Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Iceland's Answer to Aloe Blacc-helmed Soul-Funk Revival, Júníus Meyvant Unveils Rollicking "Neon Experience" (Floating Harmonies Live On KEXP)

"Westman Islands singer-songwriter Júníus Meyvant [Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson] has recently caused big waves in Scandinavia after being the star of the Icelandic Music Awards-winning Best Newcomer and Best Song, as well as being nominated for Best Male Singer and Best Song this year," read the opening of Mystic Sons' "Neon Experience"-accompanying press release. While his music has already been compared to the works of "Wake Me Up" Funkateer Aloe Blacc, Ben Howard, Lucy Rose, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and Graffiti6, I would personally liken Meyvant's unique throwback sound to that of an Icelandic Rod Stewart backed by a Mark Ronson-produced rendition of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles or even something to the effect of critically-acclaimed Stones Throw New-Wop crooner, Mayer Hawthorne. Ahead of his forthcoming July LP, Floating Harmonies, Júníus Meyvant has honed in on a trademark sound that's been described as a rather unique fragmented mix of Soul, Folk, Pop, and Indie Rock, which "presents his creative abilities of the highest order; there's depth, there's feeling, and intricacy the listener can wrap their ears in."

"Neon Experience" is a slightly more upbeat Aloe Blacc-reminiscent Soul-Funk-indebted squalling 6-minute romper than Meyvant's previously released material, "Hailslide" and nearly 2-year-old "Color Decay." Floating Harmonies is set to become the proper full-length follow-up to Júníus Meyvant's befittingly-titled Record Records EP, EP, which included aforementioned singles "Hailslide" and "Color Decay," as well as "Gold Laces" and "Signals." "The sound of Júníus Meyvant is a rich and afflicted take on freaky Folk-Pop with a familiar and soulful feel; the feeling you get when listening to Júníus [is] equally as comfortable as resting under a thick wool blanket with a hot cup of cocoa," reads his translated Records Records Facebook Bio. Although, Júníus Meyvant's Floating Harmonies won't become available for mass world-wide consumption until July 8th, I've included a spirited horn-assisted 30-minute 7-song set recorded Live on KEXP transmitted from Kex Hostel in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves back in November 2014, which should be able to give you a solid overall feel for his fantastic-sounding as-yet-released album.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


"Edan had the ill beat and was like, 'Yo, this sounds kinda like when people talk mad sh*t, you should speak on that.' I was like word. The onslaught of people talking mad copious amounts of sh*t is the ongoing barrage. That's what the video is about," Queens-bred emcee Homeboy Sandman recently revealed to The FADER, who premiered said video, "Talking (Bleep)." Sandman's Edan-produced sh*t-talker lamenting creation stems from his upcoming Stones Throw album, Kindness for Weakness and is instantly evocative, to me at least, of The Peanuts' often used droning "WOOT WOOT WOOT" adult talking voice. Its companion Jay Brown-directed visual treatment is vaguely reminiscent of The Avengers: Age of Ultron meets let's say, Pierce Brosnan-helmed 1990's James Bond flick GoldenEye, but instead of your friendly neighborhood chiseled caped crusaders, starring sharp-tongued emcee Homeboy Sand-Man!!! For whatever reasons, it's never actually determined why so-called big-mouthed baddies are in fact ruthlessly chasing and seemingly attempting to kill Sandman, but let's just refer to them as "haters" from here on out, for argument's sake. "I met a rapper that sucks who is way more famous than I am / Can you believe sucka tried to kick some knowledge to the Boy Sand... telling me that I was a brand? / And I should think about rocking with a band / And it's a good thing I got on Instagram / And a bunch of other, meaningless nonsense / Shut up d*ck you sound like this," Homeboy Sandman unabashedly rhymes throughout the track's simplistic, yet incredibly effective, sixth and final verse.

Lest we forget, all the while, gun-slinging, karate chopping, running circles around, bustin' out some masterful Jean-Claude Van Damme-reminiscent moves, and cold hard rhymes against anywhere from 3-6 big-mouthed baddies at once; Sandman, however, is finally able to escape the clutches of evil towards "Talking (Bleep)'"s closing scenes as Edan rolls up just in the nick of time with "The Wheels of Fortune," better known across the Underground Hip-Hop community as the coveted Mello Music Group Volvo. "Talking (Bleep)" was preceded by non-album cut, "Life Support," which despite being left off Kindness for Weakness, Stones Throw still had a companion stop-motion video commissioned by frequent collaborator Pace Rivers. Ahead of Kindness for Weakness' impending May 6th release, Homeboy Sandman will soon head out on a massive 38-date North American tour spanning from May 5-July 14th along with Lice EP partner in crime, Aesop Rock – who will unleash his long-awaited The Impossible Kid during the duration of their jaunt, as well. I, for one, already bought my ticket to Sandman & Aesop's Grimace Federation-backed June 11th date at Philly's Union Transfer and I'm praying to the Rap Gods that they'll have physical (reasonably priced) copies of their critically-acclaimed Lice EP stacked roughly 3 Feet High & Rising at the merch booth!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"For Fans of The Black Keys, Hanni el Khatib, The Black Angels & Cream:" Mediterranean Garage Rocker & Ouzo Bazooka Frontman Uri Brauner Kinrot On SIMOOM (The Witzard Interview)

It's a rather unlikely story, which almost sounds too good to be true, but it all started with a single White Denim-centric piece I published back in October-November 2013; "I saw you recently featured White Denim [on The Witzard], and thought you might find UBK's (Israel) new music video interesting," read an email from a publicist named Emma. Uri Brauner Kinrot-fronted UBK would soon effortlessly morph from a mere solo project into a full-fledged band called Ouzo Bazooka. I've been in sporadic contact with UBK's people, fellow band mates, and most recently, Kinrot himself over the course of the past three years and have been honored to feature a number of their videos here on this very site. I would, if pressed, likely attempt to best describe Ouzo Bazooka's unique Israeli Rock sound as a stylistic love child between The Black Keys, Eric Clapton-helmed Cream, and a Mediterranean-influenced version of The Rolling Stones. Ouzo Bazooka's genre-blending and continental distinction-eschewing brand of Rock "N" Roll has, better yet, been quite fittingly self-described as "a dizzying concoction of East meets West that wills end Hell's Angels dancing on table-tops, breaking plates, grinning stupidly, and ending up on the floor in a group-hug-pile-up." Ahead of forming Ouzo Bazooka, the prolific singer-songwriter has previously played, recorded, and toured the world alongside Balkan Beat Box, Shantel, New York Punk heroes Firewater, and Mediterranean Surf Rock band Boom Pam, as well as having supported, along with Ouzo Bazooka, The Pixies and The Hives during recent Tel Aviv tour stops. And with that said, without further ado, I'm proud to present an all-inclusive, SIMOOM-centric interview with Ouzo Bazooka founder and frontman Uri Brauner Kinrot transmitted from his hometown of Tel Aviv, Israel. Ouzo Bazooka's second album, SIMOOM, is now currently available across Europe on Berlin-based Setalight Records and in other parts of the world, available for download via Bandcamp, although a world-wide physical release only seems imminent.

- Sincerely,

Your Editor In Chief,
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz

I. Your initial 2013 UBK/Ouzo Bazooka press release your team sent me likened your music to "for fans of" The Black Keys, Hanni el Khatib, The Black Angels, Cream, and White Denim; however, who would you likely cite as your primary modern day and Classic Rock sources of influence?

Well, you started the interview with a very hard question. I really do not have just a few main influencing artists. I listen to all kinds of music, from early Greek Rembetiko and American Blues to Surf Rock, Garage, Rockabilly, Classic Rock, Psychedelia, and all the modern [genres] that succeeded those fundamentals of Rock "N" Roll. Dropping names always feels too narrow for me. I can definitely say that in the recent 10 years [I've been] searching for all kinds of Rock-influenced music from all around the globe. I just love the combination of Folk music with guitar riffs and such...

II. When your people and I initially got in touch a few years ago, I believe you were still going by UBK and soon changed to Ouzo Bazooka. But I’ve always been curious, what exactly does your rechristened band name, “Ouzo Bazooka” mean?

I recorded the first album without knowing that a band will be formed later, so I called the "project" Ouzo Bazooka then after a while, we just realised that we [were] a band, so we left the UBK [name] behind. Ouzo Bazooka is an old drink that was mixed in Israel in the sixties. You take a bottle of Greek ouzo and soak some pieces of pink Bazooka [Joe] bubble gum in it for a week or so. What you get is a pink aniseed-flavoured drink that can really change your conciseness.

III. Would you care to briefly go into who else you band Ouzo Bazooka consists of and describe each member’s subsequent role in the band?

Ouzo Bazooka are Ira Raviv on drums and letters, Dani Ever-Hadani on keyboard and dates, Adam Scheflan on bass, and vibes, and me singing and playing guitar. On SIMOOM, you can also hear Dani & Adam singing; on one song, Dani is actually singing the lead part with me. She has a magical voice.

IV. Now, this particular fragment of your press release has always struck me as very interesting and befitting of your sounds: "Ouzo Bazooka's sound is a dizzying concoction of east meets west that will send Hell's Angels dancing on table-tops, breaking plates, grinning stupidly, and ending up on the floor in a group-hug-pile-up..." Has that ever actually happened and if not, what exactly is that very statement intended to mean?

It actually happens almost every show. there is a small community of Hell's Angels that follows us. They dig our music and [are] addicted to Ouzo, Israeli Angels, riding American wheels, drinking Ouzo, dancing [to] our music, and ending up like hugging like hippies - that's kind of what Ouzo Bazooka is all about.

V. How did the writing and recording of your new album, SIMOON differ from that of your self-titled debut, Ouzo Bazooka?

The main difference is the fact that it was recorded by a band that had two years of constant playing and an endless hang. There's a significant input from three other [characters] in this album. Adam on the bass, Dani on keyboard, and Ira on drums.

VI. While the album's companion press material describes SIMOON as "defining the feeling of the music that [carries] the listener like a desert wine," can you describe the album's title a little more thoroughly? Is it an abbreviation for some sort of phrase?

This is the definition of SIMOOM on Wikipedia: "Simoom (Arabic: سموم‎ samūm; from the root سم s-m-m, "to poison") is a strong, dry, dust-laden local wind that blows in the Sahara, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and the deserts of Arabian Peninsula." While searching for the right name for the album, I was trying to think of some [natural] forces or phenomenons that had to do with the Middle East. SIMOOM [seemed] to fit the music and vibe, as if the name was there before the music.

VII. SIMOOM's press release includes a story that describes your father's trip to Jaffa's flea market wherein he found a 1970's Electro Harmonix "Little Muff" guitar pedal from which the guitar sounds on this album "just came out like a [Genie] from an oil lamp." How did this Harmonix pedal and the two others he found that day help shape the tone and overall sound of SIMOOM?

I plugged the pedal and all the album's riffs just came out one by the other. It was magic!

VIII. What can you tell my readers and I about your latest video, "Dog Fight" recently debuted in Germany and Israel ahead of SIMOOM's April 1st release? Any idea when the video, as well as your new album, will likely become available here in the United States, Uri?

Since we do not have any partners in the US YET, the answer can't really be absolute, but the album is already available on our Bandcamp and the video is out there on some other video platforms [than] YouTube...

IX. Now, I know that you've toured Israel, Germany, and the greater part of Europe extensively over the past few years with Ouzo Bazooka; but do you have any immediate plans for a US/North American tour?

We were invited to play SXSW this year, but it didn't really make sense to fly over just for that. I'd rather buy some real estate for the money we'd have to pay for visas and flights. It doesn't make sense to play SXSW, if you don't have some serious representation in the US. I hope we'll find some serious North American partners sometime soon and be able to book a real tour and publish our music over there.

X. Let's just say, for argument’s sake, you could assemble a super-group consisting of any legendary or lesser known musicians dead or alive, who would you choose to play which instruments and why?

I think I already managed to do that; Ouzo Bazooka is definitely this super-group you are talking about.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Master of None Co-star & Ironic Folk-Rockstar Father John Misty Unleashes Flawless, Note-perfect Rendition of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" (Chicago Riviera Theater Bootleg)

The Internet really is a never-ending Twilight Zone-esque worm hole of a place sometimes; case in point, just last night, after returning home from rollicking Sweat N Soul-filled a Har Mar Superstar concert in the depths of Philly around 1-1:30am, I wasted nearly an hour aimlessly Googling covers from Sean Tillmann's one-time touring mate and fellow Tillman(n), Father John Misty... starting with two unabashedly ironic Taylor Swift in the vein of Ryan Adam's 1989 covers and ultimately, ending up at a sparse SiriusXM cover of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box." Somewhere down the seemingly endless sonic worm hole I created, I stumbled upon @fatherjohnmisty's sprawling, wonderfully executed renditions of widely-known Leonard Cohen, The Arcade Fire, John Lennon, Rihanna, and most recently, Nine Inch Nails classics. Former Fleet Foxes drummer and ironic "rockstar" Josh Tillman unexpectedly covered NIN's breakout anti-pop hit, "Closer" as recently as April 14th and uploaded it to the web as early as Friday morning. It would appear as though, according to Father John Misty's own self-contained video description, that "Closer"'s premier performance was spontaneously filmed by Riviera Theater concert-goer and local Chicago-based photographer, McKenzie Hanson.

While Tillman would appear to quite often purposefully do blatantly ironic things to garner media attention (ie: recording two Taylor Swift 1989 covers "in the style of Velvet Underground"), "Closer," at surface value, would seemingly appear to have been repeatedly practiced and fine tuned numerous times before bring performed live in Chicago Thursday evening out of anything but mutual appreciation and sheer fandom; hence, Father John Misty proclaiming, "it's a little sappy, but I would like to play my favorite love song for you" before ripping through a nearly note-perfect rendition of Trent Reznor's controversial 1994 The Downward Spiral single. I must say, it's pretty damn impressive that a reinvigorated Indie Folk artist such as Tillman, who released eight J. Tillman solo albums prior to re-branding himself "Father John Misty," could deliver such a flawless hard as nails (pun intended) cover of NIN's instantly recognizable Industrial Rock romper, complete with full 2-minute outro instrumental breakdown!!! Josh Tillman's second critically-acclaimed album released under his Father John Misty guise, I Love You, Honeybear, is currently available for purchase in a number of various formats from Sub Pop and with any hope, Tillman will one day release an album's-worth of beautifully disjointed Nine Inch Nails and Taylor Swift covers.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Now-Again & Mass Appeal Records Present: Reading Between The Lines with J Dilla "Historian" & THE DIARY 12-inch LP Liner Notes Writer, Ronnie Reese (The Witzard Interview)

Chicago-bred writer Ronnie Reese has had the unique opportunity to pen a number of Stones Throw on-site press releases – including Mayer Hawthorne, WHITE BOIZ, Myron & E, and Tony Cook – J Dilla's online biography, countless pieces for Wax Poetics, a number of Blue Note re-issues, and Dilla's posthumous 2007 Ruff Draft EP re-issue; although, Reese very well may have just written the single most important pieces of his career... the expansive liner notes for Now-Again's recently assembled compilation of Dilla's long-lost "MCA album," now re-titled THE DIARY. J Dilla's nixed MCA album, otherwise formerly known as "Pay Jay," would have featured outsourced production work from the likes of House Shoes, Nottz, Karriem Riggins, Hi-Tek, Madlib, and Pete Rock and is arguable, as coveted by Hip-Hop heads as a beat-laden version of The Beach Boys' long-fabled and heavily bootlegged SMiLE. I've recently been in contact with Ronnie Reese, whose name I found attached to Stones Throw's wonderfully well-written Ruff Draft re-issue, ahead of Now-Again's THE DIARY, which will be released Saturday, April 16th in conjunction with Nas-helmed Mass Appeal Records coinciding with this year's Record Store Day festivities. Following our initial transmission, I emailed THE DIARY liner notes writer and esteemed J Dilla historian a batch of questions including, but not limited to, the ones below; attached underneath that are two paragraphs Reese sent back this week – extensively answering my previously sent questions. I'm rather ecstatic to be able to add this particular Ronnie Reese interview to The Witzard's ever-growing cannon, as yet another piece to the monstrous puzzle that was the life and times of the late great Slum Village rapper-producer, James "J Dilla" Yancey.

The Witzard: I. How exactly did you manage to position yourself to become an on-site press releases for Stones Throw and ultimately, end up writing the liner notes for both J Dilla's 2007 Ruff Draft EP re-issue and recently unearthed "MCA Album," THE DIARY?

II. Who of Dilla's friends, family, long-time collaborators, etc. were you able to get ahold of when compiling your expansive THE DIARY liner notes?

III. Now, I'm assuming if you weren't a Dilla fan before all of this, you've surely become one now. Have you heard Egon's completed THE DIARY album, which I'm led to believe was a very painstaking process? Does it live up to your expected standards?

IV. How would you compare Egon's newly re-mixed and re-mastered rendition of THE DIARY against the previously leaked "Pay Jay" bootleg of the album, which I'm sure, the vast majority of die-hard Dilla disciples are very familiar with by now?

V. Through your research, when can you best estimate the bulk of the tracks included on THE DIARY/Pay Jay were recorded? Why do you assume MCA seemingly barred Dilla (or anyone) from releasing them all these years?

VI. What do you personally believe Dilla was ultimately trying to accomplish sonically with THE DIARY; more or less, a mainstream producer-driven album which you previously described as "an intentional freak of the industry?"

Ronnie Reese: "I started working with Stones Throw back in late 2005, early 2006 while planning a story on Dilla for Wax Poetics magazine. This was shortly before his death. After he passed away, that story turned into an oral history of his life, and the magazine and I worked closely with the label in pulling everything together. I continued to write for Stones Throw in the years after that. For THE DIARY notes, I spoke to Dilla's mother, Maureen "Ma Dukes" Yancey, Waajeed, DJ House Shoes, Supa Dave West, Hi-Tek and Karriem Riggins. I've been a fan of Dilla's for more than 20 years, so to me, it was an honor to write for the project—as it has been for any Dilla-related endeavor—and I was glad Eothen [Egon] trusted me with telling this story. As for the album itself, its release fits well with what I've come to learn about Jay, which was that he was an exacting perfectionist, and that no creation of his should see the light of day until he decided the time was right. This is what made him a great artist, and this is also what separates THE DIARY from the leaked, bootlegged versions of the album. Dilla was the type of cat who ironed creases in his jeans, so needless to say, sh*t had to be right. Not just done, but done right..."

"The bulk of the album was recorded in 2001 and 2002. Once the label, MCA, folded into Geffen, it threw a lot of albums (and careers) into limbo. This was just one of them. As [House] Shoes said, when the label goes away, relationships with that label tend to go away, too, which is unfortunate. Dilla's "voice" was heard mostly in his production, but with the exception of his work for Slum Village and the Welcome 2 Detroit album for BBE, there weren't too many other places to check for his raps. This album would have accomplished three things: First, it would showcase his skills as an MC. Second, it was [a] chance for him to challenge himself and work with other producers he respected by rapping over their beats. Third, it would further set him apart from his peers as both a rapper and an MC."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH: Genre-defying Denver Band, Echo Beds Bridge The Gap Between Nine Inch Nails & Death Grips with "SEEK SAFE HAVEN" (sole's Black Box Tapes)

Denver-bred genre-defying Echo Beds are the latest signees to politically-charged emcee and former Anticon founder Tim "sole" Holland's latest label venture, Black Box Tapes. I would likely describe Echo Beds' rather long-winded "overdriventapehissnoisewall- landscapemetaldrumpummelpainfacevolumetherapy" sound of something strangely evocative of what an imagined missing link between late 80's-1990's Industrial Rock forefathers Nine Inch Nails and their critically-acclaimed modern day counterparts, Noise/Aggro-Rap group Death Grips; an obtuse indefinable sound, better yet, self-described by vocalist/bass player Keith Curts and beat-maker Tom Nelson as "a caterwaul of contact-mic'd oil drums, broken cymbals, battered basses, unrecognizable tape loops, and dilapidated voices with the expressed intention of volume as therapy and put it through the grinder of self-practiced D.I.Y. ethos." Echo Beds' latest music video, "SEEK SAFE HAVEN" was premiered at (awesomely titled) Black Metal & Brews earlier this week.

It's an eerily ominous presentation directed by Kim Shively, which seamlessly inter-splices found B-movie Horror footage with what appears to be dimly-lit live performance footage of Echo Beds ripping it up at their Denver rehearsal space. Curts and Nelson are gearing up to unleash their Black Box Tapes debut, NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH around April 29-May 1st on cassette and soon thereafter on 12-inch vinyl, which will imminently be pressed and released by Sailor Records. Echo Beds have additionally prepared an opaque red swirl "Licking Wounds" 7-inch limited to a handful of pieces pieces on their own Temporal Decompression imprint and will only be made available for purchase on their upcoming Spring 2016 Tour, a sprawling 21-date cross-country trek which is set to span from May 1-26th. NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH is currently available for pre-order at Black Box Tapes' Bandcamp page in either high-quality digital download or a befittingly cassette & T-shirt combo pack, with Sailor Records' 12-inch release only imminent, at this point.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since initially publishing this piece on 4/13/16, taking it down for a brief period in time, and now, triumphantly re-upping it... Echo Beds have since SOLD OUT of Black Box Tapes-pressed NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH cassette tapes (except for what they're taking on tour.) Although, Keith Curts tells me it MAY be re-released on another local Denver imprint, but it's too early to disclose just yet. NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH is also nearly sold out on vinyl and about 30 copies remain. Curts said there are currently "a couple handfuls" of "Licking Wounds" 7-inches left on black vinyl and that all colored vinyl is SOLD OUT.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

VICELAND's F**k, That's Delicious Host Action Bronson Enlists Fellow Outdoorsmen Meyhem Lauren & Jah Tiger for Infectious Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters-sampling "MR. 2 FACE" (Blue Chips 7000)

"I began to feel that I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music and the more ethereal kind of far-out spacey stuff. Now there was this need to take some more of the earth and to feel a little more tethered; a connection to the earth... I was beginning to feel that we (the sextet) were playing this heavy kind of music, and I was tired of everything being heavy. I wanted to play something lighter," revered Jazz-Funk pianist Herbie Hancock wrote within the liner notes to the 1997 CD re-issue of his Headhunters-assisted Head Hunters (1973). Mere hours after making his first ground-breaking appearance on late night TV, giving Fallon's predecessor Seth Meyers a rather laxed, yet incredibly amusing, tutorial on how to cook char-grilled octopus, rapping chef Action Bronson unexpectedly released our first taste lifted from his long-rumored Blue Chips 7000 (formerly titled Blue Chips 7) in the form of Meyhem Lauren & Jah Tiger-assisted "MR. 2 FACE." "I skipped right to 7,000... I did one and two [and] now I'm so far beyond that, I'm at 7,000," Bronson cleverly quipped when Meyers inquired about his leaps and bounds-skipping mixtape. "I've been making making quality television. Time to let the beast back out. When you hear Blue Chips [7000], you will crash whatever vehicle you are driving into the window of Boston Market," VICELAND's F*ck, That's Delicious host exuberantly Tweeted as recently as March.

Now, with that said, following my rather long-winded tale, should have you right up to speed and brings us back to aforementioned Jazz-Funk pianist Herbie Hancock; written and recorded whilst traveling on a recent tour through Jamaican cuisine for an episode of Bronson's FTD, which will actually air this upcoming Thursday, April 14th. "MR. 2 FACE" effortlessly interpolates an all-too-familiar RS 500-ranked riddim, Herbie Hancock & The Headhunters' undoubtedly infectious "Watermelon Man," which was notoriously sampled by Dancehall DJ Super Cat back in 1993 and soon thereafter, remixed by Puff Daddy-helmed Bad Boy Records on "Dolly My Baby." I must say, Action Bronson and Blue Chips 1-2 producer Party Supplies have utilized some head-scratching, albeit wonderfully genre-melding, source material including Genesis members Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Peter Bjorn & John, "Tequila," Justin Bieber, Guns N' Roses, and John Mellencamp; but I have to say, Hancock's progressively building and slowly self-destructive "Watermelon Man" is quite easily the single greatest, traditionally non-Hip-Hop material they've collectively sampled and re-purposed. "RAP/HIP-HOP HAS TO BE REPRESENTED IN ALL FORMS AND STYLES. TOO MUCH OF THE SAME SH*T WILL MAKE A PERSON GO INSANE..."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New Era White Sox Baseball Cap Designer Chance The Rapper Throws First Pitch at Season Opener, Whilst Debuting "Very Chicago" Austin Vesely-directed "Angels" (Chance Three?)

"I made "Sunday Candy," I'm never going to Hell. I met Kanye West, I'm never going to fail. He said, let's do a good-a** job with Chance three. I hear you gotta sell it to snatch the GRAMMY. Let's make it so free and the bars so hard that there ain't one gosh darn part you can't Tweet," Chance The Rapper ferociously rhymed during his show-stealing verse within Kanye's The Life of Pablo opener "Ultralight Beam." He's of course referring to his long-awaited and currently still untitled Acid Rap (2013) follow-up, since last year's SURF as actually a Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment-helmed project. It's quite a daring, and almost unheard of, feat that Chance The Rapper has garnered so much wide-spread fandom and critical-acclaim without ever having released an album or even single song for purchase; ultimately culminating with Chance's appearance last year on SNL, becoming the first unsigned independent artist to have ever played the late night sketch comedy show... twice! "Chance three" or "his next mixtape," as referred to, and since slightly overlooked, by Esquire is reportedly "due this month," as reported as recently as April 1st. Friday afternoon, @chancetherapper, a devout White Sox fan and recent New Era cap designer, was lucky enough to throw out the ceremonial "first pitch" at the Chicago team's first, snow-capped, home game of the season.

Late Thursday night, albeit rather unexpectedly, Chance The Rapper debuted his Austin Vesely-directed "Angels," which he and fellow Chicagoan Saba previously premiered on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Vesely, a fellow Chicagoan himself, made a conscious attempt to make "Angels" as explicitly Chicago-influenced as possible; "I'd like people to take from it what they want really. It could mean a few different things, but we just wanted it to be very Chicago," Austin Vesely recently told Windy City-based publication Fake Shore Drive. With that said, in addition to Chance and Saba, dancer Ian Eastwood and infamous Flyboy artist Hebru Brantley were additionally recruited to add an underlying Chicago flare. While we all patiently await "Chance three," which is rumored to drop before month's end, I would strongly suggest you check out Chance's Lil B-assisted FREE (Based Freestyles Mixtape), Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment's sprawling 16-track Chance-assisted SURF, and aforementioned SNL-debuted "Somewhere In Paradise" featuring none other than seasoned R&B crooners R. Kelly & Jeremih, as well as Purity Ring beatsmith Corin Roddick.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Australian Folk-tronic Singer-songwriter Hayden Calnin Unleashes Sprawling 2xLP "Cut Love Pt. 1-2;" Champions Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$ & Twin Fires (The Witzard Interview)

It all started about two months ago now, when I received a rather intriguing cold sent email from James Barker at London-based PR company Mystic Sons, which read, "First Listen – New Album from Australia's [Answer to] Bon Iver – Hayden Calnin, Cut Love Pt. 1;" described as a "fantastic artist" whose debut single, "Cut Love," at the time, already garnered 40,000 digi-spins at Hype Machine and had received stylistic comparisons to the likes of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), M83, Dawn Golden, Beach House, and whom, I, myself, immediately likened to Electro-Soul crooner James Blake. "'Cut Love Pt. 1" the album is a testament to Hayden's creative abilities, demonstrating that each track can resemble a new chapter. It is experimental to say the least, but an experiment that certainly works. It's exhilarating, truthful, and vicariously touching," Mystic Sons befittingly wrote within their initial emailed press release. Leading up to Cut Love Pt. 1's March release, Hayden Calnin's music was featured within popular TV series Suits, Parenthood, Teen Wolf, The 100, and Oscar-winning film Room. While Cut Love Pt. 1 was self-released on Calnin's own Woodlyn Records as recently as March 4th and Cut Love Pt. 2 is soon impending this upcoming May 13th, I can confirm that I've in fact heard a coveted Mystic Sons advance of both Cut Love Pt. 1-2; with that said, I can honestly attest that Cut Love Pt. 1-2 is about as creative, sprawling, and ambitious as any "debut" album I've heard throughout the past 6-10 years doing this whole freelance writing gig. The Witzard has whole-heartedly 100% gotten behind Australia's single greatest musical export since Men at Work and I can't wait to see and hear what Hayden's capable of next... until then, please enjoy my exclusive, in-depth 12-question interview with none other than "Australia's answer to Bon Iver," Hayden Calnin himself.


Your Editor-In-Chief,
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz

I. I know that you're heavily influenced by Bon Iver, James Blake, Beach House, etc.; but what would you say were some of the most unexpected or less "obvious" inspirations behind Cut Love Pt. 1?

I wouldn't say that I am "heavily influenced" by any of those acts, though people seem to keep comparing my sound to theirs, which is totally fine, as they are all amazing musicians in their own right. I would say my biggest musical influences are artists such as M83, Sigur Ros, S. Carey, and Glen Hansard. All of which are either beautiful lyricists or composers; but for as for a specific influence for this album in particular, there isn't really any. The album was heavily influenced by my own thought and reflection of my own experiences.

II. How do you feel you've grown as an artist and singer-songwriter between the creation of Cut Love Pt. 1 and your two previous EP's, Oh Hunter and City?

A whole lot. The two EP's were me finding my feet as a recording artist. Making an album was really scary. It felt like a lot of responsibility and I put a lot of time and thought into creating it. My first EP, City was a representation of me starting out as a musician. I was very new to the whole thing and didn't quite know what I wanted out of it. Whereas when I created the Oh Hunter EP, I definitely knew what I wanted to create, but still felt that I didn’t quite get it right. I wanted to make Cut Love Pt. 1 as close to what I set out to make as I could, which is why it took so long to come out in the first place. Making an album at home is, I feel, just as hard as creating one in a studio. There's one benefit and that is time. I had all the time I needed to get it sounding right. However, too much time can be a really bad thing also because you start to get a bit precious about it all and have time to overthink.

III. Now, this might be a rather obvious question... but Cut Love Pt. 1-2 are ultimately meant to be consumed as one cohesive "album," why then, split it up into two abridged parts?

Part 1 was all recorded, mixed, and produced at home by myself, whereas Part 2 was recorded, mixed and co-produced with the godly man and producer, Tim Carr, up in Sydney at 301 Studios. They are two very different sounding LP’s, but collectively they work because they are all about the same topics and feeling. You can opt to listen to them together or [separately]. I'm so excited to share what I created up in Sydney with everyone, as I'm super proud of what we made up there. Working with Tim Carr was such a pleasure and we made something pretty special.

IV. Since first hearing Cut Love Pt. 1, James Barker and Johan Larsson from Mystic Sons have sent me music from your roster mates Mavrick, Juke Jaxon, and The Manor. What can you likely tell my readers about your fellow Mystic Sons-repped artists or any other artists you might have recently discovered?

To be honest, I haven't really had a chance to listen to anything new lately. I've been so caught up in the release of this album that I just haven't had the time. But I have been to a lot of gigs around Melbourne lately and I must say I saw this band Twin Fires from Sydney, by chance the other night, and they were fantastic. So, be sure to check them out. I'm pretty sure they only have the one track out at the moment, but keep an eye out for them.

V. Cut Love Pt. 1 was initially put into motion after you were "contacted by UK-based, award-winning contemporary dancer/choreographer Lukas McFarlane, who was in search of new musical material to choreograph and perform to;" did that collaboration ever get off the ground? Are you aware if McFarlane ended up choreographing routines to your music and were these early compositions ultimately included on Cut Love Pt. 1-2?

I can't really say too much on that at the moment because we haven't announced anything on that yet, but I can say that yes, we have been working on something very special and that it's very, very exciting!!! Lukas is an incredible dancer and I got to finally meet him a few months ago, whilst he was in Australia and we went out and shot a music video together. He is such a talented guy and his passion for dance and music has been very inspiring!

VI. What made you choose "Cut Love" as the lead single to represent Cut Love Pt. 1 as a whole?

I thought it best represented what the whole album is about. It's weird, long, and doesn't adhere to any obvious Pop structure, so there are no expectations for the rest of the tunes that follow it. I'm not gonna lie, I was very nervous about putting out an almost 8-minute track as the lead single. It's definitely not made for radio. However, it's had such a positive response from blogs, press, and listeners so far so I think that we made the right decision.

VII. I remember you mentioning or alluding to the fact that you'd like to eventually work with Brooklyn emcee Joey Bada$$; is there any chance of a collaboration ever happening? What else might you deem as a few of your dream collaborations?

I love that guy. He is doing something really cool. Yeah, I'd love to try a track with him, but I doubt that would ever happen any time soon. Dream collaborations are a hard thing to think about. I've done a bit of co-writing and most of the time it is pretty challenging. You often think that something is gonna work, but if you are two very different minds, then the result will tend to only satisfy one party and not the other. That being said, I have had some great experiences co-writing. But you just never know what you are gonna get out of it.

VIII. As I'm sure you may very well be aware: The Witzard is a primarily Hip-Hop-centric publication. However, I thoroughly enjoy covering non-Rap material, as well. What might you peg as some of your personal favorite Hip-Hop releases from let's say, 2015-16?

Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Both of these albums I reckon I have spun at least 30 or 40 times each. They are perfect records. Everyone's got [their] own taste in music but these two albums have really meant a lot to me and [are] worth the listen. Both artists are doing great things for the Hip-Hop world.

IX. What can you tell my readers about growing up in Red Hill and recording the albums in Melbourne, Australia? How do you think each town ended up affecting the creation of Cut Love Pt. 1-2?

Red Hill will always be home to me. I love it there. It's when I am most relaxed. The city is so drastically different. It's busy and populated. Having lived in both places, it really can give you a good look at Australian culture and the different ways in which people can live [their] lives. Red Hill is such a special place, it's where the ocean meets the forest and where you always need a fire going to keep warm. There are few distractions there and you want to walk around all the time because it's so beautiful. Now that I'm talking about it, it might be time for me to head back down there for a few days. Yeah, I miss it a lot.

X. While I'm readily aware that it was recorded and released prior to your current album cycle, what might you be able to share about your bluesy, stripped down cover of Elvis' infamous 1956 single, "Hound Dog" (which unbeknownst to me at the time, actually appears deep within Cut Love Pt. 2)?

It was a song I use to bust out at a camp fire [every once in a while] and just sing for fun, so I knew at one point that I would record it. I never thought I would put it out, but I ended up being really happy with the result.

XI. How exactly did your music become featured within Suits, Parenthood, Teen Wolf, The 100, and Oscar-winning film Room?

I'm lucky enough to have some great sync representation over in the US and in Australia who look after pitching for all of that stuff for me. I always find it pretty amazing when I get told that some network or film company want to use some of my music. It's always so awkward to watch it back, but it is also pretty gratifying and rewarding to know that people can connect to my music in that way.

XII. Now, this last one isn't exactly about you or your music... but I'm still dying to ask it: have you heard Kendrick Lamar's sprawling critically-acclaimed untitled unmastered. yet? If so, what were your initial opinions of it, Hayden?

YES!!!!! AND HOLY F___ING SH*T!!!! (excuse my language) It blew my mind. I've only spun it a few times through so I'm, still getting to know the songs, but it is pretty incredible.
Thanks so much for the Q+A, mate; appreciate it heaps!

Haydo xx

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Witzard's Week In Rap: Fresh Cuts from One-time Rivals Ice Cube & Common AND The Roots Emcee Black Thought & Royce 5'9" as "Black & Nickel" (March 27-April 2nd Ed.)

Let me just preface this week's slightly abridged edition of The Witzard's Week In Rap by first explaining that while I could be covering Kanye's "newly updated, remixed, and remastered version" of haphazardly-assembled steaming pile of s*it The Life of Pablo, I'm not even going to be giving his second of what could likely end up being umpteenth mixes, recently dubbed a "continuous process" by Def Jam, the sheer satisfaction of even buying into and covering it; however, with that said, his Sampha-assisted "Saint Pablo" (formerly titled "Closest Thing to Einstein") from his second of three rumored in-the-works albums, Turbo Grafx 16, is likely as strong, lyrically verbose, and dare I say, self-reflective as Kanye's sounded since Jay Z-helmed Watch The Throne or even 808's & Heartbreak. For what it's worth, a couple contenders for "honorable mentions" released sporadically throughout the week spanning Sunday, March 27-Saturday, April 2nd would likely be: Big Boi & Phantogram collectively known as Big Grams' "ALL CAPS"-evoking Run The Jewels-assisted "Born to Shine/Run for Your Life" and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's ruthless The Life of Pablo beat-jacking and recently pressed on wax "COCAINE PARTIES IN LA," which is rooted in what could quite arguably be considered Pablo's strongest Kendrick Lamar-fronted track, "No More Parties In LA."

It would appear as though Royce 5'9", an active member of Slaughterhouse, Bad Meets Evil, and PRhyme, has a certain tendency for joining 2-4 man Run-DMC-esque groups. Now, it would likely appear as though he's formed yet another Hip-Hop group Black & Nickel alongside Roots emcee Black Thought; "Now, it's time to show these mother______s what's the fuss about. What you dealing with lyrically? A couple lyricists who don't miss. N****s as if Black & Nickel get together for an album, what you gon' get? You gon' get rap on steroids, rap on steroids..." Thought & Royce have previously rapped together on Statik Selektah's Action Bronson-assisted "The Imperial" and DJ Premier-produced "Wishin' II." Despite the fact that "Rap On Steroids" appears on Royce 5'9"'s recent Tabernacle: Trust The Shooter EP in its seemingly fleshed out 3-minute form, there's supposedly still an unreleased verse from his Bad Meets Evil partner in crime, Eminem. Royce is currently putting the finishing touches on his latest album, Layers, which is expected for an April 15th release and how attests that Black & Nickel's Eminem-featuring "Rap On Steroids" will be liberated ahead of the album.

For The Witzard's Rap Battle Round 2, we have two more Hip-Hop heavyweights from from an entirely different era: one-time bitter rivals and new-found friends Ice Cube & Common!!! It's been nearly 20 years since Common & Ice Cube's heated 1994-96 recorded rap beef, which transpired through Common's critically-acclaimed "I Used to Love H.E.R." Mack 10's Cube-featuring "Westside Slaughterhouse," and finally, culminating with Common's Pete Rock-produced verbal nail in the coffin, "The B*tch In Yoo." It almost goes without saying that Ice Cube and Common Sense are two world-renown actors and emcees from two entirely different ends of the spectrum; one's a West Coast-affiliated N.W.A. founding member who helped kick-start 1990's Gangsta Rap and the other, a Chicago-bred Soulquarian that single-handedly helped spearhead non-violent, thought-provoking "Conscious Rap." However, with that said, Common & Ice Cube have collectively decided to bury the hatchet, settle their differences, and collaborate for the first time on Barbershop: The Next Cut-housed "Real People," in which the both star alongside Anthony Anderson, Eve, Cedric The Entertainer, Regina Hall, and ferocious femcee Nicki Minaj.