Funk

Say She She "c'est très chic" on first single

When I first heard “Forget Me Not” on a radio show a couple weeks ago I immediately thought to myself “Wow, I never knew the Salsoul Orchestra cut a slinky, stripped-down, clavinet-led four minutes of funk with vocals by erotic thespian Andrea True and/or select members of Sister Sledge and/or select members of Silver Convention, with Johnny Pacheco from the Fania All Stars supplying some nice flutter tonguing on the flute (not a bad skill for any guy—or gal—to have ammirite ladies?) plus a groovy solo toward the end and really who doesn’t like a nice groovy flute solo and if you don’t like a nice groovy flute solo then I don’t want to know you until you seek therapy.” This is what I thought to myself.

So there where I thought I’d made quite the old school “deep cut” discovery it turns out, better yet, I’d discovered (random stumbled upon) an entirely new school of lush groovy funkitude that’s centered right here in the borough of Brooklyn NYC, with a significant assist by Loveland, Ohio-based Colemine Records, because “Forget Me Not” is the debut single by the Brooklyn-based-female-fronted-seven-piece-deep-friend-soul-combo-platter called Say She She—a group whose officially ensorsed alternate spelling is “C’est Chi-Chi” given that any perceived similarities between SSS and the disco era’s most legendary band or with the classic LP C’est Chic are probably not unwelcome, nor unfounded, as “Forget Me Not” amply checks off the elegant coquette box of that album’s “I Want Your Love” and next I’m eagerly awaiting SSS’s take on the “Le Freak” aesthetic.

Which isn’t to say that Say She She are mimics, more like the curators of a rich array of influences taken apart and reassembled. Along these lines “Forget Me Not” is what I’m guessing the “parallel universe ‘80s” would’ve sounded like if Jimmy Carter had been re-elected president and if a bunch of drunken meatheads hadn’t burned a pile of disco records on a baseball field and if the nation’s youth hadn’t been persuaded by Music Television to adopt synthesizers, parachute pants, and asymmetrical haircuts en masse. 

But enough about alternative realities who the heck are Say She She exactly in real life? The tripartite vocal front is made up of one-time Londonite Piya Malik (79.5, El Michels Affair) whose great uncle was a prominent Bollywood music producer and who met Sabrina Mileo Cunningham (Denny Love) because the two were living in the same Lower East Side apartment building and heard each other singing through the walls and then once they joined up with Nya Parker Gazelle the vocal chemistry was complete. 

On the instrumental side of things Say She She is comprised of the wah-wah stylings of electric guitarist Matty McDermott (Black Acid, Coyote, Nymph), the funky strutting keys of Mike Sarason (Combo Lulo), the finger-slapping phat bass tones of Preet Patel (The Frigtnrs, RIP Dan Klein), and the in-the-pocket drive of drummers Andy Bauer (Twin Shadow among many other projects) and Ben Borchers (The Shacks), and last but certainly not least the groovy flute of the multi-talented Mike Sarason (see above).

So if you’re feelin’ the vibe be sure to keep an eye peeled for Say She She’s next moves. And don’t be surprised if one of their next songs is in Hindi or if they come out with a debut album this summer full of more raw analogue slabs of sonically transmitted smooth funkitude which even though I'm trying is not quite as good a tongue-twister as the title of this piece. (Jason Lee

   

INTERVIEW: THE KNOCKS AT ILLFEST

 Fresh off a nearly three year hiatus from performing in front of audiences, the Knocks arrived in Austin to perform as a funk/dance outlier in an otherwise EDM-dominated lineup at Illfest. The duo comprising the Knocks, Ben ‘B-roc’ Ruttner and James ‘JPatt’ Patterson, were comfortably sipping tequila out of red cups in their backstage camper trying to break into their old pre-show ritual when we sat down with them for a post-pandemic breakdown. The New York based master collaborators spoke on their much-delayed upcoming album, Nu Disco’s resurgence, their Indie-Pop beginnings and why the Knocks might be considered the ‘Nas of Disco’.

 Interview by Lee Ackerley

 

 

It’s good to have you back in Austin!  You came here a lot for SXSW, what do you like doing here?

 

JPatt:

I don't know. I don't think we really have a routine. We just come and kick it, honestly.

B-Roc:

Yeah. Austin, for us, used to be SXSW always, for years.

So a lot of barbecue.

JPatt:

Yeah.

B-Roc:

Yeah. And that's very cliche I feel, but that was the thing, but we miss Southwest.

JPatt:

Seeing the homies.

B-Roc:

Yeah. Now we've got some homies down here. It feels like a lot of people have moved here from places like LA, and New York, and stuff. So we have a lot of transplant friends here.

 B-Roc:

But this is our first festival since COVID, and even before COVID, we hadn't played a festival

 JPatt:

I don't think we've ever played a festival here.

 B-Roc:

In Austin? I don't know. Yeah, other than SXSW

 JPatt:

Other than SXSW.

 

I was going to say, have you guys forgot how to play live? It's been a minute.

 

 B-Roc:

We were just talking about that. It's like our first time on a festival stage. It's been so long.

 JPatt:

We're not going to be playing live though. We're just DJing.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. We're just DJing.

 

So you've had a few DJ sets to tune up, but the tour's this spring.

 

B-Roc:

Yeah.

 JPatt:

Yeah.


Awesome. Is there anybody here that you'd look around that you'd like to see? I know it's not your typical group.

 

B-Roc:

I saw Phantogram was on there, which I really like Phantogram. Besides that, it's a lot of bass music, which is not totally our thing, more heavy stuff. So hopefully we'll stick out a little bit by playing a little bit more funky and groovy stuff. It should be fun. But yeah, we're just excited to just play a festival again. It's been a while.

 JPatt:

Yeah. It just feels good to be back.

 B-Roc:

We were just saying, "We were nervous coming over here and it's like our first time. It's been so long." But then once you're back in the trailer, you've got some tequila, the old feeling comes back.

 JPatt:

Speaking of tequila...

 

You guys mentioned that, at one point, you wanted to be like the Neptunes, and mainly produce artists. If you had remained on that track, who do you think you'd be producing, or who would you want to produce today?

 

B-Roc:

That's a good question.

 JPatt:

Someone that isn't out today. Probably some new artists that were...

 B-Roc:

I don't know. That's a good question. The cool thing is that we started off wanting to do that, be more producers in the room with artists. And then we got sick of that game, because getting into it, it's a lot of following the rules of "All right, we got this thing. We want it to sound like Britney Spears meets fucking whoever/whatever."

 JPatt:

It's a lot of call sheets.

 B-Roc:

And it's a lot of pitching stuff and getting let down, so that kind of turned us to "Let's just make our own shit." And the goal always was, "Let's make our own shit until those people that want pop songs and stuff come to us for the sound that they know from The Knocks," which has finally now been happening, which is cool. We did that Purple Disco song. We got a song with Kungs coming out that we did for him. So a lot of these other electronic artists are coming to us, whether it's a collab, or just helping them with records and more pop stuff. We did the Carly Rae Jepsen song.

 JPatt:

It's a long road.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, but it's now that people... They come to us for us, and not try to get... You and 1000 other producers are going to pitch this song.

 JPatt:

It's a long game, but it's worth it, because now people probably are like, "Oh, we want a song that sounds like that Knocks thing."

 B-Roc:

Yeah. So it worked out for the best for sure, but now we're definitely trying to get back into doing more of that, now that we're getting older, and not trying to tour as much, and just trying to be in the studio more.

 

Are there any unknown artists you discovered during pandemic?

 

B-Roc:

I discovered one, yeah. A girl named Juliana Madrid. She's actually a Texas local. She's from Dallas and she's 20 years old. Insanely talented singer/songwriter chick. So total different vibe, but that kept me very busy.

 JPatt:

I didn't discover anyone.

 B-Roc:

We actually met her in Dallas at a show. She came to a Knocks show, was dragged by her friends and ended up... Found her on Instagram and kept in touch, and now signing a record deal and everything. So it's cool.

 

Awesome. I know you're into jazz fusion. You mentioned you're getting into Tavares during pandemic. Have you geeked out...

 

B-Roc:

You've done your research.

 JPatt:

I think the Tavares version of More Than A Woman's better than the Bee Gee's version.

 

That’s a hot take. So you guys recorded the new album two years ago and you've had two years to just pick at it and go through it. How's that process been different?

 

B-Roc:

It's been nice. It gives you more time to sit on stuff. Usually it would be like, "We got the single out. We got to finish the album and get it done." So you just commit, which is also something to be said about that, but being able to really live with something, not listen to it for three months and then open it back up and be like, "This is great for me, and change this."

 JPatt:

And we got a chance to add new songs.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, last minute we added a couple. I don't know. It kind of makes us want to spend that much time on every album.

 JPatt:

You realize guys like Nas take like seven years to put out an album.

 B-Roc:

Because we're basically Nas.

 JPatt:

Because we're Nas. We're the Nas of disco.

I don't know. Did you guys read that book? Meet Me in the Bathroom? It's all about-

 

B-Roc:

I did, yeah.

 JPatt:

Yeah.

 

If you guys had that group in New York, what groups or artists... I know Neon Gold would be heavily involved.

 

B-Roc:

Totally, yeah.

 

But who would be the interviews in your book?

 

B-Roc:

Oh, that's a good question. We came in at the very tail end of that scene. I remember going to parties and seeing the Interpol guys and shit. But our scene was probably more the Neon Gold scene.

 JPatt:

The Americans.

 B-Roc:

It was a lot of the indie pop stuff, like Ellie Goulding.

 JPatt:

Yeah, Ellie Goulding.

 B-Roc:

Marina and the Diamonds.

 JPatt:

Neon Indian.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, that kind of whole... It was the bloghouse days.

 JPatt:

Or French Horn Rebellion.

 B-Roc:

Bag Raiders.

 JPatt:

Those are still going.

 

They're still going. I read that you're doing a Cannons collab and a Cold War Kids collab.

 

B-Roc:

Yeah.

 

Any other artists that are popping up on the album?

 

B-Roc:

Donna Missal. I don't know if you know her. She's awesome. She's on the next single. Who else we got in there? Another song with Powers, who was on our big song, Classic. And then Tee. That song already came out. I'm trying to think who else? We did a song with a guy from Coin, the band.

 JPatt:

This is our first record without a rap [crosstalk 00:06:18] rap feature.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, we always have a rapper.

 JPatt:

We usually had Method Man, and Cam'ron, and Wyclef.

 B-Roc:

We went back to our roots of more indie dance stuff. We feel like a lot of people right now, between Dua Lipa basically making a new disco album, and Doja Cat, all these people doing disco pop. It's like, "Wait. We've been doing this for 10 years."

 JPatt:

A lot of people are like, "Did you produce the new Dua song?" And we're just-

 B-Roc:

When that Dua song came out, I got so many text messages. So we're like, "Let's go back and do some of this, because this is our bread and butter." And I feel like for a while, we were almost too early on it. People weren't ready for it, and now it's top 40. So now it's like, "Fuck. Now if we put this album out, people are going to think we're chasing."

 JPatt:

It's good that our fans have been fans of us their whole lives, so they're going to know.

 B-Roc:

They're going to know that we're not jumping on the bandwagon.

 JPatt:

They'll educate the rest of the people.

 B-Roc:

But it feels like our first album, in the sense that there's a lot more features and there's a lot of alternative features, which is cool.

 

Nu disco's had waves throughout the years. Would you say there's another renaissance now? Because you mentioned Dua Lipa kind of brought it back with Future Nostalgia.

 

B-Roc:

Yeah, I think that bloggy era is kind of coming back in general. Everything happens I feel like in 10 years, in cycles. But not only just the blog, not the disco stuff even. I think disco's influence and stuff is just always going to be around. It just never goes away.

 JPatt:

Disco is like funk. It's never going to-

 B-Roc:

Yeah, it's very broad. But I do think that whole electroclash vibe is coming back. I don't know if you heard that band, Wet Leg.

 JPatt:

A lot of faster-

 B-Roc:

Where it's almost like Peaches or some shit, where it's kind of talky-singy, and punky "yeah, yeah, yeahs" kind of thing, which I love and I'm excited for that. It's like dance rock, which I'm really into, and our Cold War Kids song reminds me of that. It kind of sounds like a Rapture song or something. That was band was a huge one in New York for us.

 JPatt:

Which is still bloghouse. It's not bloghouse. It's blog-era.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. It was just that era of stuff that didn't play on the radio, but was still big, and you had to know about it to know about it.

 

When you guys first started out, you were playing in a band for a guy named Samuel.

 

B-Roc:

Oh, wow. You went deep.


Whatever happened to Samuel? Didnt he help the Knocks get started.

 

B-Roc:

He's in Mexico.

 JPatt:

He's in Guatemala.

 B-Roc:

Guatemala, sorry. Yeah. He was actually staying at my house a couple months ago.

 JPatt:

Just chilling. Same old fucking Sam.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, he doesn't make music anymore, but he's actually a tattoo artist and visual artist.

 JPatt:

Same old fucking Sam.

 B-Roc:

One of the oldest, and we owe a lot to him.

 JPatt:

Yeah, he's the man.

 B-Roc:

Finding him inspired us to lean into the pop music stuff and get better as producers, so it kind of broke up stuff. And it was our first time dealing with a major label. I was his manager when I was like 19 years old. We got him signed to Columbia Records. We had no idea what we were fucking doing. We went to LA and we're like, "We made it!" And then he got dropped. So it was a great learning experience, the whole thing. It kind of prepared us for our career I think. Not to belittle his, but…


Absolutely. Is there anything about touring that you guys absolutely hate that you're not looking forward to?

 

B-Roc:

I love that question. I could go on for a day.

 JPatt:

Well, there's touring and then there’s touring.

 B-Roc:

I have a dog now, so it's harder. I got a pandemic dog.

 JPatt:

I don't really love being away from home for that long. I don't.

 B-Roc:

We did a three-month-long tour with Justin Bieber.

 JPatt:

I hated it by the end. I was just so sad.

 B-Roc:

It was so long. We were in Europe on a bus for three months.

 JPatt:

It was a long time to be gone.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. But I think home sickness is the worst part. Or the downtime, honestly. It feels like you kill so much time.

 JPatt:

You're not really doing anything.

 B-Roc:

Just sitting around waiting to play a two-hour-long show.

 JPatt:

Then you get to these cities and everyone's like, "Oh, my god. You're so well-traveled." And I'm really not. I've seen every green room in America, but not I've not seen anything else.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, I just sit up my phone all day long, and I watch a lot of TV. So for the last tour, we tried to be a little more productive and I was definitely making way more music on the road, which was the first time doing that. And some good shit came out of it actually, probably. But yeah, the downtime is tough.

 

So you're not writing on the road ever?

 

B-Roc:

Not really. Like I said, the last tour I think was the first time. We started the All About You beat there, which is our Foster The People song. And then I made so much shit that's just sitting on my hard drive. It almost feels like you want to do it to be productive, but it's hard to get in the zone when you're in the back of a bus, freezing, and you have the headphones on, and you're-

 JPatt:

Or you just don't do it. I had my stuff with me here. I was like, "We're going to have a whole day basically before we were going to the fest." I slept all day. I haven't done anything.

 B-Roc: Yeah, a lot of sleeping. You're tired and hungover.

 

And so, how you brought collaborators in for this last album, you just rented a house in LA.

 

B-Roc:

That's how we started, yeah.

 

And it was just, "Drop by if you can make it," or how did you reach out to them or bring them into it?

 

B-Roc:

It was just all over.

 JPatt:

All over. Some homies that we just know from being around, and other people, we'd reach out to their manager.

 B-Roc:

But that was our first time doing it.

 JPatt:

That was our first time doing it like that, though.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. We always would have a studio we'd have to go to and meet them. And it feels weird because it's like, "We've got to break for lunch." When they come to you and you're like in this house, it feels-

 JPatt:

You're kind of just living.

 B-Roc:

Yeah, it feels a little bit more organic. And you can stay all night and you're just working, and wake up in the morning, still working on the song. And it was cool. It was a really good vibe. And it was really fun because we had a couple sessions that we were really looking forward to, which was the TEED session, where you love TEED and we really wanted that to go well. And the Muna session.

 And those were the first two days, and we fucking got both those songs that are now in our album out of those two days. It feels good when you have an idea in your head, how it's going to go, and it actually happens. A lot of times, you put this on the pedestal: "We're going to get with Muna. It's going to like this." And then you don't fucking get it. So it felt good when you're actually in the room with the artist and it works out.

 

Do you think recording in LA influenced the album?

 

B-Roc:

We actually record a lot in LA. It's just so many people out there. I don't know if it influences it.

 JPatt:

I don't personally love LA.

 B-Roc:

I think the only thing that influences is having the house.

 JPatt:

Just having the house.


So your album,New York Narcotic, was recorded in LA?

 

B-Roc:

Yeah, a lot of it actually. That's the irony of that. But now I have a house Upstate, so we're going to be recording a lot more up there, which is nice. So we can kind of do the same process, but do it in New York.


How was working with Sofi Tukker?

B-Roc:

They're in Austin right now.

 

Yeah. So you guys didn't get down to Brazil for the “Brazilian Soul” music video?

 

B-Roc:

No. You heard that story. You read out. Yeah, that was awful. We were at the airport with our bags.

 JPatt:

It was a visa situation.

 B-Roc:

So that was a manager fuck up.

 JPatt:

It was a visa thing. No one told us we needed like six visas.

 B-Roc:

Nobody told us we needed a fucking travel visa. So they were down there, and we were on our way and then couldn't.

 JPatt:

We ended up shooting our part in a Brazilian restaurant.

 B-Roc:

So we shot it at a Brazilian restaurant.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. They're old friends. We go way back. They're actually coming to the after party tonight.

 

Cannons is a band that just had one of their first national tours. Now they have their headlining tour scheduled. How did you link up with them?

 

B-Roc:

That song was completely remote, the pandemic song. So we had the beat and the song started, and we had been trying to work with them because they're so in our vein, cool disco stuff, and that song was all over the radio and I couldn't not hear it. The big one. It was a really easy process. They're super nice. She's a sweetheart and just killed it. Trying to play some more shows with them, because it feels like a good fit.

 

And then last question is just about your side projects, they both came out of pandemic, if you want to talk a little bit them.

 

B-Roc:

Yeah, mine's Holiday87, and it's a lofi electronic thing, a lot of samples. I was really influenced by people like Avalanches and Cowboy Slim, and more that real heavy, sample-based stuff. And I really love really borderline-emo, emotional stuff. So this was like my escape.

And JPatt was doing his thing with his songs. When we were working alone, I'd come and bring some super emo song, and he'd come and bring some really housey things. And we'd be like, "Neither these work for The Knocks." The Knocks thing, we really wanted to hone in on "We're going to make this indie-disco stuff. This is the sound."

 JPatt:

We have a sound now.

 B-Roc:

We used to try to make it fit.

 JPatt:

We started off as just "Oh, whatever sounds good."

 B-Roc:

Anything we make is a Knocks song. And then we learned the hard way that that doesn't always... You've got to kind of stick to your thing. So this is a great way. We started our own label and we're able to just get that release of "I want to go make some weird fucking six-minute-long downbeat song."

 JPatt:

My shit's James Patterson.

 B-Roc:

And he can make his heavy bangers that are a little bit more... Not as funk.

 JPatt:

It's a little more heavy than the Knocks, but it's just more DJ music. I guess a good reference would be Moody Men or Frankie Knuckles, those kinds of guys. It's not grow house. It's not tech house.

 JPatt:

There's real instruments in it, but it's feels more classic house.

 B-Roc:

Yeah. It's just nice. It really feels good to have a place for that stuff to live now.

JPatt:

Yeah.

 

What's the new label called?

 

JPatt:

Blacklight.


Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time, guys. I'm looking forward to the show.

 

B-Roc:

Thank you, man. Great questions. It was nice to talk to someone who read up on things. It's like, "How did you get your name?"

 

Photo Credit: Grace Dupuy

   

Guerilla Toss delivers cannibalist manifesto on latest single

Guerilla Toss is a band that specializes in dance-punk-acid-house-party-rock anthems that sound like they’ve been beamed to this planet straight from the Big Red Spot of Jupiter because much like that celestial “beauty mark” (actually a raging centuries-old storm bigger than the entire planet Earth) their music is a swirling sonic vortex that pulls in all manner of sonic space junk from the surrounding atmosphere which gets all mashed up and mutated in the eye of the storm re-emerging as a molten musical liquid metal that gets shot back into space via electromagnetic waves audible through this planet’s primitive stereo receivers and equalizers and discontinued iPods

Granted, this may sound like a crackpot analogy but it’s supported by the band’s own lyrical exegesis on songs like “Meteorological” (from 2018’s Twisted Crystal), “Can I Get the Real Stuff” (from 2017’s GT Ultra), and “367 Equalizer” (from 2014’s Infinity Cat Series). And you can hear the interplanetary vibes with your own ears just by putting on Guerilla Toss’s latest single “Cannibal Capital” (music video directed by Lisa Schatz) from their upcoming Sub Pop debut full-length Famously Alive due out on 3/25, a song that seems to mix and mutate the various stages of the band’s own musical history—from the noisy experimentalism of their early releases to the mutant funk of their more recent DFA releases—a song that by their own account “makes everything sensory.”

The song opens with a sound-collage intro that appears to incorporate the sounds of a Merzbow cassette being eaten by malfunctioning tape deck, a leaky toilet, an air rifle, and a cat suffering from intestinal distress—all in the first 15 seconds or so. It just goes to show how much Guerilla Toss takes making everything sensory very seriously indeed. 

Meanwhile a twitchy-tail-shaking-percolating-mid-tempo groove emerges from the sonic murk and while it seems to vanquish it at first the sonic murk keeps seeping back in around the edges with squelching synths and blasts of power chords and so forth thus setting up a disintegration/reintegration dialectic that fits perfectly with the song’s opening lyric (“you need help / melt in every dimension”) and it’s not the only case of lyrical/musical synchronicity either like later where vocalist Kassie Carlson poses the question “can I escape gracefully?” and the vocals veer out of time on cue escaping the rhythm of the tightly wound groove for a few moments.

Closing arguments: On “Cannibal Capital” Guerilla Toss have proven once again that pop will eat itself and and that there's a cultural capital to cannibals just as Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade observed back in 1928 when he wrote the Cannibalist Manifesto which advocated the notion that “Brazil’s history of cannibalizing other cultures was its greatest strength and had been the nation’s way of asserting independence over European colonial culture” a notion that went on to inspire the late ‘60s art and music movement movement called Tropicália—whose best-known proponents were Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes which literally means The Mutants—likewise frooted in a collage aesthetic where the "sacred enemy" is disgested and transformed, and with all this in mind I'd say it’s fair to say that Guerilla Toss are our modern-day tropicalistas, i.e. modern primitives, likely transplanted from outer space no less, or Boston, one or the other, sent to Earth/NYC to absorb our musical traditions "body snatchers style" and spit 'em back out in capitvatingly mutated form. (Jason Lee)

   

Melanie Charles remixes the remix on soulful tribute to female jazz greats

photo by: Kevin W. Condon

Since it’s founding in 1956, Verve Records has amassed the world’s deepest catalogue of jazz with classic recordings by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Stan Getz/João Gilberto, and Sarah Vaughan (not to mention a number of legendary avant-garde rock ’n’ rollers like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground). Late in 2021, Melanie Charles put out Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women on the label, released as part of the longstanding “Verve Remixed” series (est. 2002) where contemporary DJs and producers remix classic recordings from the label’s extensive jazz catalogue. 

Notably, this is the first album in the series entrusted to the vision of a single artist rather than a grab bag of divergent DJs/producers compiled onto a single disc, and Melanie Charles takes "the vision thing" seriously by not only remixing a set of jazz recordings, but by also remixing the very notion of “Verve Remixed” itself—combining digital remix techniques with the addition of completely new instrumental parts (flute, harp, sax, etc.) and vocal parts, weaving her own voice into the mix (quite literally) by singing in harmony, counterpoint, or call-and-response with the original vocals at various points.

The end result isn't an album made for modern EDM dancefloors or after-hours lounges, as heard on other Verve Remixed albums, but instead a record that takes its source material and enhances it (digitally and otherwise) with everything from Tropicalia-style psychedelia/stylistic eclecticism to Alice Coltrane-adjacent spirituality to Sun Ra-adjacent Afrofuturism with detours into early '00s R&B and twerk-ready Haitian pop/trap kompas grooves for good measure. 



If this sounds a little bit all over the map don’t worry, because Melanie Charles has re-imagined these tracks in a way where everything flows together rather seamlessly and organically—after all, it’s Charles’ stated mission to “make jazz trill again” so she’s not looking to get too willfully esoteric—resulting in a sonic college that doesn’t come across as a collage which is a neat trick. 

This works most likely because Ms. Charles isn’t only an electronic music producer/beatmaker/remixer, but also a formally-trained jazz flautist, plus a singer-songwriter conversant in styles ranging from soul and R&B to trip hop and acid jazz (and oh yeah she almost became an opera singer). To hear how Melanie combines these various elements in her own music it’s recommended you check out her 2017 full-length The Girl With The Green Shoes, or her "Trill Suite No. 1 (Daydreaming/Skylark)", or look up some clips of her rocking a sampler or a flute live.



This album may also be "a little extra" because a little extra is routinely expected from Black women, or more like a lot extra, just to receive half the respect and recognition as their peers. This is where white supremacy and patriarchy have brought us and ergo the album’s title. Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women works to redress this imbalance by paying tribute to Black women in jazz, artists who may be “canonized” today but who always had to struggle mightily—Billie Holiday serving as an obvious case in point—no matter how much their greatness becomes taken for granted later. To survive or better yet to flourish under such conditions no doubt requires a good deal of improvisation, finding ways to "remix" the limitations imposed by a hostile environment to one's own advantage somehow.

And so it's fitting that jazz was the original “art of the remix”—rooted in improvisation and born out of the creative remixing of a rich stew of influences including field hollers, work songs, hymns and spirituals, brass bands, dance music, banjo tunes, opera and concert music, and blues and ragtime. It’s also a form of music where it’s routine to remix familiar tunes from different realms and eras, for instance, taking bubbly Broadway ditties and turning them into rhapsodic tone poems like on John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” or Betty Carter’s “Surrey with the Fringe On Top.”



Speaking of Betty Carter, who's been called “the most adventurous female jazz singer of all time," Melanie Charles’ pays to Carter by reworking her version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)," a song that speaks directly to the links between jazz and transformation, especially re: the "remixing" of imposed social realities. Written and first recorded by Norman Mapp, its lyrics position jazz as the art of “getting by” and “making do” despite the odds, much like soul food has been called the art of making magic from scraps (lyrics: “Jazz is makin’ do with ‘taters and grits / standing up each time you get hit”) but also depicts jazz as the art of “getting over” and taking charge despite those very odds (“jazz is living high off nickels and dime / telling folks ‘bout what’s on your mind”). As a famous jazz musician once said, "in jazz you don’t play what’s there. You play what’s not there."


 

Mapp’s original version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)” has a distinctly cool jazz vibe with the vocals lagging behind the beat, whereas Betty Carter’s rendition accelerated the tempo while adding rhythmic drive and melodic counterpoint. And instead of fading the song out at the end, like on Mapp’s version, Carter slides into the upper register and sings the line “jazz ain’t nothing but SOOOOUL” over a new four-note melodic line. This brief but striking alteration lays the foundation for Melanie Charles’ version of Betty Carter’s version in taking this seconds-long fragment and looping it while singing the song's other lyrics as melodic counterpoint.

These time-space-continuum manipulations seemingly pull the the song into a new dimension, breaking down to almost nothing and then building back up into a completely different version of the song, one with a loping laid-back funky Indie.Arie-style beat. Near the end, the sampled loop of Betty's vocals reemerges sounding like a broken-up broadcast from a satellite but one with a Fender Rhodes skittering up and down its surface. So if you wanna talk about “the art of the remix” here it is and bear in mind I've left out plenty of other alterations and production touches—because this is a digitally enhanced remix that gets right at the beating analog heart of the original version.

Likewise most of the other works remixed and reimagined on Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women seem to be about "overcoming" in some sense, rejecting bad odds for Black women whether relating to life “in the ghetto," or relationship woes with a “man child,” or achieving “civil” rights in a country that’s anything but civil. For another example, the album opens with an interpolation of Lady Day’s classic “God Bless the Child,” another jazz composition that could be considered a “bracing mixture of hard-scrabble practicality and hope," with lyrics drawing on a religious parable to impart a secular message about the power of self-determination and the enduring power of structural inequality. 

In the opening lines Charles slyly alters Holiday’s lyrics, moving from “so the Bible says” to “so the Devil says,” which brings to the fore the critique of religious hypocrisy some have read into the song. But what’s maybe more relevant along these lines is that Ms. Charles is a student of Haitian vodou, drawing inspiration from her Haitian culture roots, with her mother having immigrated from Haiti to Brooklyn before she was born, finding relevant inspiration in a religion that “remixes” Catholicism by way of African cosmologies and deities—where the gods (lwa) and their divine healing powers are lured into the physical realm via overlapping drum rhythms mixed together in just the right manner. And that seems like a perfect note to end on here. (Jason Lee)

 

   

Josephine Network makes it rain on latest single

HOT TRACKS/HOT TAKES: Josephine Network “I Feel Like Rain” (release date: 12/03/21)

ELEVATOR PITCH: Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” meets Sylvester’s “I Need Somebody To Love Tonight” meets Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain” meets Arthur Russell/Loose Joints’ “Is It All Over My Face?” with a dash of Steely Dan’s “Peg” thrown in for extra flavour—presented to the public with 3 count ‘em 3 alternative mixes available on limited edition cassingle to be found exclusively at Sam Goody’s Records & Tapes and also for order on the Josephine Network’s Glamcamp page (which redirects you to NYC-based “art pop cassingle label” Paris Tapes) if you’re too lazy to hit the mall.



KEY LYRIC: “Your love, your love is like water / one drop and I’m dripping wet”

PAST IS PROLOGUE: For an appetizing sample of Josephine’s pre-solo-artist musical career, check out Velveteen Rabbit’s “I Wanna Be Your Woman” below (sample lyric: “so lemme be your woman / and you can be my woman too”)  



MUSICAL PROFICIENCY: Junk shop glam slop. Drag yenta boogie rock. Yiddish-infused power pop. Gently-strummed “AM Gold” soft rock. Keyboard-driven Captain Fantastical melodic bops. Girl-group harmonizing in attractive frocks. And now, blissed-out sunshine-pop disco romps. 

Who is a Yenta today? https://www.jta.org/2020/02/04/opinion/who-exactly-is-a-yenta-these-days Captain Fantastic: 

MORE RECENT WORKS: Josephine’s debut LP Music Is Easy was released in early 2020 on Dig! Records. It’s been described elsewhere as walking “the line between sincerity & camp, with a stellar set of songs that’ll grab every rockin’ lover and true believer in pop music from the last half-century by the ears, rattling whatever’s left in-between them, and restoring their dormant faith in music—with ease and a wink.”



And just this year, in March, also on Dig! Records, Josephine Network released a collaborative album with Hershguy. It’s called Stocky Tunes and on Bandcamp it’s described as “a celebratory rock’n’roll smorgasbord of far-reaching sounds and sonic bedlam…[that doubles] down on the adventurous and genre-shirking spirit of their solo efforts [with] lyrics comprised of ribald Yiddish slang of yore (“Cockamun”, “Punim Pisher”, etc.) beside modernized protest songs of the day (“Walk Out Loud” and “This is Track 11”—FUCK 12!!!)" which as a music journalist who is always looking to report the cold and hard truth, I must point out here is actually track 4 on the record.

 

IN CLOSING: Personally, this writer wouldn’t mind if Josephine explored a little further down the “I Feel Like Rain” path on a subsequent EP or even a full LP, because this is such a groovy, vibey-yet-upbeat, danceable-yet-introspective, life-affirming tune. But the one thing that we can probably depend upon from Ms. Network is that there's no telling where she’ll go next musically. And that’s always a good thing for an artist in this writer's book. (Jason Lee)