Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Baltimore Sharp-spitter UllNevaNo Teams Up with Jumbled for Basketball-inspired Rapper-producer EP, The Ghost of Len Bias (MGNTK./Harford & Reckord Tapes)

It would be safe to say that the immense musical diversity and sheer success seen published across the pages of The Witzard within the last year or two is largely due in part to one man, John "Jumbled" Bachman; a self-proclaimed "teacher, husband, beat-maker, and dish-washer," Bachman has been a long-time champion, supporter, featured artist, talent scout, and most recently, idea man behind Beat-maker Bedrock here at The Witzard. Jumbled has either produced beats for, set up shows, introduced, or simply referred me to an ever-evolving crew of head-nodding East Coast-based emcees and beat-makers since we first met, after he sent me his 2016 album, [I wish it was longer] AKA WIWL. John Bachman and his wife recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family and started a new school year at a new school, all the while, simultaneously working on a number of extracurricular projects: The Ghost of Len Bias, Bully Preston with emcee Dwell, and an instrumental Bmore Club-minded solo EP. The Ghost of Len Bias EP rhymesmith, UllNevaNo was actually featured on the first Jumbled track I ever heard, WIWL intro "Hampden Session," which I had no idea, at the time, but was a solid sampling of what the two could do together.

I've been hearing about UllNevaNo & Jumbled's untitled/The Ghost of Len Bias EP for at least 6-8 months now, maybe even a year, which I would imagine, is likely as long as it's even been a formative idea. "There's been a lot of talk in the press lately of rappers returning to the one-producer album. The spirit of collaboration has been replaced with Soundcloud singles," reads The Ghost of Len Bias EP's press release. Jumbled & UllNevaNo indeed appear to be single-handedly resurrecting the lost art of the tried and true rapper-producer album, evoking sonic notes of Champion Sound, Johnson&Jonson, MADVILLAINY, Gang Starr, Erik B. & Rakim, and THE MOUSE AND THE MASK. The Ghost of Len Bias features—in addition to Logic Marsellis-assisted "BIAS VS. JORDAN" and The Witzard-premiered "86 Draft"Baltimore emcee Ashley Sierra on "Shoot Your Shot," UllNevaNo rhyming over a "Bluesy guitar riff with ease" on "How Does He Do It?" cuts from DJ Blaze Daily, and a neck-snapping Jumbled instrumental, "Magnetik," towards the end of the EP. The Ghost of Len Bias EP is currently available on MGNTK.'s Bandcamp page in partnership with John Bachman's own Harford & Reckord Tapes with super-limited red and black cassette tapes "#importedfrom[the]UK" coming fairly soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dwell & salk.'s clint. Forms Baltimore Grindcore Band Constituents with Fellow Hip-Hop Heads Zap, José & Thor (Death, Agony & Screams Cassettes and Vinyl)

"Heavy, Fast, Loud & Grinding. Powerviolence Forever. Grind or Die. Reppin' Baltimore, Maryland," reads Constituents' Facebook About description. Constituents (AKA CNSTS) is a newly-formed Baltimore Grandcore band consisting of clint. on guitar, frontman José, bassist Thor, and Zap on drums. Three of the four members being part-time rappers themselves: clint. AKA salk. of Dwell & salk. Zap/Zach moonlighting as Futurama-referencing sharp-spitter zap brannigan, and José being emcee no way jose—the latter two joining forces with DJ bobmaldad as Hip-Hop crew, Pleasant Boys. CNSTS are the latest in a recent trend... or maybe just a mere coincidence of emcees starting/reverting back to their Hardcore/Punk-minded roots, such as: Ray Strife's OVER EVERYTHING (formerly DAD D*CK,) Carl Kavorkian's minimalist side-project MANIK|NETER, and Justin Mayer's DOOM & UK Crust Punks Doom mashing Old City EP, as well as clint.'s own homage to British Grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, Napalm Def or NxDEF, with producer buddy John "Jumbled" Bachman formed around 2006. Constituents have recently been making a number of release rumblings on both their Facebook (@constituentsgrind) and Instagram (constituents_grindcore) pages and over the weekend, quietly unleashed their aptly-named 2017 DEMO EP on Bandcamp. While it consists of a total of four tracks, 2017 DEMO barely constitutes as an "EP," clocking in at a combined total runtime of 3:05 with two "micro-songs" each under 35-seconds. CNSTS will be selling an extremely limited run of Death, Agony & Screams Cassettes and Vinyl-pressed 2017 DEMO cassettes at their upcoming live debut on 10/29 at HELLZAPOPPIN' in Baltimore City. Constituents strongly suggest, those interested in attending, simply "Ask a Punk" for further details on their 10/29 gig and second show at Harm City on 11/7.

"We started nameless, obviously. We began as a hook-up between Zap (Zach) and myself (clint.) that John Bachman (Jumbled) facilitated, via an email exchange. Zap and I emailed and texted about ideas. We jammed out the initial nine [songs] I had written, in preparation. We clicked extremely well. We both loved fast, brutal stuff. Zap came from a more Hardcore and Metal background with myself, coming from a Grindcore background," clint. recounted over an email exchange sent directly to The Witzard. clint. added that both he and Zap initially bonded over a mutual love and admiration for "true Hip-Hop." clint. continues that "next, came the addition of José on vox. Again, he fit right in. His vocal style borrowed from a mixture of [Hardcore] and his listening to Brutal Truth. Again, he has a love for Hip-Hop; another puzzle piece in place. Finally, the cement was cured with the addition of Thor on bass. His mega-hammering, fuzzed-out tone and presence in the same DIY Grindcore scene as myself worked out perfectly. I have know Thor for years and Zap was contacted to try him out. Pretty dope to work with a cat whose old band (Clay Davis) was a local [favorite] of mine. And yes, another member very into Hip-Hop..."

- clint. (Constituents Guitarist)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cowboys & Frenchmen's Baritone/Alto Sax Players & Co-band Leaders Owen Broder & Ethan Helm Talk Sophomore Album Bluer Than You Think (The Witzard Interview)

Cowboys & Frenchmen (C&F) are a wonderfully named, New York-based Modern Jazz quintet that describes itself as an act who "produces music that is expressive and fiercely creative, taking co-improvisation to new heights," as their Facebook About section fitting describes. I'll be the first to readily admit, I'm not the most well-versed on Jazz's formative late greats, but I've always enjoyed a Jazz-minded Hip-Hop sample and the Neo-Jazz stylings of Flying Lotus and his BRAINFEEDER crew, BADBADNOTGOOD AKA BBNG, Wu-Tang Clan-indebted El Michels Affair, Polish Jazz septet EABS, and even "The Greatest Band In Late Night," Philly's own The Roots. I received a cold-sent email last month from Massachusetts-based PR company Braithwaite & Katz Communications high-lighting the title track from Cowboys & Frenchmen's innovative, alto sax-led sophomore album, Bluer Than You Think—to be released today, Friday, October 13th, on Outside-In-Music on Amazon, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, and like-minded digital retailers. Bluer Than You Think sounds something to the effect of Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters' 1973 Jazz-Fusion masterpiece Head Hunters, The Vincent Guaraldi Trio's cartoon-accompanying soundtracks and scores, and BBNG's unique brand of Canadian-rooted, Hip-Hop-indebted Neo-Jazz. About two weeks ago, I sent a batch of questions over to Cowboys & Frenchmen's co-band leaders, composers, and baritone/alto saxophonists Owen Broder & Ethan Helm, which can now be read in its complete, fully unedited glory down below the break, for all you Funk-tastic Jazzcats out there.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Jazzcat Cub-In-Training

I. How long have you and your Cowboys & Frenchmen (C&F) bandmates been playing together and how did you fellas initially meet?

Ethan Helm: We’ve been a band about five years now. We all met in school, either during our undergrads at Eastman School of Music in Rochester or during our graduate study at Manhattan School of Music.

II. How would you personally say C&F's overall sound and style has progressed between Rodeo (2015) and Bluer Than You Think?

EH: Between Rodeo and Bluer Than You Think, I think our sound has stayed similar, but all of our new compositions have a much stronger identity; we get to [the] point. We also have more control, both as a band and as individual improvisers, over some of the crazier musical ideas we tackle.

Owen Broder: There is a similar personality to both albums and we maintain the character we presented in our debut album. The music, though, was written with more inspiration from within the band. Ethan and I borrowed compositional ideas from each other and—after playing with these guys for five years—had a much stronger sense of how to write for their voices, which gives the album a more cohesive sound.

III. What might you cite as a few of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence during the making-of Bluer Than You Think?

EH: For this album, I was greatly influenced by my fellow band members. I really try to write for their voices and showcase their many strengths. But our influences run the gamut, musically and extra-musically, from Ellington to the band Zs or from impressionist painting to daily life in New York City.

IV. What made you guys decide to link up with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Ryan Truesdell for Bluer Than You Think and how did he ultimately, influence the album's sound?

EH: Ryan has been a huge help to us all, even before C&F. He was a guest artist at our school [Eastman School of Music] in undergrad and has remained a wonderful friend and a huge advocate of us, as players and composers. In the studio, he kept us focused and had some really great ideas to loosen up the tunes and add interesting textures and was also an invaluable resource for picking the best takes. We know he doesn’t like to talk about that GRAMMY, but it’s obvious why he won it.

V. Now, this is a question I typically ask rappers, producers, and Hip-Hop-minded acts... but what do Cowboys & Frenchmen's typical writing, recording, production, etc. processes generally entail?

EH: Owen and I write separately, bringing in ideas for compositions or sometimes, full pieces. Since the written material is always pretty ambitious, it takes us a while to feel out the tune and make it flow naturally, sometimes, months or years! We’re hyper-organized in the studio, though, just to save money. We go in well-rehearsed and have a schedule for doing takes and overdubs. For production, our focus is mainly on clarity and acoustic balance, since the compositions are meant to be heard on recording, as they’re heard live (with some exceptions.)

OB: Ethan and I separately write each of the compositions, but almost all of them involve some level of work-shopping, which brings all five of us into shaping them. We try to grow into the music in performances, rather than in rehearsals and then, bring that energy into the recording studio.

VI. It's just about that time of year for publications and websites (The Witzard included) to start assembling year-end lists; now, with that said, what might you be inclined to include on your "Best of 2017" list?

OB: From this year’s releases: I’ve particularly enjoyed Matt Wilson’s latest, Honey & Salt—a wildly creative and fun musical presentation of the poetry of Carl Sandberg—and Kneebody’s Anti-Hero. Kneebody is a favorite for Cowboys & Frenchmen—we learn a lot from them, as a band and are big fans of their music, so we follow their recording career closely. A few great CD’s have come out from our Outside-In-Music label family, too; Paul Jones’ Clean features stellar writing, borne from his residency at the Banff Creative Arts Centre and inspirational playing from several of our friends and colleagues. The label’s founder, Nick Finzer, also released his [album] Hear and Now this year, which is a fantastic album featuring his sextet.

EH: I get so far behind with new releases! I’d be better qualified to write a "Best of 1959" list. Although, I do love Andrew Schiller’s album, Tied Together, Not to The Ground; a two-tenor band, so they’re like C&F version 2.0. For non-Jazz albums, I have to throw Alarm Will Sound’s Splitting Adams. It’s half-album, half-podcast with impeccable recordings of John Adams’ Chamber Symphonies and in-depth interviews about the pieces. A new album format and so well-done.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Philly-based Producer Old City Readies Debut Mash-up EP "Black Bastards" Showcasing DOOM & UK Crust Punks Doom (The Witzard Interview)

"I think a lot about genre-blending, so the relative novelty of mixing (MF) DOOM and Doom made a lot of sense to me. I've been a fan of mash-ups like Jay-Z at Studio One, WUGAZI, Leftöver Kanye, and Yeezer, but nothing that really touched Hardcore/Punk Rock," Justin Mayer AKA Old City wrote within a series of Facebook Messages. Just a matter of days ago, I got a cold-sent email, which started off by saying, "Old City, stage name of Philly-based musician/producer Justin Mayer, announces Black Bastards, a mash-up EP between rapper MF DOOM and Birmingham Crust Punk band Doom." Old City is currently prepping the release of his villainous Black Bastards EP—presumably named after KMD's 1993 pre-MF DOOM album, Bl_ck B_st_rds—to be unleashed this Halloween and has been preceded by "the first and only" DOOM & Doom-melding single, "Air Crimes;" a frenzied mash-up consisting of DOOM's oft-remixed verse from Dabrye's 2006 Ghostly International single, "Air" and "War Crimes" from Birmingham-based Crust Punk pioneers Doom's perfectly "crusty" 1988 debut, War Crimes - Inhuman Beings.

I've always been a fan of rather off-kilter genre-blending releases that linger somewhere on the blurred line in-between Punk/Hardcore and Hip-Hop; be it Loud Records' 2000 Loud Rocks! comp. the Judgement Night Soundtrack, Lil' Wayne's Rebirth, or Travis Barker's Give The Drummer Some—some, slightly more full-formed and sincere than others. Although, with that said, I've never heard anything quite as intentional and meticulously-constructed from the dreaded "Rap-Rock" category as Old City's as-yet-unreleased Black Bastards EP. I was lucky enough to hear a pre-release copy of Black Bastards EP and send a batch of questions over to the "Hip-Hop/Punk Rock Provocateur" himself, Justin Mayer, which you'll see published below in interview Q&A format. Old City's DOOM & Doom mashing-up Black Bastards EP will become available for streaming and download on either his Old City PHL Bandcamp or MFDOOMBOT (Black Bastards) Tumblr this Halloween.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Ghoulish Hip-Hop Guide

I. Aside from the very obvious reason, what made you ultimately decide to start creating an EP mashing up DOOM and UK Crust Punks Doom? Where did you even begin when crafting your Black Bastards EP?

I’ve been in the middle of a larger-scale project for about two years and the DOOM mash-up was a novel idea that popped up and seemed "crazy" enough to work. I did a quick search, downloaded some DOOM acapellas off YouTube, and did a few simple beat-matching tests. The first one that clicked was “Air Crimes” and I basically, built up the track under the acapella one bar at a time. It was really fun because that’s a completely different approach than I usually take, when creating a track.

II. What might you cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while (and even prior to) recording Black Bastards?

Danger Mouse is probably the biggest source of inspiration. I’ve been into his stuff for years, from Pelican City and The Grey Album to his work with Damon Albarn [Gorillaz], James Mercer [Broken Bells], and Daniele Luppi [Rome]. I downloaded Adele’s 25 just to hear "River Lea" and then, deleted it after. Mark Ronson, as a producer, is second to Danger [Mouse]. I’ve followed his catalog since Version. There’s a group out of Sweden I’m into called Teddybears; they make Dance music and get people like Iggy Pop, Eve, and Reggae toasters to put up vocals. Funny thing is, they started off as a pretty good Grindcore band [called Skull]! They play huge shows wearing full suits and giant matching bear helmets. Girl Talk, Jay-Z at Studio One, and WUGAZI were direct inspirations for the mash-up.

III. Are there any particular DOOM acapellas, verses, etc. you attempted to use for Black Bastards, but couldn't exactly figure out that you might consider re-visiting for a potential future release? I'm just curious!

In that initial spontaneous search, I found... seven(?) acapellas, but didn’t use all of them. I figured Doom's EP's are only four or five songs, so I’d keep it consistent. About three songs in to the EP, someone on Reddit posted clean vocals from MADVILLAINY, but I chose not to dive into them, trusting myself with those early-set limits. "Meat Grinder" and "Change The Beat" were songs I worked on, but scrapped and while I would have wanted to work with the lyrics from "Accordion," the acapella wasn’t clean enough. I don’t think I’ll do another mash-up. Never say never, but I want to branch out artistically. The Grey Album inspired WUGAZI and both inspired me. My hope is this inspires someone else.

IV. Now that your Black Bastards EP's nearing a Halloween release, what else are you currently working on? Any type of full-length Old City "debut?"

I’ve got a got a couple of "dirty fingers" in a couple of "dirty pies." I’m interested in genre-blending and exploration. The main project I’m working on is a "Punk" album, for lack of a better word. If Black Bastards is my Grey Album, the debut will be my THE MOUSE AND THE MASK. It’s a much more collaborative effort—working with vocalists and musicians that I revere. I’m finishing up the arrangement on a Jazz song for it now. I described it to Steve Pavlovic as "The Avalanches meets with The Living End," a fairly Australian explanation haha. My future projects list is a little out there. After the Old City debut, I may work on a few Folk songs with Days N' Daze or produce an Oi! [Punk Rock sub-genre] record. I want to make weird sh*t that excites and even scares me a little.

V. You recently mentioned to me that you single-handedly directed and edited together your recent "MF DOOM Black Bastards" AKA "Air Crimes" video, as well. What was the process like behind creating the video and how did you get the Metal Face Villain mask on The Peanuts Gang's Franklin?

The germ for the video came from seeing an image on someone’s Facebook of Pig-Pen with a Doom logo pasted on top of him. It was funny: Pig-Pen re-contextualized as a smelly Crust Punk. Instantly I remembered that DOOM sold those shirts of Charlie Brown with the mask on and thought, "oh sh*t, thematic continuity." Peanuts memes are actually sort of a thing in some Hip-Hop circles; there are a bunch of Peanuts-characters-rapping-Wu-Tang comics online [Mark Drew's DEEZ NUTS]. There seemed to be interest and with it enough inspiration to move on it.

I knew absolutely nothing about video editing, so I approached the video like I approach just about every other project and started with research. I went to Reddit to ask Peanuts fans for specific episodes where characters played musical instruments, but scrapped the idea of it being an all-music video. There are [Wikia] pages that detail what episodes and specials each character is in, so I found all of the ones with Franklin and Pig-Pen, specifically, and made notes of which clips I liked the best. Part of the problem is that while Franklin was several episodes, he spoke in only a few of them. I only have a couple of clips of him with a Metal Face mask on because he didn’t have much of dialogue, as a supporting character.

Chopping up the clips to sync the dialogue is simple enough in a still scene, then, it’s just getting the mask to line up the right way. I designed the mask really cheaply and easily in Photoshop, took a screenshot of the video clip, and just drew on top of it in an empty layer. A simple blur filter later, it looked remarkably authentic. I thought I’d have to add a bunch of grain filters, but those old [Peanuts] episodes used pretty basic cell animation, so there wasn’t much to it. The main problem was getting the mask to look naturalistic, when the video played, since the frame itself moves around under it. That goes back to clip-selection: I chose clips where Franklin was talking, but his head was fairly still. The mask is important! I spent more time than I’d like to admit to get the mask animation right.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Walter Gross & k-the-i??? Reunite for First Youth:Kill Release Since 2012, A Hunter's Moon with 50 "Individually Hand-made" Cassettes for Harvest Moon (self-released)

Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist, producer, and Baltimore transplant Walter Gross has been steadily rolling out extremely limited edition, thought-provoking cassette releases all year; starting with Black Box Tapes-issued VESTIGE this past March, then, its SUPER BASIC companion piece two months later, and now, Youth:Kill's A Hunter's Moon EP unleashed today, on the Harvest Moon. Walter Gross also recently assembled "FBR SummerSchool GuestMix 3" for FilthyBroke Recordings' Summer School 2017 series. Youth:Kill consists of Gross along with Big Dada/Fake Four Inc-affiliated emcee Emmanuel "Kiki" Ceac AKA k-the-i??? A 2008 Dusted Magazine review once fittingly described Youth:Kill as "the Underground Hip-Hop version of Black Dice." A Hunter's Moon is their sixth overall release and first since a self-released 2012 split EP with sole, titled sole/Youth:Kill split. Not entirely unlike its 2017 predecessors, A Hunter's Moon is essentially, a frantic sound collage-style Experimental Hip-Hop mixtape, just this time, with a sharp-tongued emcee atop Walter's unique, sample-laden self-destructive-sounding beats.

"I suppose, it should be noted @OptimisGFN and @kthei split the difference on a 10-min. track. in true yk fashion... ["calm down psycho"] was recorded 2 years ago. the beats were used for the angels dust remix and then, remixed the base into the grinder and then, the files... got corrupted. and it took 2 years to figure out a solution... in short, this album is a chronicle of this immigrant personal pathway," @waltergross wrote within a series of A Hunter's Moon-minded Tweets earlier this week. It almost seems as though A Hunter's Moon is anchored by and almost built around one single track, the aforementioned 10-minute "Calm Down Psycho" with Berlin-based emcee OptimisGFN AKA Gold HolyWater; essentially, a re-work of a planned remix for Angels Dust's 2015 HIT+RUN-released album, Slow Tapes, which after two years-worth of painstaking re-assembling and "[reviving] with some ghetto magic," has morphed into an entire Youth:Kill EP of its own. There are currently 30 (give or take) "individually hand-made," cassette copies of Youth:Kill's A Hunter's Moon available on Walter Gross' Bandcamp page—with 20 additional copies available at k-the-i???'s upcoming live dates—and unlimited digital copies available online, as well. Walter Gross' next proper "solo" album, RIPPERS ONLY, is somehow, still expected before year's end.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

3 Feet High & Rising: Guillaume Destot AKA Vim Cortez Re-emerges As NATION with Future Soul-minded Baltimore Rising EP (Kromatik Records)

"NATION is a Paris-based project that combines Pop song-writing with futuristic R&B influences. It showcases a synth-heavy, brooding brand of Future Soul and some of their preferred themes like complicated love, existential doubt, and the way music can repair our souls," read part of an email I recently received from MusigaMy founder Philippe Manivet. NATION is just the latest alias of French song-writer and multi-instrumentalist Guillaume Destot AKA Vim Cortez AKA Vim le Commodore. Destot's latest release and first billed as "NATION" is a 2-track EP titled Baltimore Rising, which I would fittingly describe as a stylistic mix between The Postal Service and Mayer Hawthorne & The County with a hint of "Get Lucky"-era Daft Punk thrown in, for good measure. NATION's Facebook page (The Sound of NATION) readily lists Guillaume & Co.'s influences as Little Dragon, D'Angelo, Jai Paul, Ben Khan, James Blake, NAO, Jamie Lidell, Mura Masa, Raphael Saadiq, Prince, Nina Simone, Otis Redding, and Bill Withers. NATION's Future Soul-minded debut, Baltimore Rising EP is currently available for streaming and download on Apple Music, Google Play, Soundcloud, Spotify, YouTube, etc. as well as Bandcamp as part of the subscription-only NATION Club; "for the first 30 subscribers, you'll also get a cool, super-limited edition cassette with hand-printed, numbered linograph artwork. Side A is [the Baltimore Rising] EP and Side B, an audio slice of NATION's offline life."

"'Baltimore Rising" was inspired by the 2015 events in Baltimore following Freddie Gray's death. I was deeply moved by Freddie Gray's story, of course, but also, by the reaction of the community and the sense of human tragedy that seemed to pervade the atmosphere; although, I watched it from very far away. I started imagining what could happen, in the mind of a cop, in front of such grief, shared by so many people (the "heaving tide" in the song) as he realizes that he's on the wrong side of history and humanity. Musically speaking, it's hard to pinpoint where the riff came from; although, there are always traces of my obsession with 80's synth music, but the riff's bittersweet—insistent presence translates the mixture of despair and hope that the events inspired me [in Baltimore]."

"'Computer Purple" is, similarly, a combination of several sources of inspiration. The title might remind the listener of Prince's song, "Computer Blue" and this is no accident, as Prince was, and still is, a huge influence for me. I think I hear something of Prince, especially 80's Prince, in the beat and the way I used the synths. But the lyrics are also inspired by Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a movie that was extremely influential for me and that still fuels my imagination. The theme of trans-humanism is coming back under the spotlight and the question of how we'll deal with machines that might have more "soul" than many humans we know. I find the notion of "soul" complex, fascinating, and problematic and looking at it it through the prism of humans/machines relationships, makes it even more thought-provoking for me. Especially, when love is thrown into the equation!"

- Guillaume Destot (NATION)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

South London Rapper-producer Charles Edison Readies Latest Reception EP & Discusses Work with Delusionists, Substance Abuse, Rehab Stint & Recovery (The Witzard Interview)

Charles Edison is a sharp-tongued rapper-producer and beat-maker hailing from South London with a ferocity similar to that of a College Dropout-era Kanye West and a healthy vernacular comparable to either The Streets (Mike Skinner) or Dizzee Rascal. Edison has been actively producing and making beats since about 2013 or before and one of his earliest note-worthy productions was "Messiah Complex" for Delusionists—a self-proclaimed "Hip-Hop group who probably won't shoot you"—as well as his accompanying "Poison" Remix on the B-side. Charles Edison has released and self-produced two EP's, an instrumental beat album, and a handful of singles since 2014. He's currently gearing up to release his latest EP, Reception, this upcoming November 3rd, which features Delusionists' Ben Black on EP single "GALLERY." I first heard about Charles Edison when fellow Londoner and writer Hairy Fraud (@GingerSlim) premiered "GALLERY" on his site, I soon reached out to @Charles_Edison on Twitter, and here we are now; I'm proud to present to you a no-holds-barred, introspective interview with Edison himself candidly discussing everything from his substance abuse, rehab stint, and recovery to his upcoming Reception EP, which "coincidentally," is now available for pre-order ahead of its 03/11/17 release. Then, if you dig what you hear and read, feel free to pick up one of 50 limited edition Reception EP cassettes, while they last!


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Bringing You The Platters That Matter

I. Where does the title for your latest EP, Reception, stem from and what does this collection of songs personally mean to you?

The title actually comes from another release I’ve got planned for the near future. I only moved to London last year to a flat in a really interesting 1920's building with this great Art-Deco design everywhere and a really intriguing history. That’s the building that’s on the EP artwork, actually and it’s a listed [historic] building, so it’s pretty much as it was when it was built. When I moved in, my dad said it felt like a conduit for something really creative and that’s exactly how I feel about it. I’m up on the 7th floor, so I had this idea to put an instrumental album out and call it Beats from The 7th Floor. As I was putting beats aside for that, I found I was getting more ideas for fully-formed tracks and my last EP, Waking Up, was such a deep, heavy, and dark project that I just felt like making sh*t I wanted to listen to and that’s what formed the basic tone of Reception. The name was purely as a kind of precursor to Beats from The 7th Floor, but there’s also a double-meaning in there because there was a conscious decision to not be too concerned with what kind of "reception" it would get. I feel like coming back to making music again—even after only five or so years of being inactive—so much has changed with how to promote yourself and the "who's-who" of the scene is completely different now, so I feel like I'm kind of coming back in from the ground floor. Personally, it feels very much like a fresh start for me in a lot of ways, after airing everything out and putting a lot of things to rest with Waking Up EP, it was really liberating to just make beats, pick the ones I loved, and write whatever I felt like writing. That being said, it-s less concept-heavy than the stuff I usually make, so it was also a welcome challenge.

II. What might you readily site as a few of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while recording your upcoming Reception EP?

As predictable and cliché as it might be... DJ Premier was an influence for this one. On at least two tracks for sure, anyway. Premo beats always have that perfect bounce and pocket combo to really just let the rapper plot their way through the track and the way he chops samples, can be genius. There’s one track, in particular, "BFT7F" that he was definitely in my mind for, when I made the beat. I didn’t even time stretch the samples, I just cut them and played the chops. Possibly my favourite "album of this year" was Kanye’s The Life of Pablo (TLOP.) I know it came out last year, but I’m saying "this year" because that’s when I finally got around to listening to it and I don’t think I listened to anything else for at least six weeks. I feel like it’s the perfect culmination of all his albums and that kind of ties in with what I was saying about combining samples and synths and making it all gel. I’ve also become a lot more open-minded with regards to where I get my samples from and there’s samples from all over the place on TLOP. There’s a track on Reception called "Good As It Gets," where I sampled from a track that was on a compilation of daytime TV library music that I stumbled across on Apple Music. I sampled it straight from my phone out of the headphone jack into the line-in on my laptop. So, just that "if it sounds good, do it" mentality that I think is inherent on The Life of Pablo.

III. What can you potentially tell me about "GALLERY"-featured Ben Black and his London-based band, Delusionists? What's your working relationship like with them?

"GALLERY" is the first track I wrote for the EP, when I was putting those initial beats aside. I had no idea what I was going to say on it, at first, but I loved how the beat turned out and just really wanted to record on it. Originally, when I first heard the sample that comes in right at the start, that rising vocal, it was going to be a laid-back Dilla-esque thing until I threw those distorted 808’s on and it took a completely different turn. I was toying with a few ideas for what I might say on it and one night, I was watching a David Bowie interview on YouTube, when I caught that soundbite that’s on the intro, where he says "never play for the gallery. Never work for other people at what you do" and that just encapsulated the exact mind frame I want to try to maintain. I think a lot of artists work so hard to try to guess the next trend or they spend their whole career chasing whatever the current trend is that they forget why they started making music, in the first place and it’s got to be because you love it or what’s the point? I never want to be in that position, so I have to really focus on not getting side-tracked by whatever is getting attention because it’s all to easy to be tempted to do that. As far as how Ben got involved... how much time have you got? Because I’d wanted to do a track with Ben for a long while... about eight years ago, I used to run a blog called Strictly Independent and I got sent a link to an album called The Prolusion by a group called Delusionists and I loved it. They were a group of three guys: two emcees, Ben and DBF and Slim Pickens, who shared beat-making duties with Ben.

It was exactly the kind of music I wanted to make because it had this really Earthy and organic feel to it that I love so much about artists like MF DOOM, Common, Dilla, and [A Tribe Called Quest] and it sounded complete. A lot of the stuff I got sent during the time of doing that blog was either really lifeless or didn’t fit the sort of stuff I reviewed and was clearly sent to me as part of some blanket spam email, so this was really refreshing. Also, the line-up and who in the group did what wasn’t expressly explained, it was something you kind of worked out as you listened to them and I loved that because once you had, it felt like you were "in" on something. I think people try to emulate that organic sound sometimes, but it just seems obvious and cobbled together and ironically, it comes out sounding the complete opposite of organic, but this was fully realised and done really well. It was something I wanted to be a part of in some way, so I sent Ben [Black] some beats. One of them was this Disney sample I had chopped up in an MPC-500 I was using, at the time; I think the drum break was even from the Mickey Mouse song, so shout out to Walt [Disney] for that one! Anyway, Ben really liked it and ended up using it for a track called "Messiah Complex" that wound up being a really popular track of theirs and was played on BBC Radio 1 by a DJ called Rob Da Bank. Shortly afterwards, Ben asked if I’d be interested in putting a beat tape out on their label [Beats Laying About] and that was my first release, called Lightbulbs. It was around this time that a few problems in my personal life led me to put music on the back-burner. Similarly, DBF had moved abroad and Ben’s output had slowed to a stop. Meanwhile, my problems got worse, until I was in a cycle of substance abuse, which led very quickly to full-scale active addiction and as it progressed, my interest in music and subsequent output gradually became non-existent.

Eventually, things got to a point where I woke up in hospital having to be resuscitated, following a seizure and I made the decision to spend 12 weeks in residential rehab. When I left, I’d basically assessed my life, addressed, and dealt with everything I’d been holding on to and had this new surge of creative energy. So, I started making beats again and put together a kind of biographical concept EP that became Waking Up, which charted everything from the catalyst that started my downward spiral to what led to my overdose and my eventual decision to get clean. I reconnected with Ben and he was happy to put it out on the label and I went back to sending him beats for a potential new project of his and some snippets here and there of what became Reception. I could just hear him on "GALLERY," as soon as I made it and he loved the beat, too, so, he was happy to jump on it with me. Eventually, we had plans to do a full project together with the beats I’d been sending him and when the discussion of what name we would put it out under came up ("Ben Black Ft. Charles Edison?" "Delusionists Ft. Charles Edison?") Ben asked if I’d like to fill the empty space left by DBF and be part of Delusionists permanently with him and Slim and I was all too happy to oblige. Our working relationship is great to be honest, we’re all really easy to bounce ideas off and have different strengths that seem to compliment each other perfectly. We’re on the same page quite often, which makes things 10 times easier. On the odd occasion that we’re not, we’re all open to trying new things to get tracks to where they need to be and it’s worked out pretty well, so far.

IV. How did you generally go about hand-crafting, fine-tuning, producing, and ultimately, recording the beats/songs contained within Reception EP? From what I can tell, your beats always sound very intricate and multi-layered!

I use a lot of EQ these days. I feel like if you break beats down to the most basic level—it’s signals and waveforms, so if you can learn how to manipulate on that level, it opens up a lot more options for flexibility with where you want to take the sound and I’ve definitely used this kind of approach, when it comes to combining elements. I always envied producers who could do that seamlessly, to a point where you can’t tell what’s sampled and what’s played. Where even when you know it’s something artificial, it’s still got that grit and warmth to it. I always wanted to be able to do that well and EQ is how you achieve it. So, on "GALLERY," for instance, there’s this harpsichord on the choruses that is from a VST [plug-in] in FruityLoops called Sakura, but it’s got enough warmth and distortion on it that it sounds sampled. I was writing to the beats, as I was making them, which I think is why they came out sounding so layered because I could kind of build my own pockets and fine-tune, as I went. It’s the same way I like to work with other artists: I’ll send a beat, they’ll record and send back, and I’ll build the beat up around them, so it just made sense to do the same approach with myself.

V. How have your struggles with addiction and substance abuse positively affected your musical career and continued output? Congrats on being clean and sober 378 days and counting, Charles! I've never struggled with such matters myself, but I could imagine how difficult it must be and that's really something to be proud of, my friend!

"Massively" is the easy answer! Rehab isn’t a holiday [vacation], as some people think; you literally have nothing for three months. There’s no contact with anyone outside, except for a limited number of phone calls per week and a few hours visiting on Sundays, no mobile phones or Internet, and no TV. All you’re left with is yourself and the actions that led you there and if you don’t grasp the opportunity to better yourself, there’s a good chance you’re not ready. In which case, you won’t realise it, until you’re either back in rehab or it’s too late. This gives you perspective, which is something I lacked for a long while. I couldn’t see far enough past my own problems to realise that they were problems I’d created! In short, everything I learned in rehab has extended to how I live my life every day. I’m an honest person now and I respect myself a lot more, which feeds right into how I approach what I make because I’m a lot more thorough and critical. I used to rush to put stuff out, when deep down, I knew it wasn’t ready or good enough, but I was too lazy or impatient to really challenge myself and put the work in, which I’d end up regretting later. Using drugs dulled and eventually, killed every creative impulse I [had] and then, the longer I stayed clean, the more concentrated those impulses became again, until I’ve just been having the most creative period of my life that started with Waking Up EP and hasn’t stopped yet. It comes a lot more naturally now, which has been a huge boost to my confidence and allowed me to give myself the credit I never could. Ultimately, it’s led me to working with a group I watched from the outside, as a fan and can now say I’m part of, which would’ve been completely inconceivable to me a year ago.

VI. What else do you currently have planned to tentatively be released later this year or early next year? Anything else planned for your Reception EP roll-out?

At the moment, we’re working on a Delusionists project that will hopefully be ready for early next year. I don’t want to say too much about it, but we’re very happy with where it’s going and I’m really excited to put some new stuff out as a group. I’m also back to putting beats aside for Beats from The 7th Floor, as it’s still something I’d like to put out, but I don’t have a date in mind. As for Reception, it’s the first release I’ve gone to the trouble of getting physical copies made for and I decided to get 50 cassette tapes pressed (is "pressed" the right term for tapes? "Wound?") Anyway, I’ve got 50 individually-numbered tapes ready to go and I’m interested to see what happens there. I mean, either people will buy them or they won’t, but I’m always interested to see how people are consuming music and how it changes and I think with vinyl's resurgence, there’s certainly an argument for a cassette comeback, too, which I think we’re beginning to see with JAY-Z's 4:44 getting a cassette release. Digital is great, but I think people are gradually reverting to the desire to "have" something, you know? Something physical you can hold in your hands and keep. That’s how I feel about physical releases, anyway and since my whole approach was to make stuff I wanted to hear, it made sense to carry on with that mentality for the roll-out.

Friday, September 29, 2017

ialive & Cody Cody Jones Unleash Second Split In Support of Upcoming 10/3-7 Four to The Floor 2 Mini-tour (U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART/Surface Level Records)

Now, anyone even remotely familiar with The Witzard and what we do 'round these here parts, should almost instantly recognize the names "ialive" and "Cody Cody Jones" (formerly known as Stillborn Identity.) They're collectively affiliated with Philly/Baltimore-based Hip-Hop scenes and artists such as Height Keech, Carl Kavorkian AKA MANIKINETER, E. Grizzly & Felipe Pupo, Lt Headtrip, Johann Sebastian, Torito, JE DOUBLE F, BLKrKRT, all these fingers, Vinyl Cape, and probably most notably, Darko The Super (The Hell Hole Store) and John "Jumbled" Bachman. Friends, frequent touring buddies, and self-described "bike boy babes" ialive & Cody Cody Jones have now joined forces to form touring partnership Four to The Floor. ialive & Cody Cody Jones' touring partnership initially started this past summer with "a collection of songs compiled specifically for a 4-day jaunt with your best boys, Cody Cody Jones & ialive." Following the wide-spread success of Four to The Floor's inaugural July 2017 run, ialive & Cody Cody Jones have reconvened for Four to The Floor, Part II.

Not entirely unlike its predecessor, Four to The Floor 2 showcases eight tracks total with four each from both ialive & Cody Cody Jones or as they quite fittingly put it, "a new track featuring the other, a previously released track, an unreleased track, and an exclusive" to said release on each artists' respective side. Die-hard fans of The Witzard might recognize ialive's "A C U R A (back in my bag)" and Cody Cody Jones' Joey Smooth-produced "The Last Working Dinosaur," which have both graced these digi-pages in recent months. Cody Cody Jones & ialive's Four to The Floor Part II Tour will kick off this upcoming Tuesday 10/3 in Philly and make a few stops in Trenton (ialive solo set,) Brooklyn, Ithaca, and Ellicottville through Saturday 10/7. U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART & Surface Level Records have pressed up a limited edition of 25 Four to The Floor 2 cassettes, which will be sold exclusively at shows along the tour route, as well as a "digital tour tape" version to be sold on Bandcamp. ialive & Cody Cody Jones are both currently finishing up separate solo projects, while ialive and his Hell Hole Store partner-in-rhyme, Darko The Super recently issued Return to The Hell Hole Store on Already Dead Tapes & Records.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

4:44 Frontman Anthony Friedlander Talks Critically-acclaimed JAY-Z EP, Latest 4-part Solo Project parallelement & Neo-Prog-Rock Opus CARDINAL (The Witzard Interview)

"Anthony Friedlander, frontman of New Jersey-based Indie/Alternative/Prog-Rock band 4:44, gets it and really seized the day on July 9th when on a whim, around 3AM, he uploaded 4-track JAY-Z EP to their Bandcamp page. Friedlander and his 4:44 bandmates—bassist Greg, Mele Jr. and drummer Zach Gormley—readily admit that "THIS IS A SHAMELESS MARKETING TECHNIQUE," as JAY-Z's latest album was seemingly "named after" their band; just imagine a stylistic mix between alt-j, Indie Rock innovators Radiohead, and the frantic, frenzied vocal delivery of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock," reads part of a 4:44-centric piece I published this past August. Since releasing their critically-acclaimed JAY-Z EP back in July, 4:44 frontman Anthony Friedlander (@anthokneefree) and I have had many conversations about the future of the band, his solo music, and their wonderful—still largely unrecognized by The Needle Drop—"SHAMELESS MARKETING TECHNIQUE" of a re-packaged EP. Let me just clarify that at the time of sending Anthony these questions, he had only released his ICE EP 1/4 on Bandcamp and now, all four parts of parallelement AKA FOG (ICE + FIRE) and RGB (WIND + WATER), which were, at one time, tentatively being referred to as disillusion (ICE), desire (FIRE), nature (WIND), and clarity (WATER). Now, without further ado, I'm proud to present to you: The Witzard's concise, yet thorough interview with 4:44 frontman and solo artist Anthony Friedlander; feel free to cue up a few jams from either 4:44's JAY-Z EP, CARDINAL, GREENWAVE, Child of God or @anthokneefree's FOG (FIRE + ICE) and RGB (WIND + WATER), collectively known as parallelement. Anthony Friedlander's parallelement is currently available to steam and purchase on Bandcamp and Apple Music and will soon be available from additional digital retailers.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Non-Indie Rock Blog "Darling"

111. Your Anthony Free Bandcamp page banner seemingly alludes to Parts 2-4 of your parallelment series: FIRE (SUMMER,) WIND (FALL,) and WATER (SPRING.) What else can you potentially tell me about these EP's and when might they be unleashed to the masses?

These EP's deal with disillusion (ICE), desire (FIRE), nature (WIND), and clarity (WATER) [Editor's Note: now, effectively re-titled FOG (ICE + FIRE) and RGB (WIND + WATER)]. They can be looked at as seasons and elements. There’s definitely a lot going on during the EP's and the genres tend to fluctuate between super-abnormal and completely normal. This is all done on purpose. If the music or lyrical content makes you feel uncomfortable, but then, the hook is addicting or catchy, then, that is exactly how it's supposed to make you feel and how things usually feel in reality. I didn’t go into the project with this purpose in mind. I had no idea that some slightly humorous and twisted songs would have a place on this album, but they fit perfectly next to the more "socially acceptable" songs; I'm not saying the songs are dishonest because they are very honest. The twisted portrait that is sometimes painted is because it's what the song topic called for. I found a lot out about myself through closely observing situations, trials, and tribulations that people around me went through. As you know, the self-inevitably leaks into the art but, that's necessary to make any story work.

* PS: the names of the EP's could change, when the entire album is complete. I’m hoping to have them out by October because I have so much more music to record! *

222. I noticed you recently released a solo EP entitled ICE, which says it's 1/4. How do these four EP's fit together and what exactly sets these compositions apart from your material with 4:44?

I play and mix all of the instruments on my solo albums; whereas with 4:44, the band plays and writes the songs. I have written six records-worth of songs (20 songs each) over the past two years, but they didn’t make sense for 4:44 to play them, as they were either too personal, too not personal, or [too] goofy. The band's music feels like its something bigger than me. The solo stuff is very much my story and other people's stories, as well. The band's music is Experimental, but I definitely want to be able to play most of it live and at our core, we are a "Rock band," so the live show is super-important. We want that music to explode and wake people up. The solo stuff is harder to pin down, when choosing production, since I do it all myself and the possibilities are endless (and I’m not a drummer or bass player.) Both the band and the solo music's aim is to transcend the flesh. If you don’t like the band, you might like the solo music and if you don’t like the solo music, you’ll probably like the band.

333. Your Bandcamp page says you single-handedly recorded "Everything" on your recent ICE EP including VOX, GUITAR, BASS, DRUMS, "FUNNY SOUNDS," RECORDING, MIXING, ETC. Which instrument(s) do you generally start out with when recording your solo material?

That’s a great question because I am a huge (Sandy) Alex G fan, who plays and records all of his music himself. I’ve definitely searched up, if he records with drums or guitars first and it turns out that he usually starts with guitars. I started this album by doing the drums first and then, quantizing them, so they’re in perfect time (once again, I’m not a drummer.) The next album, I am definitely going to try doing guitar and bass first, before drums. I decided to record all of my music because I have so many songs written and they’re kind of just hanging out in my Voice Memos. For this album, I had the songs all pretty much written on piano/acoustic guitar, before recording. I believe that after I get this album out, I’m going to be releasing 5-song solo EP’s every month, so that after every four months, there will be a new record.

444. 4:44 recently made headlines when you surprise released a self-described "SHAMELESS MARKETING TECHNIQUE" of an EP entitled JAY-Z and sold on Bandcamp for $444. Are you guys genuine JAY-Z fans and what were your intentions with issuing this HOV-referencing EP?

I released the EP as a complete bad joke at 3AM. I did not plan on anyone actually seeing it. I am a JAY-Z fan. The intention was definitely for somebody to accidentally stumble upon our music and listen to it.

555. JAY-Z EP actually consists of thinly-veiled songs pulled from 4:44's various studio albums: CARDINAL, GREENWAVE, and Child of God. What sort of new reactions have you received towards these albums, since unveiling JAY-Z EP?

Since JAY-Z is a Hip-Hop artist, I put the song "Derf" [from GREENWAVE] on the EP because the beat definitely has a slight Hip-Hop influence. I noticed a few posts online, where people enjoyed that song a lot, which was really cool. A couple of people reached out to let us know the music moved them and that was surreal.

6*6. What might you and your fellow 4:44 bandmates cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and ifluence while recording your latest album, CARDINAL?

I'm a CD junkie, so pin-pointing influences is impossible because I listen to so much music and so does the band. Sonically, we get our sound from simply being open to all genres. We’re always so excited to explore sounds and atmosphere that we don’t bother to get caught up in worrying about fitting into a niche. Zach [Gormley] and Greg [Mele, Jr.] are theory masters that are fearless, when it comes to their instruments. They play whatever the song calls for and they embellish it with their lifeblood. GREENWAVE is the first album that the band tried to write. Child of God was written during the writing of GREENWAVE. CARDINAL was written during the writing of GREENWAVE. Our next two unreleased albums were written during the writing of GREENWAVE. At first, I couldn’t believe how big of an album this was going to be. There were definitely songs that have been discarded, but a lot of this music, we couldn’t pass up on. I started noticing patterns, in the song topics and sonics. CARDINAL literally just appeared. It's the beginning of the "Year of Mercy" with the sign of the "Blood Red Moon." CARDINAL is Winter.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Shabazz Palaces Emcee Ishmael Butler & Oneothix Point Never Join Forces As 319 On Latest [adult swim] 2017 Singles Release "The Rapture" (Sub Pop/Warp Records)

"Oneohtrix Point Never (0PN) teams up with longtime inspiration and Spiritual Rap guru Ishmael Butler, The Palaceer of Shabazz Palaces/Digable Planets. Listen to new track "The Rapture," below," Warp Records wrote within a 26/09/2017-published press release. "0PN and Butler met and produced "The Rapture" on first meeting this Summer, creating the experiment of verses and spine-tingling dances of percussion. The track premieres as a unique addition to the [adult swim] singles club," it continued. "The Rapture" is actually credited to "319"—a newly-formed rapper-producer duo consisting of Ishamel "Butterfly" Butler AKA Palaceer Lazaro and Electronic producer Oneohtrix Point Never AKA Daniel Lopatin of Ford & Lopatin. It's been quite a busy year for both Butler and Lopatin with Shabazz Palaces releasing not one, but two full-length albums on the same July day, Quazarz: Born On a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines; 0PN composed the score for Joshua Safdie & Ben Safdie's critically-acclaimed Robert Pattinson-starring crime-drama Good Time, which already won the Soundtrack Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

319 isn't exactly the first time either party has collaborated with largely unsuspected artists: in addition to Shabazz Palaces, Ishamel Butler is part of Funk-tastic super-group WOKE along with Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and George Clinton, as well as visual artist collective Black Constellation... while Oneothix Point Never collaborated with Iggy & The Stooges frontman and "The Godfather of Punk" Iggy Pop for his chilling Good Time Original Motion Picture Soundtrack closer "The Pure & The Damned." I reached out to Palaceer Laz via email on a whim Wednesday afternoon, inquiring about "The Rapture" and a potential 319 album, to which he said: he and Dan Lopatin "plan to complete an album. As you can imagine, finding the time to do it is the only obstacle." [adult swim]'s 2017 singles series will run through year's end and will still feature 31 more stream-only submissions from the likes of Brian Eno, Colin Stetson, D∆WN, Dinosaur Jr. Flying Lotus, Jonwayne, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, Knxwledge, Low End Theory—AKA Daddy Kev, Nobody, The Gaslamp Killer & D-Styles—Migos, Moor Mother, Run The Jewels, Thundercat, Washed Out, and Your Old Droog, amongst other participating artists. While we await next week's mystery single, the 22 previously-released 2017 [adult swim] singles (excluding #14 DOOM feat. Jay Electronica) are all currently available to stream online.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

3 Feet High & Rising: New York-based Modern Jazz Quintet Cowboys & Frenchmen Ready Ryan Truesdell-produced Sophomore Album Bluer Than You Think (Outside-In-Music)

Cowboys & Frenchmen (C&F) are a wonderfully named, New York-based Modern Jazz quintet that describes itself as an act who "produces music that is expressive and fiercely creative, taking co-improvisation to new heights," as their Facebook About section fitting describes. I'll be the first to readily admit, I'm not the most well-versed on Jazz's formative late greats, but I've always enjoyed a Jazz-minded Hip-Hop sample and the Neo-Jazz stylings of Flying Lotus and his BRAINFEEDER crew, BADBADNOTGOOD AKA BBNG, Wu-Tang Clan-indebted El Michels Affair, Polish Jazz septet EABS, and even "The Greatest Band In Late Night," Philly's own The Roots. I received a cold-sent email late last week from Massachusetts-based PR company Braithwaite & Katz Communications highlighting the title track from Cowboys & Frenchmen's innovative, alto sax-led sophomore album, Bluer Than You Think—to be released on Outside-In-Music this upcoming Friday, October 13th.

Raul de Gama at Jazz Global Media describes C&F's forthcoming body of work as, they're "masters of mood and atmosphere, with the ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. Bluer Than You Think consistently reveals their exceptional versatility and resourcefulness..." Now, to my fairly untrained Jazz ear, Cowboys & Frenchmen's "Blue Than You Think" evokes sonic vibes of both Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters' 1973 Jazz-Fusion masterpiece Head Hunters and The Vincent Guaraldi Trio's work scoring countless 1950-70's Peanuts films and shorts forever immortalized on cable TV. Cowboys & Frenchmen consists of saxophonists/composers Owen Broder & Ethan Helm, pianist Chris Ziemba, bass player Ethan O'Reilly, and drummer Matt Honor; Bluer Than You Think was recorded along with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Ryan Truesdell. Cowboys & Frenchmen have an 8-date Album Release Tour 2017 booked to align with Bluer Than You Think's release, running from October 17-27th and including stops in Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and a few in-between. Bluer Than You Think is out everywhere "good records" are sold 10/13 on Outside-In-Music.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Avant-Hip-Hop Rapper-producer BRZOWSKI Unveils Dark, Twisted 80HRTZ, C $ Burns & Chryso-produced Album ENMITYVILLE (The Witzard Interview)

"BRZOWSKI is a touring Post-Rap artist hailing from the icy wastes of New England. This road-worn vocalist has been regarded as a standard-bearer for Avant-Hip-Hop since his first release in 2001. Always prescient, often verbose, never for the faint-of-heart," reads BRZOWSKI ("BRZO" for short)'s Bandcamp Bio. He's done over 1,000 live performances, released three critically-acclaimed albums, four mixtapes, five EP's, and two 7-inch singles, as well countless featured appearances with a who's-who of seasoned Indie Hip-Hop vets. BRZOWSKI has been steadily touring with a wide array of projects since 1993 and has logged road hours in support of Atmosphere, Astronautalis, billy woods, Brother Ali, Busdriver, Cage, Ceschi, Doug E. Fresh, El-P, The Gaslamp Killer, MURS, Open Mike Eagle, Sage Francis, solo, and Uncommon Nasa. BRZO initially emailed me back in July, praising my recent published works with Height Keech, E. Grizzly, and Lt Headtrip, with a pre-release copy of his then-upcoming new album, ENMITYVILLE—his first 100% tried and true "solo" album since 2012. ENMITYVILLE showcases production work from 80HRTZ, C $ Burns, Chryso, and BRZOWSKI himself and overall, sounds like an imagined dark, twisted multi-layered collaboration between Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails with skeletal song-writing from Johnny Cash. BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE was unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting masses a couple weeks ago, Friday, September 8th; he and I recently conducted a brief, yet extremely thorough interview via email. It's presented in full, unedited form down below the break and BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE is now available wherever fine Underground Hip-Hop records are sold.


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Hip-Hop Purveyor & Taste-maker

I. What were the writing, recording, production, etc. processes like for your latest solo album, ENMITYVILLE? To what extent, if any, were your fellow Vinyl Cape group members and affiliates involved?

I'm your garden-variety beat hoarder. Over the past three years, when I'd heard a beat from C $ Burns or 80HRTZ, I would ask for the stems or sit down with Burns to do a little re-arrangement and then, sit on it until the proper inspiration or theme strikes me. I'll usually write a song all in one day, edit it a few days later, and then, record it with a few other tunes several weeks after that. The song then goes into one of three piles: the "BRZOWSKI" solo-project pile, the "Vinyl Cape" pile, or the "collaborations/compilation songs/singles/mixtape pile." For this album, C $ Burns produced three tracks, but did post-production, plus mixing and mastering on every g**damn song. I don't trust anyone else to touch my "finished" art, these days. He and I have an artistic and philosophical connection and we trust each other unquestioningly. We've made over 100 songs together, at this point. Adding effects and layers, EQ'ing sounds with precision, all the hair-splitting. The mixing and mastering process alone was eight weeks of us sitting in a room saying: "let's turn that snare down 0.2 decibels (dB)... down another 0.2dB... no, def up 0.3dB"—we take this sort of detail dead-serious.

Mo Niklz dedicated some great scratching to "Leave It All Behind," which is one of the most psychologically hefty tracks on the album. I've toured with Mo about five times and he is one of the most lovable humans I know. His skills as a DJ are precise—I get his files for a track and they barely need a nudge. That's the sign of someone who takes pride in their craft. His work on the [Vinyl Cape] album was immaculate and I'll be harassing him for more "zigga-zigga" in the future. In addition to the OG Mo, my good comrade Jane Boxall (an amazing drummer and full-patch VC member) joined us for our brief run on Northeast release parties. Jane is an accomplished drummer and percussionist (she tours the Western-world playing solo marimba) and I'm so glad she could join us on these gigs on the drumkit. She's one of my favorite humans I've ever toured with. Positive, unflappable, and inspirational. She's taught me UK slang and calls me on my (minor) sh*t, when nobody else would find it necessary. We're doing some Vermont gigs together this Fall. She's all over the Vinyl Cape album and I'm stoked to work with her in the future. Vinyl Cape is a coven of some of my favorite humans.

II. How do you generally craft your beats. BRZOWSKI? Do you prefer to use samples or live instrumentation, interpolation, etc?

I, personally, prefer starting with a striking or moody sample and then, build synthetic drums and keys around it, topped off with guitar and bass guitar played live. I prefer to have at least two organic elements played live in a song to be sure the human hand is in there somewhere toward the end of the process. No matter how precise or sanitary the buffing of the beat may end up being. Vocals would be recorded next. Scratches and other folks playing instruments would be the last piece added. And then, I call up C $ Burns and we boil it.

III. Do you have any current plans to make any music videos, 7-inch singles, or anything else of that nature to accompany ENMITYVILLE during its release roll-out?

Yes, I have two videos in the can presently; one directed by Jake Ripley, the other by Jason Knightly of Lucky Hand Studio—both hyper-talented Mainers. Both videos have lo-fi affectations by design. The video with Jake is for "Contemporary Cynic" and it's a humorous interpretation of an exceedingly bleak indictment of contemporary life. "Leave It All Behind" is... well... it paints a direct picture in relation to the song. I don't want to say much more than that just yet. Both videos roll out this Fall and perhaps a third video solidifying come this Winter. Spot shows this Fall in ME, KS, TX, VT, and RI with a proper touring cycle of several US regions and Western Europe in 2018. Milled Pavement Records does not plan to do a vinyl or cassette version, but I'm certainly open to a limited-run, if approached by another label, whom I dig.

IV. What would you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while writing and recording ENMITYVILLE?

I had a long string of dead-end-type employment situations, where I felt totally trapped in a hand-to-mouth world and once I had clawed ever-so-slightly out of that existence, I wanted to distill those feelings of isolation and powerlessness, juxtaposed against a backdrop of the current sociopolitical climate here and abroad. I had a lot of space in my life back then because so many activities that happened outside of my apartment/studio were not responsibly accessible. So, I read voraciously on art history, geo-politics, Marxism, and more... and the influence certainly, reared it's head here. The parallel topic discussed throughout is the devaluation of art. Art still has a transformative power, but it seems to have been superseded by easily digestible kitsch at every turn. Hip-Hop (Indie and otherwise) in particular tends to come off as some obscene parody of a once-rich counter-culture, now steeped in spectacle. I wanted to challenge that disturbing development at every turn-lyrics, beats, artwork, etc.

V. How would you say your overall rhyming style and sound has grown and progressed since your last proper full-length, 2011's A Fitful Sleep?

It's been a glacial, interesting evolution over the past five years. Between solo outings, I did a 7-inch, mixtape, and album with Vinyl Cape—which was primarily, very arrhythmic and non-rhyming flows to the backdrop of Doomy/Sub-Jazzy-Experimental Metal—a Noise-laden/Industrial EP with Fake Four's DJ Halo, 40-odd features, which were primarily "bars" for other people's projects, and a full-blown unapologetic Rap-Metal-Dub-circa-'99 record with the French homies, D-FAZ. Between that and 15 or so tours across the same time-span, I arrived at a well-seasoned place when writing rhymes for this new record, when at last, that was the primary task at hand. I wanted to slow down the delivery and lessen the syllable-cramming. I love rapping fast, triplets, and lyrical-torrent style spitting. I love "choppers" from California, "chewers" from the UK, and the "Cambridge-sound" coming out of the Abstract Rap cats in the Boston Metro area, circa 1998-2004 (Komadose, Logic Based, Lost Channel, etc.) but I wanted to SLOW DOWN. I wanted people to actually hear and understand the lyrics that I had written, edited, re-written, and then, spit, whilst the "Record" button was pushed. I feel like I have some weighty material to be unpacked, via this album and I did not want to risk being misquoted or misunderstood. This is primarily, the same reasoning behind the fact that this album features zilch Rap features; it had been so long since I spoke solely for myself via record, that it would have been disingenuous to have a grip of guests on the album. Next time I venture out into the public sphere under my own pyrrhic flag, a grip of my friends will be with me... but it just did not seem appropriate, this spin around.

VI. How did you come to get involved with "Gingerbread Hag" from Uncommon Nasa's latest album, Written at Night? Now, are you able to divulge any particular information about its recently-filmed music video accompaniment?

Uncommon Nasa and I have been good friends since around 2012 or so... my memory is not precise here, as we've done so much work together, in the meantime. Mo Niklz and I rolled with Nasa on his very first tour and now, he's a road animal. The bug bit him hard and I love watching that enthusiasm grow. I think he and I have toured together two or three times since. Nasa and I have about four collaborative songs in the can for a future project—no hard timeline there, it's ready when it feels complete and our solo schedules align... we're BOTH control freaks and we respect that about each other—and Nasa thought it would be an effective way to introduce our musical pairing on his primarily collaborative album. He sent me a left-field concept and an Avant-garde beat, C $ Burns got on the guitar, and we made a strange little beast of a Literary Rap song. The ["Gingerbread Hag"] video was shot in Portland, ME a few weeks ago, directed by Duncecap of The Karma Kids NYC... it's rather involved, as we are drawing visual influence and flow from the [Grimms' Fairy] Tale, as well as our lyrical bent concerning it. I haven't seen the roughs yet, but I expect it will be out late October. I've been impressed by the preliminary shots I've seen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Carl Kavorkian Unleashes Brooding MANIKINETER Single "Cocoon" from Upcoming Mannequin Eater EP Follow-up EP2/TBA (Cult Member Music)

Carl Kavorkian makes some of the most ferocious, experimental Noise-Rap music I've ever heard and (not) surprisingly, he's one of the nicest, most hospitable people I've ever met working in "the music industry." Case in point: my buddy Omarey and I went into South Philly one Friday night back in June for The Sh*thawks, Felipe Pupo, MANIK|NETER, Planet 88, and King Ani Mal's show at The Pharmacy. We grabbed a pizza back in Jersey and were pretty much on time for the show, although, Felipe Pupo frontman and show organizer Erik "E." Grizzly was messaging me on the way in; Erik mentioned he thought the set times were running a bit earlier than expected and Carl Kavorkian's MANIK|NETER was likely going on early. Now, while I was excited for all five bands on the bill, I was most excited to see MANIK|NETER and was looking forward to seeing his infamous executioner's mask-covered set! Once Omarey and I got into South Philly, we soon found parking near the venue and started walking to The Pharmacy. After an unexpected 10-block detour, we ended up at the venue a little later than expected and needless to say, we unfortunately missed Carl Kavorkian's opening MANIK|NETER set and made it just in time for Felipe Pupo. Not only did we get to hang out with E. Grizzly and Carl—who graciously insisted on paying my $5 cover charge—we even bumped into Quinn AKA Riff Quantum from Darko The Super-affiliated THE STATIC BROTHERS.

MANIK|NETER's premier Mannequin Eater EP has been characteristically described by Carl Kavorkian himself with these four simple, yet incredibly fitting, words: "Loud. Abrasive. Mental. Music." I would describe MANIK|NETER's unique Noise-Rap style as the hypothetical missing linkage between Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, and Aggro-Rap group Death Grips. Kavorkian has described his latest side-project as being strongly influenced and inspired by like-minded Noise-makers Sleep Beggar, Noise Lock, STATIC BROTHERS, Moor Mother, and Death Grips. I think it would be fair to say Carl Kavorkian has always been a little more "left-field" and "Experimental," even dating as far back as his 2002 debut Earbleeders, which is even tagged on Bandcamp as "progressive hip-hop," "alternative hip-hop," and "noise rap." Carl Kavorkian has either cooked up music with or performed alongside the likes of DOOM, Kool Keith, Tame One, Pumpkinhead, PackFM, Masai Bey, Breez Evahflowin', and MC Paul Barman. In addition to his standard canon of albums, Carl Kavorkian has released volumes 1-3.14 of Uglyass Music containing remixes, left-overs, alternate cuts, etc. from throughout his discography. Just this past week, Kavorkian quietly unleashed the first single from MANIK|NETER's upcoming TBA AKA EP2; "Cocoon" is now available on Cult Member Music's Bandcamp page on a Name-Your-Price basis, as well as his previous Mannequin Eater EP. MANIK|NETER's next shows will be tomorrow night, Saturday Sept. 23rd at Lancaster AVenue Autonomous (LAVA) Space with Downtrodder, Spirits & Disappearances and October 28-29th at Century Bar for Noise-centric festival, Oktober Hexfest. Tickets are currently still available for both events.