Saturday, December 25, 2021

General Comments

This is the place for any comments you have that don't relate to a specific post. This is a place where you can leave any requests, suggestions and opinions that you have about this blog. It will always remain at the top of the blog so that it is visible to everyone. We can use this as a forum for an open discussion on music in general, as well as just simply saying hi. Let's get the ball rolling.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Influences of DJ Shadow

As I sit here this morning, bleary-eyed and staring at this blank screen, I realize that it's been another four months since my last post. When things were going well, it seemed like the words flowed effortlessly out of my fingers like a running stream. Now, I can barely muster up a small puddle of words, tangled up in regret and uncertainty of what the future holds for me.

Recently, an old friend and frequent visitor of Eclectic Grooves sent me a message on Facebook saying that he was sorry to hear of all of my troubles, and that he figured that the blog was defunkt. Upon hearing this from a person who had visited the blog many times, and regularly posted comments, it was the shot in the arm that I needed to reignite my passion for writing about music again.  I want to thank this person for shaking me out of my creative funk and essentially waking me from my slumber.

Now, on to the music..

One of my main sources for discovering new music when I first started the blog was the retro-leaning, vinyl enthusiast magazine called Wax Poetics. It was a revelation to me, as its contents overflowed with recommendations of old records, new interviews with funk, soul and rock artists from the 60's and 70's who are still prevalent and a smattering of interviews and reviews of new artists that were presently making waves. About three years ago they drastically changed the format of the magazine: making the pages have a more newspaper feel to them instead of the glossy format from the beginning, featuring more mainstream artists like Michael Jackson and Prince on the cover and doing away with one of my favorite sections of the magazine called Re: Discovery that mined the underground archives for music that was practically unheard of and definitely not celebrated when it was originally released. These reviews were insightful and entertaining, and they made you want to find these albums in any way, shape or form.

Although they haven't brought back the Re: Discovery feature, I am happy to report that the last couple issues of Wax Poetics have gone back to featuring classic artists like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and David Axelrod. and the glossy print has also returned.

Today, I want to focus on a few artists and tracks that were influential to DJ Shadow (the cover artist for the latest issue of Wax Poetics) when producing his instrumental hip-hop masterpiece Endtroducing.

DJ Shadow- Endtroducing
[1996, Mo' Wax]

















Giorgio- London Traffic
From: Son of My Father [Dunhill Records, 1972]


















Before Giorgio Moroder became a household name in disco, he was busy crafting quirky pop gems like this. I love the way the drums kick in from the beginning, and that it uses synthesizers sparingly enough that they don't drown out the rest of the instrumentation.  As much as I don't like synthesizers, sometimes they serve a purpose to set the tone of the song. In this case, there is a synthesizer solo featured prominently in the middle of the song that sets the light and airy tone of the song. This is actually perfect summer music, so sit back and relax with a cold one while enjoying the wistful sound of pre-disco Giorgio Moroder.


Dennis Linde- On the Run
From: Linde Manor [Intrepid, 1970]















Based on the cover of the record, you would think that this is another sleepy singer-songwriter record from the 70's.  But, from the first couple seconds of the funky bass on this track, you realize that you couldn't have been more mistaken. There is a somewhat sappy bridge that takes the track in a different direction midway through the song, but it quickly finds its legs again with a short instrumental break replete with punchy horns and fuzz guitar.  At the end of the song, there is a great effect that makes his voice sound like it's going down a deep well while the horns and guitar fade in the distance. Overall, another deep cut taken from the seemingly endless archives of DJ Shadow.

Osanna- Variazione 1 (To Plinius)
From: Preludio Tema Variazioni Canzona [Fonit, 1972]

 
















This is one of the best album covers of all time, but I have no idea what it's supposed to be depicting. It was clearly influenced by the swirling, trippy album covers from the 60's psychedelic era without coming across as kitschy.  The infectious bass and drums intro to this song is a hip-hop sample waiting to happen, so it makes sense that DJ Shadow was influenced by it. I love the way the perfect little guitar solo sets the tone for the guitar and horn sections that maniacally play off each other. This is a very fast-paced cut that doesn't let up until it slowly fades out with chanting vocals over an orchestral tone that is reminiscent of the sounds you hear when something bad is about to happen in a horror flick. This track has a lot going on, and will reward repeated listens.

That's it for now, but I look forward to sharing more music with you soon.


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Finding My Way Home

So much time has passed, I almost feel like an imposter while writing this post on my own blog.  Eclectic Grooves used to mean so much to me, and I felt like with it I was able to gain a loyal, albeit, small community of readers who waited patiently for my next treatise on the current state of music. I spent a copious amount of time combing the internet for the latest inspiration, and was mostly successful in operating a semi-popular blog for the first three years. Then, my girlfriend started struggling with her health in the Spring of 2010, beginning with digestive issues and slowly developing into a much more serious diagnosis of Lyme disease. Since she was diagnosed with Lyme disease in the fall of 2013, our lives haven't been the same. I started feeling hopeless about every facet of life. How would we possibly get the money to pay for the care that she needed? How would I be able to stay mentally and emotionally strong despite her considerable decline in health? How would I keep my mind off the fact that her health might not ever stabilize?

The questions were many, and the mind grew wearier every day. I started doubting who I was in the world, what I had accomplished and I started second guessing my personal friendships. If my friends weren't calling me back when I reached out, this must be a sign that they don't want to be friends. One by one, my friendships started slipping through my fingers as I lost the will to go out of my comfort zone and reach out to them. I felt like everyone was judging the decisions we made around raising money to get her well, and that I could no longer post anything on social media about going to the movies or buying records. Being able to raise money from friends and family was both a blessing and a curse. We were blessed to receive such a gracious display of generosity, but couldn't help feeling indebted to each and every person who helped or donated money to our cause. I can't really be sure, but I think that a couple of my friendships ended due to the awkwardness caused by these money matters.  I never had the courage to ask these friends if they were upset with me about this, so I have been carrying the burden of guilt this entire time.

While I have spent so much time feeling sorry for myself, and blaming my friends for abandoning me when I needed them most, I neglected to realize that I had a part to play in this too.  I pretty much lost myself over the course of the last three 1/2 years, trying to block out what was really happening to my life. My friends were fading memories that grew more and more distant every day. I rarely reached out to my family outside of my parents, and I lived in a constant state of flux. Nothing made me happy except for music, and sometimes even the salve of music couldn't raise my spirits. Each day became a routine of working, eating, watching television and going to bed. Rinse and repeat.

Since last November, my girlfriend and I had been facing so much adversity that at times it felt like we were literally going to fall apart. We discovered about a week before Thanksgiving that the apartment complex we had been living in for the past decade had a leak in the main water line under the complex. It turned out that even though our landlord was able to get the water line fixed, the damage had already been done. Within a couple days, we began noticing cracks in the foundation, our bedroom and front door would no longer close and there were huge cracks above most of our doorways. We had a mostly mellow Thanksgiving, warming up pre-cooked dishes from New Seasons in the oven, and capping off the evening by watching "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy".

She went out for a few hours to visit a friend, and I had already gone to bed by the time she got home. As she walked through the hallway, a loud popping and cracking sound came from the floorboards and immediately woke me up. I wasn't sure what to do as I had barely slept, so I had a 1/2 of a Benadryl to see if I could get back to sleep. Shortly after this, she walked across the floor in the living room, and another loud pop resounded through the apartment. At this point, we both went out to the parking lot, and noticed the huge gaps in the concrete that almost looked like fault lines. From here, it was pretty apparent that we were going to have to pack our essential belongings, evacuate our apartment and completely start over. Since we had no idea how long it would take for the entire complex to slide down the hillside, we began to frantically pack our stuff with the thought that this might be our last chance to retrieve anything. It would seem that a greater higher power was on our side, as we were able to get all of our belongings packed up and moved into a storage unit while we took our next step into the unknown.

Over the next two months, we stayed in a hotel as we tried to put the pieces of our life back together, and find a new place to call home. It wasn't easy as my girlfriend's Lyme disease symptoms were heightened due to the stress caused by the evacuation, and I had to burn through my vacation days to cover missed time at work due to unexpected snowstorms and a relentless cold. In addition to all of this, we were trying to find a new apartment during the holidays when almost no one was available to show places. I still don't know how we did it considering all of the obstacles we faced, but we managed to find a new place against all odds, at the end of an arduous journey that wound up taking approximately two months. We still haven't settled into our new place as most of our belongings were thrown into random, wardrobe boxes that the moving company had to pack, and we've still been trying to get our bearings. 

I imagine this post comes off like a diary entry in a teenager's journal, but these things needed to be said. If any of my friends are reading this, I hope you understand that I didn't intentionally abandon you.  I just didn't know how to find my way home. Maybe writing this post will cure the writer's block I've been experiencing over the past year, and get me back on track with writing about music that I love. 

Edit: This track off the rapper Jonwayne's latest record Rap Album Two encapsulates the feelings and emotions that I'm going through right now. Until next time...

Jonwayne- Out of Sight

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Favorite Albums of 2015

2015 was a long, strange year. Throughout the year, I experienced many hardships, while at the same time being the recipient of great fortune. I purchased and listened to more music in 2015 than any other year since starting this blog, but a lack of time and energy prevented me from dedicating much time to it whatsoever.  I have thought about packing it in countless times, but each time the thought crosses my mind, I always come back to the feeling I get when I have a new idea for a post. It's really difficult to put into words, but suffice it to say that listening to music fills me with joy, and I enjoy sharing music that delights my readers.

While most people have probably already started focusing their efforts on the most anticipated records for 2016, I have just begun to wrap my head around my favorite albums released in 2015. Last year I spent more time thoroughly listening to records, rather than dismissing them after a cursory listen to get through a stacked listening queue. For me, 2015 was the year that female musicians and hip-hop artists came into their own, crafting interesting and innovative albums in an age where most people buy their music in bite-sized digital increments. It was a year where Kendrick Lamar went against everything that he knew would guarantee popularity to create his masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, and would go on to be nominated for 11 Grammy awards, and a year where Alabama Shakes would shake the foundation of their patented southern soul sound to create a more varied, distinctive aural experience that is all their own on Sound and Color. I am hopeful that many artists will continue to go down this road less traveled, forging it's own path by crafting thought-provoking, soul-baring artistic statements that absolutely had to be made.   

Each record on this list is one in which I spent a considerable amount of time with, poring over the lyrics, melodies and tempos until they were firmly embedded in the musical jukebox in my mind. I hope that you are introduced to some new artists from this list, and please give money to the artists if you like what you hear.

1) Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly














I imagine it's fitting that I discuss this record first as I listened to it more than anything else this year. What Kendrick was able to accomplish with this album is unprecedented in hip-hop, especially hip-hop in an era of sound-bite news and social media.  In essence, this is a concept record about the trials and tribulations of dealing with the pressures of being a famous hip-hop artist that is political, conscious, poetic and aggressive. The music is a heady stew of funk, jazz, soul and rock anchored by an all-star cast of producers and musicians including Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Snoop Dogg and George Clinton.  With To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick has set the bar high for rappers, and the record could be the catalyst to shifting mainstream rap's focus towards positivity and lyrical consciousness.

For Free (Interlude) and Momma

2) Drinks- Hermits on Holiday

 

When I heard that Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley of White Fence were collaborating on a new project, I was positively intrigued. On this record, the two artists are able to mix and match styles effortlessly, careening wildly between punk rock, psychedelia, post-rock and noise often in the same song. In a year where their weren't too many albums that rocked, Hermits on Holiday was there to give me the caffeinated rush that I needed to get my day started.

Focus on the Street and Spilt the Beans

3) La Luz- Weirdo Shrine

 
On their follow-up to It's Alive, the four piece from Seattle, WA enlisted Ty Segall to produce, lending to a heavier, fuzzed out sound without sacrificing any of the crucial elements that made the debut so enticing.

 You Disappear and I'll Be True

4) Ryley Walker- Primrose Green

 
Previous albums by Walker have been low-key acoustic affairs, but On Primrose Green, he has enlisted a full band to flesh out his phenomenal guitar playing, and it pays off in spades. While it's hard to deny that Walker's vocals are directly influenced by Tim Buckley, the band manages to carry him to another level on the extended instrumental workouts.

Sweet Satisfaction and The High Road

5) Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba- Ba Power

 
I've had the pleasure of seeing Kouyate in concert, and it's nothing short of electrifying. On Ba Power, the band is able to capture the intensity of Kouyate's blistering ngoni solos filtered through fuzz and wah-wah pedals. This is absolutely essential music!

Siran Fen and  Ab Sumaya

6) Brian Ellis Group- Escondido Sessions

 
Thanks goes out to J Hubner for turning me on to this album, and the rest of the roster on the El Paraiso label. Typically, contemporary jazz is either too avant garde, or too generic for me to bother with it. Escondido Sessions is spiritual cosmic jazz that verges on dissonance, but doesn't go so far out of the pocket that it can't find its way home. If you haven't heard of the other acts on this label, get hip to it now!

Via De Mi Rancho and Memories of Pubby

7) Peacers- S-T

 
After Sic Alps released its swan song self-titled record in 2012, it was hard to tell what direction Mike Donovan would go.  Decidedly, he has come full circle with this frizzle-fried, acid-soaked collection of songs that recall the best of psychedelia and classic rock from the 60's.

R.J.D. (Salam) and Kick on the Plane

8) Pops Staples- Don't Lose This

 
While the initial sessions for this record began 18 years ago at Chicago's Hinge Recording Studio in 1998, the album didn't come to fruition until 2015. Another interesting thing to note is that Jeff Tweedy took the rough digital recordings, and fleshed it out with a little guitar and drums. What results is a raw recording that sounds amazing, especially considering that the only things kept from the original recordings are the vocals from the Staple Singers and drums and bass on two tracks.

Somebody Was Watching and Nobody's Fault But Mine

9) L'Orange and Jeremiah Jae- The Night Took Us in Like Family

 
L'Orange's cinematic soul-noir samples are the perfect compliment to Jae's low-key rhymes. As I said before, this is gangster rap for people who are tired of the same old tropes that have plagued the genre since the demise of N.W.A.

Ignore the Man to Your Right and Kind of Like Life

10) Built to Spill- Untethered Moon

 
Earlier in the year, I overheard a conversation where someone compared the new BTS album to Perfect From Now On. While this is quite the statement to live up to, I would say that this album measures up to the best in the Built to Spill oeuvre. From the yearning melodies to the extended guitar solos, there is so much to sink your ears into here.

On the Way and When I'm Blind

11) Helen- The Original Faces

 
When Liz Harris approached Scott Simmons and Jed Bindeman about starting a thrash-rock project, I'm sure none of them thought it would come out quite like this.  What resulted was a hazy, ethereal shoegaze sound with the vocals buried beneath layers of reverb. This one came out of nowhere and never left my playlist last year.

Covered in Shade and Right Outside

12) Dr. Yen Lo- Days with Dr. Yen Lo

 
Under the guise of Dr. Yen Lo, Ka along with the producer Preservation has crafted one of the most dense, cerebral hip-hop records in recent memory. The production is all tripped-out guitar, cinematic strings and subtle cymbal splashes, providing the perfect backdrop to Ka's poetic, revelatory rhyme schemes. As far as hip-hop goes, it doesn't get any better than this!

Day 811 and Day 110

13) Alabama Shakes- Sound and Color

 
When the first words spoken on Sound and Color are "A new world hangs outside the window, beautiful and strange," it's pretty apparent that Alabama Shakes weren't going to be content with simply repeating the formula that worked for them on their debut. This is a transitional follow-up record where the group experimented with the studio as an instrument. Each sound on the record has been tweaked to fit the context of the song perfectly, while retaining the grittiness and punch of the debut that earned them such a loyal following. I don't know what direction Alabama Shakes are headed, but I'll certainly be along for the ride.

Sound and Color and Gemini

14) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- Quarters

 
On the latest long player from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, they decided to make each track ten minutes and ten seconds, making the album 40 minutes and 40 seconds. Each song unfolds, winds, twists and takes on another form every couple of minutes. Aside from the opener "The River," they mostly keep the guitar solos to a minimum. Instead, these songs have multiple verses and repeatable choruses that tickle the pleasure centers of your brain. If you haven't heard of these guys yet, I highly recommend checking them out.

The River and Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer

15)  Jessica Pratt- On Your Own Love Again

 
Jessica Pratt's follow-up to her self-titled debut contains more haunting vocal melodies laid over a bed of acoustic guitar strumming. If you hadn't told me that this record was released last year, I would have thought that it was a long-lost folk chestnut from the 70's that was shelved indefinitely due to poor promotion. Thankfully, Pratt is alive and well, producing exceptional records like this.

Strange Melody and Greycedes

16) Oddisee- The Good Fight-

 
I heard the first single from this album called "That's Love", and I instantly knew that the record was going to be something special. From the upbeat tempo, to the positive message in the lyrics, the song has an infectious, crackling energy that can't be denied. Also, in an unprecedented move for contemporary hip-hop music, Oddisee managed to create an entire record containing no profanity at all. With a steady lyrical flow juxtaposed with live instrumentation and soulful choruses, Oddisee has clearly won The Good Fight.

Want Something Done and A List of Withouts


17) Chastity Belt- Time to Go Home

 
Time to Go Home is a meticulously recorded, angst-ridden rock record that just happens to be created by four female musicians. The fact that the album is so great has everything to do with the bands ability to write catchy melodies couched in lyrics filled with doubt and desperation. But don't get me wrong, the band can just as easily write a song like "Cool Slut" where they celebrate female promiscuity with a playful spirit, sending a clear message to women that it's okay to be "slutty". Subtlety is clearly not Chastity Belt's modus operandi, but we love them all the more for this fact.

Cool Slut and Joke

18) Eternal Tapestry- White Strawberries

 
After founding member, and virtuoso guitarist Dewey Mahood left Eternal Tapestry a couple years ago, I figured that this would be the last I would hear from them.  Then, in the beginning of the year, this unsuspecting gem of a record found it's way into my listening queue. Often, I feel that the term "psychedelic" is used so much that it practically has no meaning, but this album is so saturated in trippy guitars, synths and organs that it literally sounds like the aural equivalent of an acid trip.

Wild Strawberries and White Adders Tongue

19) The Ghost Ease- Raw

 
While the debut S-T record by The Ghost Ease contained epic songs that rarely strayed from the darkness, the new one lets a little light peer through the pervading sense of doom with playful vocal melodies on "PJM" and "4BV, and a symphonic closing track called "Bye Love" that could hint at a new direction for the band.  The songs on Raw are an exercise in restraint and catharsis, pushing and pulling the user in opposite directions, often keeping them guessing as to what is just around the corner. Slow ballads can turn into pummeling fuzz rock, and vice versa. At just under 30 minutes, the record is over before you have time to think about it, but hopefully you will be able to muster enough energy to hit the repeat button. 

Neptune Sun and 4BV 

20) Sleater Kinney- No Cities to Love  

 After an extended hiatus, Sleater Kinney have returned to the fold with an album that fulfills every expectation that one could possibly have for a follow-up to The Woods. Usually reunion albums are sad affairs that are created specifically because the band members need a quick cash-grab. In Sleater Kinney's case, they went on hiatus because one of the members was chronically ill and continuing on due to these circumstances would have been futile. Fast forward ten years later to No Cities to Love, and Sleater Kinney have crafted an aggressive, cathartic record filled with punchy drums, sing-along anthems and fuzzed-out guitar. Here's to hoping for another new record from the ladies in 2016!

Surface Envy and No Anthems 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Future Queens Redux- Vol.12






















It's hard to fathom that I've been kicking around this mortal coil called the blogosphere since 2006. In the current social media addicted world, a music blog seems to be about as relevant to current times as parachute pants and jean jackets. But, in the fall of 2006, when I first decided to try my hand at spreading the word about music through the now antiquated format of a blog, I stumbled upon a peculiar corner of the internet named Prostrate Before a Periwinkle. Aside from the off-putting name, it was a brilliant resource for discovering esoteric artifacts from a wide variety of musical genres. Even though the link for the blog has not been active for several years, it is still possible to view small traces of it via The Wayback Machine, a magical portal into the internet's graveyard.

Back in September of 2007, I posted on Eclectic Grooves about the impact that Prostrate Before a Periwinkle had on my listening habits, and contributed a new episode to the Future Queens series that originated on their blog, a feature that highlighted the various female artists who have made a significant contribution to the musical landscape to date.  While I had hoped to make Future Queens an ongoing feature on Eclectic Grooves, this didn't come to pass at the time. Though the inspiration and the passion was present, a lack of time and energy stalled this project for an indeterminate amount of time.

Fast forward to eight years later, a time where female musicians have been shown a little more appreciation, though they have still been largely ignored by the blogs, newspapers and social media.  Considering this, I couldn't think of a better time to give this series a fresh start.

As you can see from the track list posted below, this is an eclectic mix featuring blues, folk, country, gospel soul, rock and pop music that was made solely by innovative female musicians who were determined to make it against great adversity in this male-dominated musical world.

I hope that you enjoy this new Future Queens mix.

Future Queens Vol.12
  
1) Anne Briggs- Lowlands Away
2) Shirley Anne Lee- I Shall Not Be Moved
3) The Slits- I Heard It Through the Grapevine
4) La Luz- Sure as Spring
5) The Bermudas- Donnie
6) The Ghost Ease- Full Super Moon (In Scorpio)
7) Thee Headcoatees- Wild Man
8) Fifty Foot Hose- If Not This Time
9) Grouper- Alien Observer
10) Broadcast- Corporeal
11) Juana Molina- Wed 21
12) France Gall- Poup E De Cire, Poup E De Son
13) Ros Sereysothea- Chnam Oun Dop Pram Muy
14) Marisa Anderson- Electricity
15) Bessie Smith- Good Man Is Hard to Find
16) Jessica Pratt- Greycedes
17) Coleman Family- Peace on Earth
18) Aretha Franklin- I Never Loved a Man  (The Way I Do You)
19) Buffy Sainte-Marie- Gonna Feel Much Better When You're Gone
20) Lhasa- Fool's Gold