Articles by "Zen Tapes, Author at PORTALS"
Recently relocated to Austin, Texas from Denver, power-duo-of-brothers, Young Pharaohs, are back with two brooding RnB-tinged electropop cuts. Exciting!
“I Do” builds a steady, mechanical foundation of unrelenting 8th notes that work well in contrast to tender coos and psychedelic guitar brilliance. “Don’t Go Down” finds singer, Ben Martin, unrelentingly channelling hope from a dark place. Emerging from the steady crescendos of rich filter sweeps as well as jittery percussion, he trades melodies with ethereal chimes in a way that is addictively positive. I’d even go so far to say that my overall impression of “Don’t Go Down” is nothing short of motivational.
Listen to the duo below, and be sure to visit the Young Pharaohs SoundCloud to keep up with their future sounds.
I also got the chance to catch up with Ben on the band’s recent happenings and the creation of the two tracks:
It’s a wild and wonderful time for Young Pharaohs. The seeds that became these songs were planted last summer while we toured the west coast in a big green school bus. Due to some poor DIY tour booking on my part, we ended up with a few days to kill in San Francisco. There was a lot of aimless (and somewhat penniless) wandering around the city. Turns out it’s illegal to sleep in your vehicle in San Francisco, not to mention that it’s not the easiest city to park a school bus in, so there was a lot of cop-dodging going on. I remember Sam first showing me the demo for “Don’t Go Down” on a haunted, foggy morning in an empty parking lot in the Presidio.
We spent some time in Mexico at the end of that tour. My girlfriend and I split off from the rest of the group and drove down the Baja through hours and hours of endless desert. We met a lot of beautiful people and saw a lot of beautiful things on that trip, and the night before we got back into Tijuana on our way home, all the words for these songs were just pouring out of me.
I really felt a deep connection to my muse on tour last summer, and I’m happy that these tracks owe both their sonic and spiritual origin to that trip. The actual recording and mixing process was done here in Texas though. We moved to Austin this fall, and there are an incredible amount of creative people down here doing really wonderful work. It’s perpetually inspiring. So it feels like the songs are a bridge from where we’re coming from to where we’re going. I’m enamored with writing music right now. Every song I write feels like such a privilege to me. I can’t wait to put more of it out into the world.
Wildarms‘ latest EP, Clear Eyes, is filled with bright, positive energy and elevating synth flourishes that make his endearingly cute (dare I say kawaii) interpretation of dance, both refreshing and easy to absorb. Arpeggiated melodies snake around soothingly sweet R&B samples, harmoniously woven together over hip-hop and breakbeats in a synchrony reminiscent of a less dystopian, Eastern-influenced The-Drum. Often drenched in comfortable reverb, each track evokes a lax nostalgia (perhaps driven by frequent vaporwave-reminiscent synth selections) in which Wildarms dynamically elaborates upon a particular emotion, most of which are perfect to accompany light shining through the blinds in the early morning.
Listen to the entire release below, courtesy of Cascine, who are releasing Clear Eyes on 2/5/13:
Here’s Wildarms on how the EP came to fruition:
The short story: I’ve made music for at least a decade and lost or abandoned nearly all of it, thanks to hard drive failure and next-day disinterest. But when, last spring, I realized in a roundabout way that a label I loved might actually put some Wildarms out, I decided to focus. When I finished graduate school, in New York, I used my newly free time to concentrate on recording a proper release. Supposedly, Justin Bieber’s team works on individual songs for up to 80 hours, so I aimed to go closer to that than my usual one-nighters. It started about Friday Night Lights and ended up about Jessie and me. A lot of singing happened and a lot was deleted, but I think the instrumentals say it better anyway. I forget which notes I played, but it’s better that way. “The most important physiological and mental gesture is that of separating the part of me that remains from the part I must jettison to sink away into a beyond from which there is no return.” It happened and it won’t again, at least never like this.
One half of Thrill Jockey‘s guitar-based dark, psychedelic drone group Barn Owl, Evan Caminiti, is set to release Dreamless Sleep on August 21st of this year. Caminiti was also one half of Higuma, together with Vestals‘ Lisa McGee. His versatility in style is exhibited in this track that Thrill Jockey was nice enough to provide us for a mini-premier (with help from Electric Totem).
“Fading Dawn” fades in (heh) and presents itself as a landscape of synthesizers and palm-muted guitar notes, however the listening experience turns fantastic and surreal when a distorted guitar joins in and directs the song from casual meandering to journey through the psyche. The landscape becomes washed in static and feedback and transports us to a world that is slowly becoming unreal. The track closes indefinitely like a story with a forthcoming sequel. It fades out but doesn’t let you depart completely from the nebula of perceptual wonder. Look forward to wandering through the entire psychedelic atmosphere Caminiti has created for Dreamless Sleep.
Some words from Caminiti about the creation of the album from Thrill Jockey‘s website:
The first version of the album, a kind of rough draft, was completed in San Francisco during Spring of 2011 before leaving on an extended tour that found me traveling without a home base for a period of 10 months. Upon returning to San Francisco and settling again in the Winter of 2012 I approached the material in a completely different way, changed by a year of travel and new challenges. It was deconstructed and reformed into a different album than what it had once been, echoing some of the themes I wanted the songs to reflect initially – the way our memory changes events in the past and how our surroundings define us.
Time after time, I fall in love with Mat Cothran. Whether the project be Coma Cinema, Gremlins, or Elvis Depressedly, Mat’s essence shines through a bleak world of apathy, straight to my soul. Whether the focal point be his wavering voice, a gently strummed acoustic guitar, or a simple warbling synth melody, he takes otherwise banal elements and creates nothing short of magic. And what’s even more endearing is that right when I feel like I’ve gotten to know his newest output, he (in this case, drunkenly) sets free yet another—usually even more penetrating and overwhelmingly real than the last.
Mickey’s Dead is nothing short of another special release from Mat. Give it the full listen that it deserves below:
Rather than psychoanalyze his enigmatic persona through 10 tracks myself, we’ll let him do the talking with the help of his best bud, Justin Blackburn:
day drinking in a small room again and again and again, self inflicted mountains of bad laundry days and beer cans and defeated instruments played by broken fingers tumbling down the hillside towards some abandoned building. from the fifty yard line I can see the flowers bloom, the sweet loud mouth repetition of every dream come true that loved you enough to fulfill it’s promise to die for you.
i have been scared of forgiveness, wishing i’d drowned in the sink my mother bathed me in. feeling sorry for every grave that is ruined by a body. calling my father through the psychic hotline but being too much of a little bitch to say anything when he answers drunk, yelling at his father. fucking up, passing out in thick thunder clouds vomiting through my smile.
“kill a personality create a persona.” love is money, god is love, jesus died on the cross so i could quit my job and start a band. that’s what i did. forgive me. i love you without knowing what love is.
Hamilton, Ontario’s Thoughts on Air, whose tape, Paleo Sails was one of my favorites earlier this year, is satiating the world’s need for ToA with a crazy box set. This video was released to accompany the box set, entitled Random Tandem. It comes with a myriad of sounds and an art book, among some other things, so check it out.
From Old Frontiers:
Old Frontiers is extremely thrilled to offer this explosive package of colours and sounds from Hamilton’s own Thoughts on Air/Scott Johnson. Where to begin? How about with 100 minutes of blissful bedroom gems? The tracks range from fuzzed-outer space psychedelia to scuzzy love songs to prime examples of Scott’s signature shimmery-sparkling guitar sound and everything in between.
In keeping with the concept of randomness, included is a twelve page art-book of pieces made by Scott & Sean on a colour photocopier using a technique of blending images by feeding the paper back through the machine: a unique process with fortuitous results.
You can pick up this radical box-set on the Old Frontiers website.