Thursday, 11 April 2019

The Sa-Ra Creative Partners ‎– Nuclear Evolution: The Age Of Love (2009)

Style: Broken Beat, Soul, RnB/Swing, Future Jazz, Neo Soul, Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ubiquity

01.   Spacefruit
02.   Dirty Beauty
03.   I Swear
04.   Melodee N'Mynor
05.   He Say She Say
06.   Traffika
07.   Souls Brother
08.   Bitch Baby
09.   Love Czars
10.   Gemini's Rising
11.   The Bone Song
12.   White Cloud
13.   Move Your Ass
14.   Love Today
15.   Can I Get U Hi?
16.   My Star
17.   Cosmic Ball
18.   Spaceways Theme
19.   Just Like A Baby
20.   Double Dutch (Co Co Pops)
21.   Death Of A Star (Supernova)
22.   Powder Bump
23.   Hanging By A String

While they have worked on several other records and even dropped their own record with 2007's The Hollywood Recordings, Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) is what springs to mind whenever I hear about Sa-Ra Creative Partners. The trio's magnificent work on tracks like "Me", "The Cell", "Twinkle", and others was impressive and helped mold new territory for Ms. Badu. Whether fans loved or hated the change in her sound, they would be hard-pressed to deny how sonically gorgeous that record was. And one would hope that same sound would transfer to Sa-Ra's latest, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love. Musically, the group continues breaking ground and solidifying itself as a powerhouse. Unfortunately, that only remains true in the sonic regions of the record, which are weighed down by mundane, in-your-face sexuality. 
The issue plaguing this record is actually one that rears its head frequently in the realm of modern R&B and soul. Gone are the days of subtlety where, yes, it was implied you were singing to a lady who you would hope to have breakfast with the next morning. But instead of implications, you have straightforward suggestions, such as on the otherwise smooth-as-butter "The Bone Song". That track in particular, as its title indicates, is the greatest criminal in the case of overt sexuality, which you can hear dispersed all over the record. 
Also, while the vocals primarily complement the erratic production well, they do have a tendency to get lost in the mix as the album plays. At first it doesn't appear that will be the case. Sa-Ra kick things off with the Latin-infused, dance-party "Spacefruit", which features Debi Nova assisting with crooning in both Spanish and English. And, similarly, Ms. Badu graces "Dirty Beauty" with her gorgeous throaty vocals for the otherworldly space jam. Tracks of this breed, however, are too few and far between. And when Sa-Ra's Om'Mas Keith, Taz Arnold, and Shafiq Husayn handle the duties on the mic, you are left craving more Nova, Badu, or, at least, a male vocalist with better range. Actually, since they do mesh well with their music, the men of Sa-Ra would be more palatable had they at least given more thought to the lyrics. 
Where these three galactic producers shine is in their, well, production. Almost every joint on here, especially those aforementioned tracks, is an experimental hip-hop/R&B head's wet dream. The trio incorporates the crunchy drums of Flying Lotus on album standout "Traffika". They get funky and smooth on the break-up track "Melodee N'Mynor", which features perfectly-mixed, low-laying horns for effect. Another highlight is the longest track on here in "Love Czars". At nearly eight minutes, one would assume the jazzy drums and tight bass would grow tiresome by the five-minute mark. But no, it's so infectious that when it ends, you will get entranced for another eight minutes when you play the song again. 
Tracks like "Traffika" and "Love Czars" are what make Sa-Ra's music both unique and enjoyable. These three guys are doing things that most R&B producers wouldn't either think of or even try if they imagined it. And while some songs, like the aforementioned standouts, are undoubtedly inaccessible to some listeners, they deserve to be heard by anyone who appreciates solid songwriting and experimentation. Even further, those alienated pop-R&B fans should at least give Sa-Ra a shot or two and take a break from the stale love anthems plaguing the radio. Note: That's not exactly a bash to the mainstream, because it's more than well known that R&B has been on a steady decline in the past decade with few exceptions. 
Obviously -- as we all know from their past work -- the three members of Sa-Ra are some talented cats. Their instrumentation and production is hands down phenomenal at times. They have an innate ability to take sounds associated with the likes of Prince, Flying Lotus, and J Dilla, smash it all together, and then lay it down for funk-driven ear candy. But their skills behind the boards aren't enough to accelerate their disappointing lyrics and fitting, but average vocals. 
Andrew Martin / popMATTERS

Terry Riley ‎– Descending Moonshine Dervishes (1982)

Style: Modern Classical, Minimal
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Kuckuck, Beacon Sound

A.   Part 1
B.   Part 2

Stephen Hill - Remastering
Ulrich Kraus - Engineer
Terry Riley - Composer, Keyboards, Liner Notes, Piano, Primary Artist, Synthesizer, Vocals

If you will allow a controversial opinion, I maintain that nobody’s music embodies pure peace like Terry Riley’s. From In C to A Rainbow In Curved Air to Persian Surgery Dervishes to Shri Camel and beyond, the legendary American composer has forged a body of work that’s established minimalism as an ultimate conduit of sonic transcendence and an overall sense of well-being. If all of your chakras aren’t resonating with utmost harmoniousness while you’re listening to Riley, you may want to schedule a soul-doctor appointment. 
Although Descending Moonshine Dervishes isn’t typically rated among Riley’s greatest accomplishments, it should be. Honestly, I’ve always been a Rainbow In Curved Air/Persian Surgery Dervishes/Shri Camel guy, but Portland label Beacon Sound’s fantastic 2016 vinyl reissue—with a strong remastering job done by former Seattle producer Rafael Anton Irisarri—has me reconsidering. The more I listen to it, the more I’m convinced that Moonshine is Riley’s peak, which means that it’s among the loftiest works of art in the Western world. If you will allow another controversial opinion… 
It starts with urgent burbles similar to those of one of Riley’s greatest hits, “Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band,” then ascends to an ever-so-dissonant cruise-control drone that pits two competing organ motifs against each other to create a wonderful friction. Sporadic surges in intensity increase the sublimity of the drone, creating the sensation of frantic yet salubrious cellular activity. (I should say that this magnum opus was mostly improvised live at Berlin’s Metamusik Festival in 1975. Terry was on a goddamn roll that night, y’all.) 
At times, Descending Moonshine Dervishes is almost too much to handle, as the surfeit of silvery tones gather density and crash against the shore of your consciousness, inundating you with way more pleasure than you deserve in one lifetime, let alone in one sitting with an LP. Such is the man’s benevolence, though, that he keeps bestowing you the godly goods, never really letting up on celestial symphony that emanates from his modified Yamaha YC 45D organ. 
Really, Riley? 52 minutes of this? How are we ever gonna deal with the escalating shitshow of reality after such a glut of galactic gloriousness? If god exists, she’s playing this in her lair—and then perhaps seguing into an epic Bösendorfer piano piece by Charlemagne Palestine, for good measure.  
Buckley Mayfield / Jive Time Records

Edwyn Collins ‎– Hope And Despair (1989)

Style: Pop Rock, Country Rock, Indie Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Demon Records, Werk Record Label

01.   Coffee Table Song
02.   50 Shades Of Blue
03.   You're Better Than You Know
04.   Pushing It To The Back Of My Mind
05.   If Ever You're Ready
06.   Darling, They Want It All
07.   The Wheels Of Love
08.   The Beginning Of The End
09.   The Measure Of The Man
10.   Testing Time
11.   Let Me Put My Arms Around You
12.   The Wide Eyed Child In Me
13.   Ghost Of A Chance
14.   Hope And Despair

Bass, Organ, Backing Vocals, Drums, Piano, Trumpet – Dennis Bovell
Drums – David Ruffy
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Roddy Frame
Guitar, Dobro – Steven Skinner
Guitar, Vocals, Written-By, Banjo, Flute, Dobro – Edwyn Collins
Organ – Alex Grey
Pedal Steel Guitar – Bruce Dern
Piano, Organ, Synth – Bernie Clarke
Co-producer, Synthesizer – Tom Dokoupil
Co-producer, Backing Vocals, Drums, Bass, Synthesizer – Phil Thornalley

Collins's post-Orange Juice debut album has the familiar trappings of one of Glasgow's most celebrated songwriters -- a man whose main fallbacks seem to be lovelorn pessimism and cynicism toward the entertainment industry. Still, when you prepare the same feast as lovingly as Collins does, you'll never be short of house guests. The songwriting craft here is as keenly evident as you'd expect, with reggae hero Dennis Bovell (previously a member of Orange Juice's inner circle) providing production help and bass. Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame also contributes guitar. Highlights include "The Beginning of the End," which is downcast even by Collins' world-weary standards, as the artist treads carefully through everything from blue-eyed pop to rustic country in his resolutely surefooted manner. 
Alex Ogg / AllMusic

Mildlife ‎– Phase (2018)

Style: Jazz-Funk
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Research Records

1.   The Magnificent Moon
2.   Zwango Zop
3.   Im Blau
4.   Phase
5.   Two Horizons
6.   The Gloves Don't Bite

Bass – Tomas Shanahan
Drums – James Donald
Electric Organ – Kevin McDowell
Electric Piano – Kevin McDowell
Flute – Adam Halliwel
Guitar – Adam Halliwell
Melodica – Kevin McDowel
Percussion – Craig Shanahan
Synthesizer – Kevin McDowell
Vocals – Adam Halliwell, Kevin McDowell
Vocoder – Adam Halliwell
Written-By, Producer – Mildlife

Emerging fully formed as though from nowhere (in reality: Melbourne, Australia), this new young space-kraut-jazz outfit announced their existence last November with a sinuous, nine-minute single called The Magnificent Moon, a groove that could have happily gone on for ever. Here were four musicians on guitar, bass, drums and analogue synths pretending it was 1974 and that brown was the most kaleidoscopic colour. 
As with The Magnificent Moon, Mildlife’s debut album, Phase, falls just on the right side of the line dividing smug progressive fusions a la the Alan Parsons Project from questing psych-disco-jazz, the kind that wouldn’t sound wrong supporting Tame Impala on tour. The most enduring tracks are the calmest, where Mildlife foreground flow and beauty over virtuoso musicianship. Two Horizons starts with some oceanic space noises, but turns beatific with the overlaying of a trumpet-like synth line. There’s much to admire, too, on funk workouts like Zwango Zop, or tracks such as Im Blau that join the dots between Daft Punk and Tortoise. 
Kitty Empire / The Guardian

Gatupreto ‎– Distino Di Nos Vida (2017)

Style: Deep House
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Think! Music

A1.   I Became Me (Featuring – NBC)
A2.   I Became Me (Remix – Philou Louzolo)
B1.   Afrowerk
B2.   Gatu Di Noti

Helder Russo, Ka§par

Gatupreto release their sophomore "Distino Di Nos Vida" on TINK! Music! The duo from Lisbon's hinterland return with a second round of their impeccable, futuristic theory on modern club music after the acclaimed "Modo Di Trabadja" EP, released in 2015. The tropical taste of Cabo Verde, the cool of that Lisbon dance floor fusionism, the appeal of classic vibes. Tracks too dark and twisted to be called "Afro", too sexy and melodic to be called "Techno", too smart and freaky to be called "House" and too cool and mature to be called "Kuduro", it is simply Gatupreto.  
On the A side "I Became Me", deep afro dub with a killer sub bass and endless echoes, starring Portuguese soul and hip hop legend NBC as guest vocalist and a remix by afro Dutch master and fellow TINK! artist Philou Louzolo - who turns "I Became Me" into an irresistible deep house with african undertones.  
On the flip side, the dark dramatic stomping tracks "Afrowerk" and "Gatu Di Noti", the first an eerie, irresistible peak time banger, and the later a stormer with sounds from natural Africa, harpy acid lines and an off kilter beat.