Soul

L'Rain "Find It" in mesmerizing live set

After lighting up a thick stick of incense Taja Cheek a/k/a L’Rain (by day Ms. Cheek is a curatorial assistant at the MoMA PS1 contemporary art center) turns to manipulating a number of electronic modules alongside her bandmates and their guitars/keyboards/drums/digital thingymebobs (taken together the collective itis also named L'Rain, try to keep up here!) as they ease into a musical piece called “Find It” weaving together a sonic tapestry that's built layer-by-layer starting with celestial washes of synth and other ambient clouds of sound eventually joined by percussion with brushed cymbals and tom rolls and then some guitar harmonics produced by hitting the backside of his instrument with a drum mallet and then some cresting waves of saxophone with its trilling tones fed through a swampy layer of echo—with the band enmeshed in a spider’s web of electronic gear, effects pedals, and wiring which they manage to engage in tandem with their more conventional instruments—and then five minutes into the whole thing of building up an entire sonic sculpture, L’Rain, the woman, not the band, leans into the microphone and sings a short vocal line going on to loop her voice in harmony with itself as she continues singing which creates a spinning/spiraling Spirograph-like pattern against which L'rain adds bass into the mix with a melodic winding line (all this twisting and turning is mirrored in the POV camerawork winding in and out of the individual players) and the opening lyric: 

“How did I collect these clouds / from rain that fell for days / feel bad just to feel sane / my mother told me / make a way out of no way / make a way out of no way” and that’s exactly what the musical composition itself does as it builds out its own structure from the inside out, starting from the barest bones and building to criss-crossing patterns of polyrhythms, like an bug spinning a cocoon from within before emerging fully-formed. And it this isn't the perfect musical representation of “making a way out of no way” then I don't know what is. 

And this is just the start of L’Rain’s mini-set, taped for Seattle's KEXP as part of their KEXP At Home series, recorded live in L’Rain’s own Brooklyn environs. The album “Find It” is taken from is called Fatigue and it was released late last month and it’s interesting to compare the two versions studio vs. live. But never mind that because you’ll wanna listen to the album in its entirety asap whether for comparative purposes or not because it’s a heavy, heady, head-spinningly immersive album co-produced between Taja and fellow L'Rainer Andrew Lappin). And it also contains “Two Face” which is the other song heard in the live set above. Returning to the notion of making “a way out of no way” the whole record is a sonic and poetic exploration of the struggle to make sense of the senselessness of the preceding months or years or centuries (take your pick) and to emerge out the other side with something of beauty that's ready to take flight. 

So whether you're already into SAULT or Solange or simply music that's both soulful and boundary-breaking in equal measure then here you have another one for the listening queue. And then for more L’Rain in audiovisual form you can check out some of the clips below, but most of all go listen to Fatigue in its entirety because somewhat contrary to its name it's a galvanizing ride even while taking listeners into the heart of darkness. (Jason Lee)

   

Lauren Dukes “Hectic Love Week”

Lauren Dukes has released the first single, "Hectic Love Week", from her forthcoming debut self-titled EP which is due out on September 2nd.

Blending Jazz, Soul, R&B, and Blues, Dukes tackles that vicious cycle of the on and off relationship on this her debut single.

You can catch Lauren Dukes at PollyAnna Brewing in Lemont on August 6th.

   

FRESH CUTS: quickly, quickly Makes Magic Out Of Long-Distance Heartache

artist photo credit: Kyle McKenzie

L.A. by way of Portland, Oregon songwriter/vocalist/producer/arranger Graham Johnson is only 20 years and makes music under the moniker quickly, quickly, but he’s showing a talent and work ethic beyond his peers, having just released “Shee,” the third single from his new album, The Long and Short of It, to be released on Ghostly International on August 20th.

“Shee” is quickly, quickly’s love letter to their girlfriend during their long-distance relationship when he moved to Los Angeles. The track begins with strummed guitar and a soulful lead vocal jumping out at the listener, bouncing across the speakers with a subtle but long echo and reverb. Sweet vocal harmonies join in for a verse before a lively but compressed drum groove drops in with force for the wordless chorus, joined by tasty lead guitar lines. A more hip-hop oriented second verse takes shape with strategic percussion drop-outs and some excellent falsetto vocals touches, before taking on more ethereal, Bon Iver-like vibes for the middle. very casual tambourine and hand percussion appear before quickly being swallowed by the drums and lead guitar again, before ending in a final swirl of acoustic guitar and falsetto, ending in abstract electronic whirring and humming, as if the music was disintegrating itself back into the basic elements of sound.

Overall, the track is an intoxicating blend of R&B, psych-pop and hip-hop that has the potential to appeal to fans of either genre, and shows the formidable young talent making musical progress by leaps and bounds. Gabe Hernandez

   

FRESH CUTS: “nwts” Has Amindi Making Big Sounds Out Of Little Pieces

photo credit: vinny nolan

L.A.-based Alternative R&B singer/songwriter Amindi has released “nwts,” a track from her upcoming EP debut, nice, out July 28th through label Human Re-sources.

The track begins with muffled—but angelic—vocals slowly coming into focus, along with the lightest touch of bass, before a compressed, possibly sampled, drumbeat lands with assertive force, balanced by a more active bass line, a sprinkling of guitar (or keyboard?) ornamentation, and Amindi’s casually sung lead vocal. It’s an impressively minimal soundscape that still sounds full of activity, and sports a deadly, hypnotic groove.

Lyrically, the track appears to be a kiss-off to a relationship with someone who lacks the narrator’s self-motivated, “DIY” mindset (note the recurring lyrics: “I’m still me without you/You ain’t made shit/Self-made bitch/DIY, makeshift/Buzz so big I could sell a blank disc”) while also being a reminiscence of the artist’s aesthetic development from early school days to their current status as a formidable songwriter, oozing with talent and undeniable cool in their presentation (“And I paid my dues/Since them days in school/Since them payless shoes/I was way less cool/Now I done bossed up/“).

"nwts" comes alongside an announcement that Amindi will be presenting an innovative live album experience with OkiDoki on July 15th. During the event, fans will be able to see Amindi perform the EP for the first time and to interact with visual stories that bring her words to life via animations from artists behind novel works, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gumby, and Adult Swim's Robot Chicken. Gabe Hernandez

   

Yaya Bey releases The Things I Can't Take With Me

Queens-bred and Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/storyteller/poet/producer/multimedia artist and record cover artist Yaya Bey is a one-woman art-generating army whose EP The Things I Can’t Take With Me (released in April on Big Dada Recordings) is comprised of six songs of resilience, defiance, and solidarity with “Black women just like me” that addresses the relatable theme of “all this shit I gotta let go of, just the things I can’t take with me” quoting directly from Ms. Bey’s Bandcamp page—the things to be left behind ranging from childhood trauma to addictive-but-ultimately-unhealthy relationships to music industry fuckery. But most of all the record seems to be about gathering the strength to persevere and flourish.

This latter emphasis comes across not only in the lyrics but also in the sonic textures and warm enveloping production full of gently jazzy guitars and baselines and horn loops and funky drums played with a light touch, plus all sorts of no doubt lovingly assembled sonic details like the layers of mouth percussion and luminous self-harmonizing heard on “We’ll Skate Soon” or the snatches of studio chatter/laughter and the warm surface noise of vinyl records heard on other tracks. The EP’s advance single and mini-manifesto “Fxck It Then” is a perfect example of all of the above employed in support of its opening declaration: “Fxck being good now I’m a bad bitch / Fxck staying down now I’m a savage / I ain’t average.”

And in the unlikely event you should question Yaya Bey’s “bad bitch” credentials consider the album that launched her recording career and the circumstances around it, quoting again from the Bandcamp page: 

Yaya Bey’s 2016 debut, The Many Alter-Egos of Trill’eta Brown, was an ambitious project that included a dreamy, largely acoustic mixtape, book, and digital collage inspired by her front-line activism as a street medic in Ferguson. “You spend two years of your life protesting and getting assaulted and arrested—you got a lot of shit to say after that,” Bey said.

And if should you need some more Yaya you can check out the 2020 quarantine-recorded follow-up LP Madison Tapes, and we also recommend this recent in-depth interview and DJ set she performed, broadcast live on The Duane Train radio program which goes out weekly on WFMU a/k/a "The Freeform Station of the Nation”--a station based out of Jersey City, a/k/a "Chilltown"--hosted by legendary DJ/selector Duane Harriott who assembles some the grooviest mixes of vintage and brand new soul, funk, disco, electro, and hip hop anywhere that I’ve heard. And then finally, or perhaps first of all, you're also advised to check out Yaya Bey performing live (yes, that's right live!) tonight alongside some friends at a Juneteenth celebration being held at Brooklyn’s Sultan Room (the livestream will still be available for a couple days after the show) with guests including Boston Chery and Run P. (Jason Lee)