-star roster, a group categorized as “family” on the website. With the series now at two dozen albums, Rinse’s mix sessions are essential to any collection attempting to claim underground credibility.

Here are just a few suggestions to get you started.

Rinse 20 :: Uncle Dugs
Uncle DugsAccording to Rinse FM’s website, Uncle Dugs is their only dedicated to old skool DJ. If his mix for the label is any indication, I’d be hard pressed to disagree. Starting with “We Are I.E.,” a breakbeat track from 1991, Uncle Dugs sets the stage for a throwback album. “I’ve called it my ‘Story of Jungle mix’,” says Dugs. “It’s a story of jungle music until it changed to drum and bass.”

As one would guess from that statement, there is a depth and breadth to the mix. Tracks range from classic drum and bass–featuring artists such as Alex Reese, Shy FX, and Andy C–to the dub of X-Project and Conquering Lion. Upbeat throughout, although not afraid of the dark and grimy, Dubs’s mix is an excellent collection of what drum and bass has to offer. It’s a gift to those who grew up on 90s jungle and mandatory for those who missed it.

Rinse: 11 :: Oneman
OnemanOneman joined Rinse in 2007, coming up through garage and dubstep. His mix, ranging from dubstep, to vocal house, to grime, to the quirky tracks of Modeselektor and Crystal Fighters, shows off his versatility. In an interview with Spin he explains, “a set’s all about going up and down for me, like a rollercoaster. I never want to be in once place the whole time. I get really bored easily.”

Oneman, with his eclectic tastes and knack for blending seemingly unmatchable tracks, creates an album full of surprises; you never know what’s coming next.

Rinse: 22 :: Kode 9
Kode 9Until recently, Rinse mixes were limited to their station DJs. Now, they’ve moved beyond their initial vision to include outsiders whose work they admire. This year Kode 9 made the list, for good reason. His mix is dark but energetic: a mix of grime, footwork, and heady downtempo with the longest track clocking in at four minutes, with most at or under two.

Beyond his DJing skills, Kode9 is an interesting character. He teaches music culture at the University of East London, and published a book with MIT Press in 2009 called Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear, an exploration of vibrational force, from military research to crowd control, to corporate sonic branding, and sonic encounters of sound art and music culture.

His mix is just as smart.

Rinse: 8 :: Alexander Nut
Alexander NutAlexander’s mix encompasses a range of highly produced tracks, from the super-dancey electro house of D-Boogie, to the soul of Canadian producer Marco Polo, to the tweaky Jamaican beats of Roots Manuva, to the grimy underground hip hop of Eric Lau and 2-Tall. These tracks distinguish Alexander’s mix from many others in the Rinse series. He’s considered the station’s only experimental hip hop DJ and is quoted as saying that he’s “never belonged to one particular group” and that he is “a child of the universe.” This early mix in the series is perfect for those who want a brighter album with that trusted Rinse quality. Lots of vocals on this one.

Written by Gabrielle

September 24, 2013 at 6:48 am

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A History of Hip-Hop in Six Easy Listens

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This post originally ran on Longreads, where I now contribute a monthly podcast roundup.

Radio RaheemHip hop began in the 1970s as an underground movement; today it’s everywhere. From house parties in the suburbs to national television advertising campaigns it’s recognizable, celebrated, and imitated. Snoop Dogg made headlines when he changed his name to Snoop Lion and Jay Z and Beyonce were given the same treatment as the British Monarchy when they had their first child.

Since its start on the street of New York, hip hop has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. The cash flow now includes not only music but art shows featuring graffiti as well as successful clothing lines.

2Pac vs. Biggie

1. Stuff You Should Know: How Hip-Hop Works (52:13)

In this episode of Stuff You Should Know, hosts Chuck and Josh discuss the history of hip-hop, from The Sugar Hill Gang to the present. They add their own personal history, which includes stories of attempted breakdancing and well-intentioned clothing choices. You can read more about it on their site.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: 2pac and Biggie (1 hr.)

Co-authors Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey speak with host Colin Marshall about their book 2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle. They talk about the artists’ rivalry, their beginnings, how their styles differed, and why you’re missing out if you only listen to one and not the other.

3. NPR Fresh Air: Questlove (45:14)

Questlove

The drummer for The Roots talks about his influences growing up, how he listens to music, and his favorite part of Soul Train. (Bonus: Also check out Terry Gross’s classic 2010 interview with Jay-Z.)

4. Bullseye (formerly Sound of Young America): Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback (44:00)

Dan Charnas, a veteran hip-hop journalist and one of the first writers for The Source, talks with Jesse Thorn about the history of the hip-hop music business and how executives and entrepreneurs turned an underground scene into the world’s predominant pop culture.

5. WBUR On Point: Fame and Fortune of Jay-Z (48:00)

Jay Z

Andrew Rice, contributing editor for New York magazine, spoke about his article on Jay-Z’s business acumen with James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies, professor of English at Lehigh University, and founder of Hip Hop Scholars. Together they delve into the financial side of Jay-Z’s career.

6. KCRW The Treatment: Michael Rapaport, “Beats, Rhymes & Life” (28:29)

If you were around in the ’90s, you might recognize Michael Rapaport from movies like Zebrahead, Poetic Justice, and Higher Learning. In 2011, he came out with a documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. He talks to The Treatment’s Elvis Mitchell about his love of hip-hop, his childhood in New York City, and his experience filming his favorite artists.

Written by Gabrielle

August 27, 2013 at 6:47 am

Week in the World: Podcasts Galore

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It’s been a big month in podcast world. Here are a few that have been especially amazing.

headphones

Judd Apatow sat down at Largo for Jeff Garlin’s incredible live show By the Way, in Conversation with Jeff Garlin. On WNYC, David Simon spoke with Alec Baldwin on his show Here’s the Thing. Aisha Tyler had a cold the other week and aired what was previously a premium episode, an interview with Henry Rollins.

Marc Maron’s doing the media rounds for his new book, Attempting Normal, and his show on IFC, Maron, and was just on the Nerdist to talk about both–among other things. In a more recent episode of The Nerdist, Billy Crystal was on the show to talk about his new movie Monsters University and also got around to discussing a few stories from his time in comedy. NPR’s comic critic Glen Weldon, who just wrote an unauthorized biography of Superman, was on the Nerdist Comics Panel to talk about the history of the superhero.

david simonHouse DJ and producer Felix da Housecat dropped by KCRW to discuss the origins of house music and how he became a DJ on Metropolis. The most recent episode of the show features an interview with the two brothers who make up Disclosure, an excellent British electronic act with a new album, which I can’t recommend enough.

Meanwhile, on the Los Angeles Review of Books’ podcast, host Colin Marshall talks with co-authors Jeff Weiss and Evan McGarvey about their book 2pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap’s Greatest Battle, a must-listen for hip hop fans. Also not to be missed, WBEZ’s Sound Opinions explored Johnny Cash’s legendary live album, Live from Folsom Prison.

henry rollins

Late Night Library, an excellent podcast that interviews publishing industry professionals, spoke with fellow podcaster Ed Champion and, before that, literary agent Laura Liss. Speaking of Ed Champion, he sat down with Claire Messud for her latest novel, The Woman Upstairs.

One of my new favorite podcasts hosted by Joyland Magazine spoke with the incredible writer and critic Roxane Gay. And on a long-time staple, Other People, Brad Listi spoke with Maggie Nelson, author of Bluets, a book I loved.

Lexicon Valley, Slate’s language show, is back after a brief hiatus and the first episode is on the odd phrase, “Yeah, no …”. I’ve been warning everyone, after you listen to it, you’re going to hear everyone saying it. And finally, great news, Book Riot’s Rebecca Schinsky and Jeff O’Neal are now co-hosting a bookish podcast that is more than worth a listen. For talk on new releases and book news, subscribe to this one today.

What are you listening to?

[Illustration via]

Written by Gabrielle

June 25, 2013 at 6:54 am

What to Listen to: Daft Punk and Beyond

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The legendary electronic duo Daft Punk released their latest album, Random Access Memories, last week with great fanfare. Regardless of what music has come out so far this year and what’s still to come, this album is destined to be in my top three at the end of December (if I were of the list-making sort). Not only did Daft Punk tease the album for what felt like forever, its soul and funk-heavy tracks show a mature progression. Because everyone under the sun—and a number of rocks—have reviewed it I’m using this space to recommend a few lesser known electronic musicians who will be an excellent addition to any Daft Punk fan’s collection.

Commix / Call to Mind
Call to MindIn 2003, London-based duo George Levings and Guy Brewer signed to Metalheadz, the renowned drum and bass label founded in 1994 by DJ duo Kemistry & Storm and producer Goldie.

Call to Mind is Commix’s 2007 album and the first track, “Be True,” is exactly what you’d expect from a Metalheadz act—complex beats with artcore atmospherics and airy vocals that add to the tune but never distract.

But Commix is a versatile act. “Change,” featuring Nextman, is the hardest track on the album—the metallic breaks and hip hop scratches give it a darkstep feel. “Satellite Type 2” is solid jump up; “Belleview” is a playful, techstep track that brings early Nintendo games to mind; and “Spectacle” is straight up jazzy.

Overall, the album is downtempo and airy. If you miss the heyday of drum and bass, Call to Mind will scratch that itch for you.

Modeselektor / Monkeytown
MonkeytownHailing from Berlin, duo Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, known together as Modeselektor, met in 1992 during their travels through the city’s underground party scene. It was right after the Wall came down and chaos reigned, which, if one were prone to speculation, could explain how the two came to establish their sound. Eschewing easy categorization, their third album (and their first on their own label), Monkeytown, is hard to peg—other than giving it the sweeping term “techno.”

On the 2011 release they work with artists as varied as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and American hip hop group Antipop Consortium. The fourth track, “Evil Twin,” a tweaky, hard driving tune features breakcore artist Otto von Schirach while the more soulful, head nodding song “Berlin” has vocals from Romanian-German singer, songwriter Miss Platnum.

The credible electronic music website Resident Advisor captured Modeselektor’s essence when they said, “Like a jungle, their music is dense, textured and rich with sounds never experienced before.” Fans of the Beastie Boys’ antics will hear a familiar tone in the music of Modeselektor.

Pantha Du Prince / Diamond Daze
Diamond DazeHendrik Weber, a.k.a. Pantha du Prince, also hailing from Germany, is the mellower of the three mentioned here. Diamond Daze is Weber’s first album but in no way inferior to his later work. Like his other LPs, ethereal sounds and mellow beats fill the space; echoing bell tones and muted shakers feature prominently.

Diamond Daze, and Pantha du Prince in general, is the perfect music for dinner parties and lazy days on the couch with a book in hand.

::[Links]::
Find Commix at Metalheadz
Visit Modeselektor’s website
Visit Pantha du Prince’s website

Written by Gabrielle

May 28, 2013 at 6:53 am

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