Mars Rodriguez: Up until "The End"

Mars Rodriguez is an independently-operating, Los-Angeles-based, Nicaraguan-American singer-songwriter-producer-multi-instrumentalist and so far her early releases are living up to that multi-hyphenate description. Mars released her first full-length last September, Don't Wait for Nothing, and over its 30 minutes you never have to wait too long for some new sonic wrinkle or other musical ingredient to be thrown into the mix which makes for a compelling and propulsive listening experience. And while I may be reading too much into things here, I could see how this restlessness could possibly derive in part from being part of a population displaced by political crisis and state violence.

If forced to come up with my own original hyphenate to describe Mars Rodriguez's music I think I'd go with "Café-Tacuba-meets-Shirley-Manson-meets-Massive Attack" because that at least hints at the stylistic eclecticism and the multilingualism and the mix of grungy guitar, power pop melodies, trip hop ambience, dub- and psych-inspired production, rock-en-espanol rhythms and drum machine rhythms. It's one of those albums meant to be taken in all at once in full, a continuous sonic journey.

Take the album-opening instrumental track "Tous Les Jours" for example, which starts off with almost a full minute of ambient planetarium-style celestial sounds before launching into a funky percussion loop that wouldn't sound out of place in a Chemical Brothers song and then a fuzzed-out zig-zagging melody that brings to mind Radiohead's "Myxomatosis" or it does to my mind at least. After a minute or two the fuzzone starts to disintegrate and get swallowed up by swirling echo effects. Then the whole thing topples and transforms into a slower, stripped down groove--but with vibrating tones and reverb-drenched voices still hovering overhead before fading out to sounds of distorted radio signals and sine waves.

From there each subsequent song on Don't Wait for Nothing explore a new direction or two. One of these directions is the "potential pop crossover hit" and there would seem to be at least a couple on the album--like "Now" with it's singalong refrain and motivational message and steady build to a big finish--but always with a quirky touch or two to keep it more on the alternative side of things. Mars's new single released on Friday ("The End") continues down this path of pop music with frayed edges--evoking Brian Eno one moment and Republica the next, with the listener exhorted to "exit your mind". And with all this talk of ends and exits, here's to new beginnings because I'll bet Mars Rodriguez has some more interesting ideas in store. (Jason Lee)


Avi Sic "Human"

Producer/DJ Avi Sic has released a new single called "Human". Up until last year this talented DJ had been constantly touring the country and performing up to 300 shows a year, but in 2020 she had to find another way to express herself. She released five single in 2020, and "Human" is her first new single of 2021.

She also recently joined Only Fans to share live sets, exclusive remixes, and DJ lessons.


Folie "CLEAN2"

Folie has released the first single, "CLEAN2", from her forthcoming mixtape, 123!, which is due out on March 25th via Dog Show Records. The new single features Bean Boy and is accompanied by a Harrison Wyrick and Parker Davis animated video.

Folie (aka Jae) was born in New York but is now based in Chicago alongside likeminded creators Dylan Brady and Gupi.


Oui Ennui "Virga​/​Recrudescence"

Oui Ennui has released a new album called "Virga​/​Recrudescence". This is over an hour of live improvised ambient synth music and it hypnotic, and a whole universe unto its own.


Strict Tempo tonight: Vox Sinistra hosts with live set from Xibling

Strict Tempo is a weekly Thursday night livestream originating out of Seattle featuring a world-spanning Whitman’s Sampler of live DJs and live electronic music acts in the musical veins of EBM/industrial, acid/electro/techno, minimal wave/darkwave, Italo-disco/hi-NRG and other equally cool sounding slashed and hyphenated genres. 

The shows kick off at 7PM PST/10PM EST opening with a DJ set from host and curator Vox Sinistra, followed by 3 or 4 featured performers made up of both live electro-based acts and DJs doing their thing in real time. The show goes out live on Twitch just CLICK HERE.

As reigning queen of dark & danceable and occasionally not so danceable beats, Ms. Sinistra introduces each show with a charmingly low-key informative overview of the acts about to perform backed by green-screened dancing skeletons or infinitely scrolling bondage chains or vintage nightclub footage or surreal film clips and with occasional cameos by her tuxedoed cat. Production values on the show are consistently compelling and sometimes appealing demented eye candy with each DJ/electronic artist bringing their own distinct look and vibe.

Tonight’s installment of Strict Tempo features the return of Xibling, a dynamic synth duo comprised of Moriah West and Julian Thieme. Paraphrasing from Vox Sinistra’s Facebook post for tonight: “I'm hosting the release for Xibling's Maladjusted EP out tomorrow and if you haven't listened to Xibling, the Portland ‘post-punk techno fever dream’ wrote/livestreamed new songs every week at the beginning of quarantine last year (!) and are also returning Strict Tempo guests, playing the second show I hosted online last April. Tonight they’re supported by coldwave-y synthesist STACIAN, new PDX dark synth-pop act Pleasure Victim and XOR, the new electronic alias from the bassist/synth player of acclaimed darkwave band Secret Shame.”

And if the lead-off title track single to Xibling’s new EP is any indication, with its stuttering beats and phat electro-bass and ethereal vocals, tonight looks to be a lot of fun. Plus for a further sneak preview you can check out the music vid for “Maladjusted” with its cool Tetsuo-style black-and-white engulfed-by-rampaging-technology visuals in which Julian and Moriah are attacked (or seduced?) by sentient unspooling VHS tapes. 

With a stylistic range across an electro-spectrum from the darker reaches of darkwave to the poppier side of New Order-esque electro pop, the upshot is that if Xibling’s electro-oscillations don’t get your body oscillating wildly then you may need to visit your local testing center and make sure your heart is still beating—an effect that’s only heightened when you see Xibling doing their thing live because high energy is too mild a term for their performative posture.

And speaking of high energy you’re also advised to check out two retrospective one-year anniversary broadcasts from Vox Sinistra—one compiling some of the best bits from the various Strict Tempo live acts over the past year, and the other a comp of featured DJ acts coming soon on 3/18. Plus holy Mother of Pearl the live show comp is nearly 10 hours long so settle in for the evening and hit play and I can guarantee you it’ll melt your f’ing face off if taken in one sitting so maybe put on that full plastic face mask before even attempting it.

Not unlike these epically scaled retrospective comps but on a smaller scale each Strict Tempo tends to be an eclectic affair, but overall Vox specializes in a style known as EBM (electronic body music) that’s something like a mutant mashup of industrial, cyberpunk, electropop, and synthwave—different artist highlight different elements of course and throw in their own twists—which is a style of music that’s equally effective whether you’re looking to mosh like a maniac in your bedroom late at night or bop in place equally maniacally like Molly Ringwald on Molly.

Anyways when it comes to the genre of EBM it’s name can be taken pretty literally given that we all inhabit more or less “electronic bodies” by this point living so much of our lives through phones and computers and old BlackBerry Storms (for the iconoclasts among us!) but at least watching a live-streamed set by Xibling or a Thursday night installment of Strict Tempo can make “device life” feel more utopian than dystopian for a few hours. (Jason Lee)