Electronic

Guerilla Toss delivers cannibalist manifesto on latest single

Guerilla Toss is a band that specializes in dance-punk-acid-house-party-rock anthems that sound like they’ve been beamed to this planet straight from the Big Red Spot of Jupiter because much like that celestial “beauty mark” (actually a raging centuries-old storm bigger than the entire planet Earth) their music is a swirling sonic vortex that pulls in all manner of sonic space junk from the surrounding atmosphere which gets all mashed up and mutated in the eye of the storm re-emerging as a molten musical liquid metal that gets shot back into space via electromagnetic waves audible through this planet’s primitive stereo receivers and equalizers and discontinued iPods

Granted, this may sound like a crackpot analogy but it’s supported by the band’s own lyrical exegesis on songs like “Meteorological” (from 2018’s Twisted Crystal), “Can I Get the Real Stuff” (from 2017’s GT Ultra), and “367 Equalizer” (from 2014’s Infinity Cat Series). And you can hear the interplanetary vibes with your own ears just by putting on Guerilla Toss’s latest single “Cannibal Capital” (music video directed by Lisa Schatz) from their upcoming Sub Pop debut full-length Famously Alive due out on 3/25, a song that seems to mix and mutate the various stages of the band’s own musical history—from the noisy experimentalism of their early releases to the mutant funk of their more recent DFA releases—a song that by their own account “makes everything sensory.”

The song opens with a sound-collage intro that appears to incorporate the sounds of a Merzbow cassette being eaten by malfunctioning tape deck, a leaky toilet, an air rifle, and a cat suffering from intestinal distress—all in the first 15 seconds or so. It just goes to show how much Guerilla Toss takes making everything sensory very seriously indeed. 

Meanwhile a twitchy-tail-shaking-percolating-mid-tempo groove emerges from the sonic murk and while it seems to vanquish it at first the sonic murk keeps seeping back in around the edges with squelching synths and blasts of power chords and so forth thus setting up a disintegration/reintegration dialectic that fits perfectly with the song’s opening lyric (“you need help / melt in every dimension”) and it’s not the only case of lyrical/musical synchronicity either like later where vocalist Kassie Carlson poses the question “can I escape gracefully?” and the vocals veer out of time on cue escaping the rhythm of the tightly wound groove for a few moments.

Closing arguments: On “Cannibal Capital” Guerilla Toss have proven once again that pop will eat itself and and that there's a cultural capital to cannibals just as Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade observed back in 1928 when he wrote the Cannibalist Manifesto which advocated the notion that “Brazil’s history of cannibalizing other cultures was its greatest strength and had been the nation’s way of asserting independence over European colonial culture” a notion that went on to inspire the late ‘60s art and music movement movement called Tropicália—whose best-known proponents were Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, and Os Mutantes which literally means The Mutants—likewise frooted in a collage aesthetic where the "sacred enemy" is disgested and transformed, and with all this in mind I'd say it’s fair to say that Guerilla Toss are our modern-day tropicalistas, i.e. modern primitives, likely transplanted from outer space no less, or Boston, one or the other, sent to Earth/NYC to absorb our musical traditions "body snatchers style" and spit 'em back out in capitvatingly mutated form. (Jason Lee)

   

Warm Human "Hold Music"

Warm Human (aka Meredith Johnston) has released a new collection of b-sides, outtakes, and demos called "Hold Music".

In this description for the collection Johnson says these are "voice memos of piano improvisations, demos, ambient tracks, and forgotten or abandoned songs". It is a fun look behind the scenes of her creative process and when pulled together it really does feel like a cohesive piece.

This is the first new music from Johnson since the release of "Gimme A Reason", her 2021 debut single for House of Feelings records.

   

RXM Reality "thank you"

Hausu Mountain and Mike Meegan announced last week that the next RXM Reality album, sick for you, will be released on March 25th.

The album's first single is called "thank you" and can be streamed below.

You can catch RXM Reality on April 28th at Constellation Chicago with ---__--___ (aka More Eaze & Seth Graham).

   

Kailyn "Synthesis"

Kailyn Slater has release a portion of her Master of Arts (non-)thesis/degree cumulative project for the department of Communication at the University of Illinois via the local label Palettes. The resulting EP is called "Synthesis" and is a fascinating exploration of sound and song structure.

The EP closes with a remix of the EP's opening track "No More Knowing Glances" from John Daniel (Forest Management/Peak Descent).

All proceeds from the sale of this project will be going to Molasses Chicago.

   

Melanie Charles remixes the remix on soulful tribute to female jazz greats

photo by: Kevin W. Condon

Since it’s founding in 1956, Verve Records has amassed the world’s deepest catalogue of jazz with classic recordings by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Stan Getz/João Gilberto, and Sarah Vaughan (not to mention a number of legendary avant-garde rock ’n’ rollers like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and the Velvet Underground). Late in 2021, Melanie Charles put out Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women on the label, released as part of the longstanding “Verve Remixed” series (est. 2002) where contemporary DJs and producers remix classic recordings from the label’s extensive jazz catalogue. 

Notably, this is the first album in the series entrusted to the vision of a single artist rather than a grab bag of divergent DJs/producers compiled onto a single disc, and Melanie Charles takes "the vision thing" seriously by not only remixing a set of jazz recordings, but by also remixing the very notion of “Verve Remixed” itself—combining digital remix techniques with the addition of completely new instrumental parts (flute, harp, sax, etc.) and vocal parts, weaving her own voice into the mix (quite literally) by singing in harmony, counterpoint, or call-and-response with the original vocals at various points.

The end result isn't an album made for modern EDM dancefloors or after-hours lounges, as heard on other Verve Remixed albums, but instead a record that takes its source material and enhances it (digitally and otherwise) with everything from Tropicalia-style psychedelia/stylistic eclecticism to Alice Coltrane-adjacent spirituality to Sun Ra-adjacent Afrofuturism with detours into early '00s R&B and twerk-ready Haitian pop/trap kompas grooves for good measure. 



If this sounds a little bit all over the map don’t worry, because Melanie Charles has re-imagined these tracks in a way where everything flows together rather seamlessly and organically—after all, it’s Charles’ stated mission to “make jazz trill again” so she’s not looking to get too willfully esoteric—resulting in a sonic college that doesn’t come across as a collage which is a neat trick. 

This works most likely because Ms. Charles isn’t only an electronic music producer/beatmaker/remixer, but also a formally-trained jazz flautist, plus a singer-songwriter conversant in styles ranging from soul and R&B to trip hop and acid jazz (and oh yeah she almost became an opera singer). To hear how Melanie combines these various elements in her own music it’s recommended you check out her 2017 full-length The Girl With The Green Shoes, or her "Trill Suite No. 1 (Daydreaming/Skylark)", or look up some clips of her rocking a sampler or a flute live.



This album may also be "a little extra" because a little extra is routinely expected from Black women, or more like a lot extra, just to receive half the respect and recognition as their peers. This is where white supremacy and patriarchy have brought us and ergo the album’s title. Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women works to redress this imbalance by paying tribute to Black women in jazz, artists who may be “canonized” today but who always had to struggle mightily—Billie Holiday serving as an obvious case in point—no matter how much their greatness becomes taken for granted later. To survive or better yet to flourish under such conditions no doubt requires a good deal of improvisation, finding ways to "remix" the limitations imposed by a hostile environment to one's own advantage somehow.

And so it's fitting that jazz was the original “art of the remix”—rooted in improvisation and born out of the creative remixing of a rich stew of influences including field hollers, work songs, hymns and spirituals, brass bands, dance music, banjo tunes, opera and concert music, and blues and ragtime. It’s also a form of music where it’s routine to remix familiar tunes from different realms and eras, for instance, taking bubbly Broadway ditties and turning them into rhapsodic tone poems like on John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” or Betty Carter’s “Surrey with the Fringe On Top.”



Speaking of Betty Carter, who's been called “the most adventurous female jazz singer of all time," Melanie Charles’ pays to Carter by reworking her version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)," a song that speaks directly to the links between jazz and transformation, especially re: the "remixing" of imposed social realities. Written and first recorded by Norman Mapp, its lyrics position jazz as the art of “getting by” and “making do” despite the odds, much like soul food has been called the art of making magic from scraps (lyrics: “Jazz is makin’ do with ‘taters and grits / standing up each time you get hit”) but also depicts jazz as the art of “getting over” and taking charge despite those very odds (“jazz is living high off nickels and dime / telling folks ‘bout what’s on your mind”). As a famous jazz musician once said, "in jazz you don’t play what’s there. You play what’s not there."


 

Mapp’s original version of “Jazz (Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul)” has a distinctly cool jazz vibe with the vocals lagging behind the beat, whereas Betty Carter’s rendition accelerated the tempo while adding rhythmic drive and melodic counterpoint. And instead of fading the song out at the end, like on Mapp’s version, Carter slides into the upper register and sings the line “jazz ain’t nothing but SOOOOUL” over a new four-note melodic line. This brief but striking alteration lays the foundation for Melanie Charles’ version of Betty Carter’s version in taking this seconds-long fragment and looping it while singing the song's other lyrics as melodic counterpoint.

These time-space-continuum manipulations seemingly pull the the song into a new dimension, breaking down to almost nothing and then building back up into a completely different version of the song, one with a loping laid-back funky Indie.Arie-style beat. Near the end, the sampled loop of Betty's vocals reemerges sounding like a broken-up broadcast from a satellite but one with a Fender Rhodes skittering up and down its surface. So if you wanna talk about “the art of the remix” here it is and bear in mind I've left out plenty of other alterations and production touches—because this is a digitally enhanced remix that gets right at the beating analog heart of the original version.

Likewise most of the other works remixed and reimagined on Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women seem to be about "overcoming" in some sense, rejecting bad odds for Black women whether relating to life “in the ghetto," or relationship woes with a “man child,” or achieving “civil” rights in a country that’s anything but civil. For another example, the album opens with an interpolation of Lady Day’s classic “God Bless the Child,” another jazz composition that could be considered a “bracing mixture of hard-scrabble practicality and hope," with lyrics drawing on a religious parable to impart a secular message about the power of self-determination and the enduring power of structural inequality. 

In the opening lines Charles slyly alters Holiday’s lyrics, moving from “so the Bible says” to “so the Devil says,” which brings to the fore the critique of religious hypocrisy some have read into the song. But what’s maybe more relevant along these lines is that Ms. Charles is a student of Haitian vodou, drawing inspiration from her Haitian culture roots, with her mother having immigrated from Haiti to Brooklyn before she was born, finding relevant inspiration in a religion that “remixes” Catholicism by way of African cosmologies and deities—where the gods (lwa) and their divine healing powers are lured into the physical realm via overlapping drum rhythms mixed together in just the right manner. And that seems like a perfect note to end on here. (Jason Lee)