It's 1221


getting the blog rolling again
10 October, 2009, 10:38 PM
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It has been a long while since I’ve last updated It’s 1221. I’ve caught up synching all my writing from URB, I’m settled back home, and I’m embarking on a new internship with WWD. To get to the point, it feels like an appropriate time to start writing again.

My first week at WWD was rather tame because we are not shooting right now and LA Fashion Week (month, really) is just beginning. The highlight for me was getting to do some research for inspiration pictures for shoots that we will be doing in the near future. I won’t know for a few more days if I will be heading to any of the collections, but it’s thrilling to be a part of a place I’ve been trying to work at for so long. Our office is very small, and it’s to my advantage because I get to see the entire process from start to finish—creating the idea, pitching, research, samples, shoots, and then the final product.  Again, it seems like the right time to be doing this for me.

I still have lots of projects to do for URB, and I’ll try to keep the blog organized and updated. Besides doing all this stuff, taking my class, and looking for a job… ah. I just saw Fool’s Gold at a private show at Hollywood Forever, and I got to talk with Nicki and Paul from IAMSound. Those are some of the coolest folks I’ve met in awhile; I was quite smitten. Yeah, I did that on my day off. For work. It’s fun and keeps me out of trouble! Plus, giving me inspiration for my own project. The Fool’s Gold show and interview is part of something I’m working on for URB, and I hope to get that all together soon.

Currently digging Telepathe, and I’ve been playing Dance Mother pretty much non-stop since Wednesday. Just got the newest Headlights album, Wildlife, and two albums for review–one from The Prairie Cartel and Globes on Remote.

Looking for new artists to do features on, and trying to plan out when I can conduct those interviews and make some freshness. I won’t say who I’m thinking about reaching out to, but two UK acts, one Mexican, one Puerto Rican, and one American.

I’m just catching up on the last collections that I wanted to check out. The Paris shows are so enchanting, and the majority of my favorite ones are located there.

I think the next post will be my picks from the spring/summer shows.

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MATISYAHU: Jewish Rapper Spreads “Light” :: Behind the Scenes Video and Interview from Conan O’Brien Show
10 October, 2009, 10:35 PM
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Published 09/14/09 on URB.com

Before he was Matisyahu to the masses, Matthew Paul Miller was into jam bands and had a strong affinity for Phish. In 2004 he joined JDub records, which is a New York based non-profit record label promoting Jewish artists. Soon that love for Phish would land him a spot performing with the legendary band at Bonnaroo 2005, and in the following year his song “King Without a Crown” landed on the Billboard Modern Rock Top 10. His style blends rock, reggae and hip-hop influences, culminating in his latest release, Light. I caught up with Matis in his dressing room at the Conan O’Brien show, and we took some time to unwind in deluxe massage chairs before settling down to talk about the new record, the state of the musical landscape, and what it means to be humble, making meaningful music, and inspiring social activism.

URB: I was listening to Light and it sounds more urban and more universal, in a way, compared to Youth. Was it a natural progression and does it feel more like “you”? What was the creative process like behind the album?
MATIS: The way the process took place, the way it worked was, I had a little home studio and I invited my friends to come. The first person that I invited was Ooah from this band, Glitch Mob, and he’s like electro-hip-hop, glitch. I basically started bringing people to work with, so that’s how the record got made. It was made with Stephen McGregor in Jamaica, who’s like a programmer and does drums and electronic sounds. A lot of the beats were made by me beat boxing, so Aaron would play guitar, or Trevor would play guitar, and I would beat box behind it, and program drums into it and we would get different musicians to play over it, like Fishbones. It’s like the beats are all interwoven between program drums, drums and beat boxing, so that’s one unique thing to it.

URB: What was it like working with David Kahne as a producer on most of the tracks, and how did he influence your sound?
MATIS: He spends a lot of time in the studio and very much listens to things over and over and revises things again and again. Working with someone with that degree of precision was unique for me.

URB: What’s the strangest place you’ve written a song?
MATIS: The strangest place I’ve written a song? [Laughs]
URB: I always want to ask this question and see what the response is! [Laughs]
MATIS: Hmm. That’s hard. [Laughs]
URB: Are there a lot of strange places…?
MATIS: I’m trying to think how every song was put together. I don’t know how strange it is, but I’ve written a song during sound check.
URB: What song was that?
MATIS: “Youth.”

URB: How do you get inspired because I feel like you’re like most of the musicians that I really admire because it’s as if you live your music making something that’s meaningful and it works on different levels. I’m wondering how did you come about doing the charity, “One Day For Change”? I feel like you’re taking your message and what you’re all about to the next level.
MATIS: The main idea with that, “One Day For Change,” is like you were saying, to get inspiration from the music and then to take it and do something and to bring it down to the next level of action. It’s a way for people to use all the different things we have now, like the Internet and Twitter, Facebook, and all that.

Matisyahu on Music From Dressing Room @ Conan O’Brien from URB Magazine on Vimeo.

URB: You’re also really big on the fan interaction, and it seems genuine! You seem like you want to do the silly little video posts, I saw the one about thejuicer dying. And I thought, “Wow!” I didn’t really get into you the first time around because I was like, “Hasidic reggae-rap? What?” But when I heard you, I thought you make rocking the yarmulke cool! How do you prevent yourself from sounding too preachy or how do you respond to that criticism?
MATIS: Well, for me, one of the lessons I’ve learned in my life, maybe in the last five years or so, is that humility to me is the most important quality. No matter who you are, or what you believe, if you believe that you have the ultimate answer, you need to hook everybody on that, you know? For me, music is about creating space for people and the people in that space can find themselves and tap into an inner dimension of themselves and find their own answer. That’s the kind of music that I try to make, to stimulate people to feel but not to tell them what to think and feel.

URB: One thing I noticed is that you like K’Naan, and I do, too. Would you collaborate with him?
MATIS: Yeah, we talked about it and we did some touring together. You can go on YouTube, it’s probably on there, we did a song together. I performed “Jerusalem Now,” and I can’t remember which one of his he did [“If I Forget You”], but we did it for a radio station up in Portland.

URB: Yeah, I feel like you both try to do something similar and express positivity, but express it in different ways. Do you ever feel like you’re mislabeled or misunderstood by people who try to make you feel gimmicky when people look at your musical career taking off and they can’t put it together with your religious beliefs? Do you feel like you need to prove yourself or always be like, “This is me.”
MATIS: I always felt like I wanted to prove something, even before I was religious when I was singing reggae or rapping or beat boxing, I would go into the club, and most of the people there were African-American, and people would look at me a certain way. Then I’d start singing a Bob Marley song, and they’d be really into it, they thought it was pretty cool. I felt like once people experience my music, they’ll understand in a second, but in their initial conception of the idea, it was confusing to people.

URB: What’s your opinion of the whole musical landscape right now?
MATIS: It’s pretty bad. Music, I think, is inherently a really holy thing, a really special thing that has a strong power to penetrate into people. For me, I always felt like, it just felt unnatural to listen to music or write music that didn’t feel like an expression from a deep place. I don’t really understand the whole vibe of party music.

Then we played a word association game for some of this songs…

“I Will Be Light”: This song was written with Trevor Hall in the kitchen of the studio at David Kahne’s, and the bridge on that song is one of my favorite moments on the record.

“So High So Low”: That was written by Aaron Dugan, he played it for me pretty much in its entirety with the build on it at the end, without any vocals on it and then we brought it in and changed the verse and made it a little more melodic.

“For You”: That song Aaron played on it, and a producer named, Dave McCracken from the UK, and we worked on the song towards the end, but yeah, I love the feel on that.

“Silence”: Trevor wrote that guitar part for it, and we found the drums, and it comes in together real nice. I wanted to make that a really introspective moment.

“Aish Tamid”: Is a song that we play a lot, but each time we always play it differently. Every night we play that song, we play it coming out of an improvisation, so it’s totally different. But I use the lyrics and it always has a big arching build on it.

“Jerusalem”: It’s a cool song, it’s like an anthem for a lot of my fans, and a lot of people connect to that song. For the Jewish kids that are out there, there’s never really been an artist or a musician that they could look to or feel like there was this blending of their American qualities and their heritage and figuring out what it means to be Jewish and what it represents. For a lot of kids, when we go to Israel, it brings out this really cool feeling in a lot of people.

Matis’ favorite song on Light: If I had to choose one… I like different things about different songs. A couple of my favorite moments are the chorus on “We Will Walk,” just the hook, not even the fast rapping part.

Matis beat boxing in his dressing room:

Matisyahu Beat Boxing From Conan O’Brien from URB Magazine on Vimeo.



BOMBA ESTEREO: Mythmaking with Colombian Electro-Cumbia Act :: Spotlight on Latin’s New “It” Band
10 October, 2009, 10:27 PM
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Published 08/28/09 on URB.com

Liliana Saumet stalks the stage like a panther and the crowd at Central Park’s SummerStage chants “Fuego” with the huntress during the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) in July. For the thousands of onlookers, most were hearing Bomba Estereo for the first time. A look, a laugh or the purring cadence of her voice is all it takes to feel the band’s allure.

However, it’s Simón Mejía who is responsible for unleashing Bomba Estereo and their album Blow Up to audiences the world over—from the band’s hometown, Bogota, to London and Denmark. Mejía is the storyteller, weaving together guitar, synthesizers, and a drum machine with more traditional Colombian instruments like the flauta de mill, alegre, maracas, guache, and llamado to make the sonic landscape Saumet inhabits. Recording mostly instrumental work on his own, when the two came together, Mejía found the enchanting element that previously eluded him. Saumet remembers, “I really liked what he had to offer because it had a lot to do with my culture, so it was natural for me.” Bomba was complete. Since then, she says, “We cannot stop growing.”

Now the fans holler that they want to marry her. The sweltering den they transform concert venues into has brought them to the point of passing out. Mejía tells me the duo and their band get together to collect positive energies for a good show before hitting the stage.

It seems to be working. Saumet teases listeners on “La Boquilla,” singing in Spanish, “If you bite me, I’ll bite you, rawr rawr.” The track pays respect to the African part of her roots, and she can’t talk about her passion for music without talking about her hometown, Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean shore.

“Being born there meant not having any limits to my imagination,” she explains. “Since the town is right by the ocean and there is no horizon in sight, space is limitless, and in one way or another, it expands your physical and mental state of mind… everyone along the coast sings and dances.”

But Saumet says she didn’t plan on being a singer, though her mother, grandmother, cousins and uncles all sang. Bomba just happened when she clicked with Mejía.
A magical aspect seems to put the shimmer in her eye and give Mejía an impeccable ear and innate knack for music. When she is performing, Saumet says she tries to evoke the “magical and almost spiritual touch” that she loves about the indigenous people of her hometown. Her on-stage presence developed and she feeds off of the crowd’s energy; however, it seems like she’s been performing all her life after witnessing the confidence she exudes.

And when she wants to pounce, she goes full-force. On “La Nina Rica,” she mocks the wealthy, self-absorbed girls in Colombian society, calling them out, saying “they don’t die of hunger, they die of bulimia” and, more harshly, “they don’t know what they think because they don’t think.” By the time the chorus comes around, Saumet further distances herself from those girls, singing, “I am a rich girl, I am on the covers of magazines, television. I go out every night, and steal the show. My fans keep growing like water, and to buy is my profession.” The title itself is a double entendre, loosely translating to “the rich little girl” and “the prostitute.”

Bomba Estereo keeps their sound authentic, and Mejía lights up when he talks about recording two instrumental tracks for Blow Up—“Camino Evitar” and “Palenke.” He says, “they are very special to me—I even traveled to a place called Palenque to record with musicians from the local scene.” The location he refers to is a remarkable cultural landmark, recognized for the deep oral history and musical traditions of the escaped Africans who founded the tiny city hundreds of years ago. It’s the last of these walled cities, and no doubt the ancient spirits laced the tunes with good luck.

From the non-stop touring and traveling pace the band is keeping, it does seem like they are playing with magic and bringing to life the sounds of the old Colombian folklore tales. Bomba’s first stateside show was at this year’s SXSW, and Mejía fondly recalls the experience, saying, “SXSW reminded us about the rocker spirit of simply ‘plug and play.’”

Mejía admits that the album “took a lot of time, energy and effort,” and some songs were played live before they were recorded, making them more meaningful for the band. When they go on the road, their sound remains intact and comes alive because they record and tour with the same band. “That’s why the album is so energetic!”

His cinematic approach to music reveals a broad world-view, and the blending of cumbia, champeta, Afro-beats, dancehall and electronica is second nature to his impressionistic mind. Saumet, who tends to add lyrics to his music is another kind of visionary: she mixes colors and styles to create a look that’s all her own. This is a band without handlers and stylists dictating how to nail the next big thing; they are living out the stuff of myth on their own terms.



cd review: helado negro: awe owe
10 October, 2009, 10:18 PM
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Reviewed on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on URB.com
Asthmatic Kitty
4 Stars

Look no further than the title, Awe Owe, for the rundown of what musical storyteller Roberto Carlos Lange is up to. The “Awe” refers to acknowledging the past, and the “Owe” is for everything that’s to come. So, the title reads as “Ah oh.” And the post-listen reaction seems to be Helado Negro’s desired outcome.

With a rotating cast of characters, Helado Negro is a collective with the vocals of Prefuse 73 maestro Guillermo Scott Herren and Bear in Heaven’s Jon Philpot, and Nori Tanaka notably lends a hand on drums, along with Matt Crum and Hason Trammell… the list goes on. Lange helped produce Prefuse 73, he is involved with Savath y Savalas, School of Seven Bells, moonlights as Epstein, and jams in ROM with Crum. Not to judge an album by its cover, but this one has everything going for it.

The soft strumming and whistling of “Dos Suenos” is a dusty-hued ballad. Looping until it just might loose control, “Time Aparts” ushers in Shannon Fields on clarinet and is a starry-eyed frolic. Title track “Awe” is tropical with its percussion and sounds leaves listeners at the seashore. By the time closing track “Deja” arrives, Adrian Michna’s trombone and Fields’ clarinet glimmer atop a fluttering bass.

Helado Negro songs tend to grow out of live or off-the-cuff jam sessions, and the organic leitmotif binds the dual-language album together. Awe Owe is weightless and quixotic; an album to listen to three times straight and still be hungry for more.



cd review: vivian girls: everything goes wrong
10 October, 2009, 10:13 PM
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Reviewed on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on URB.com
In the Red
3 Stars

In a sonic boom of reverb and fury, Vivian Girls offer the follow-up to their 2008 self-titled album with Everything Goes Wrong. While the lyrics remain elusive throughout the album, Cassie Ramone’s howl and the trio’s seemed kill-or-be-killed mentality towards playing make for an engaging listen. Who cares if they are not technical mavens? Needless to say, it’s the ethos of punk to jump right into making a raucous, which is precisely what these Brooklyn-based ladies achieve.

Everything Goes Wrong is not a brazenly experimental album, nor is it rootless and shifting for cohesion. The nuances of their punk-meets-thrash sound belie the few years they’ve been together and the usual hit-or-miss nature of sophomore albums. On “Can’t Get Over You” Ramone ekes out a lament for a former beau, and while the subject is completely familiar, the Girls’ execution is overwhelmingly loaded and welcomed.

They offer short, one-two punch tracks, with the exception of “Out for the Sun” and “Double Vision,” which roll in around four minutes long and hint at what the Girls could produce: epic gems in the post-punk vein with a 21st century girl rock stamp of individualism. Clear influences from The Ramones, The Clash, and The Jesus and Mary Chain are laced into Everything Goes Wrong, and fans of The Raveonettes and My Bloody Valentine will be in good company. The Girls toured with Sonic Youth. Need we say more?



cd review: choir of young believers: this is for the white in your eyes
10 October, 2009, 10:11 PM
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Reviewed on Friday, October 02, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on URB.com
Ghostly
4.5 Stars

This Is for the White in Your Eyes couldn’t come at a more propitious time. Whereas most bands and labels would prefer to release an album in the fall, the Choir of Young Believers deliver an end-of-summer sensation; the album is the last gasp of summer’s warmth and beauty, intimacy and liberation just as the flowers hold on for a few moments before giving way to the changing seasons.

And this is an album that defies time. Jannis Makrigiannis arranges orchestral, ethereal impressions of songs passing in slow motion. The Danish group was nominated for six Grammys in Denmark, and the propensity for excellent music from the Nordic countries swells with this release. Makrigiannis started working on solo material in 2006 in Greece after his former band withered away. Once back in Copenhagen, he planted the seeds for a new collective to flourish on this mournful and majestic album.

“Next Summer,” the first single, is an eloquent serenade until the soaring chorus, Next summer I will return, I’ll be back, I’ll break your heart belies Makrigiannis’ dark desires. Picking up the pace is “Action/Reaction,” a blithe love song in such harmony with its downpour of percussions and voice parts. An innate songwriter, Makrigiannis’ talent shines on introspective tracks like “Claustrophobia,” where he unburdens his soul without weighing down his words. Each track sounds crisp and distinct, the mark of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.

Winner of the “Best New Act” award at the Danish Grammys, Choir of Young Believers’ debut is like summer itself—over too soon, but a tremendous joy.



cd review: a place to bury strangers: exploding head
10 October, 2009, 10:05 PM
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Reviewed on Thursday, October 08, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on URB.com
Mute
4 stars

A Place to Bury Strangers is a worthy challenger to the noise-rock kings of Los Angeles, aka HEALTH. With their second album, Exploding Head, the New York-based trio delivers an experimental album of ambient tones woven together with shoegaze textures with enough force to induce whiplash.

What makes APTBS more than a bunch of kids making ear-splitting jams is their approach: it’s quite clear that Oliver Ackermann is an aesthete and diligently works through the tracks until he achieves a sweet spot amidst all the cacophony. The finesse demonstrated on “Keeping Slipping Away,” “It Is Nothing” and “Deadbeat” goes beyond reiterations of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine or Talking Heads; they have skills and creativity to make their music relevant and standout.

“Ego Death” is the most HEALTH-esque track, fueled by the eerie interplay of brooding lyrics and aggressive instrumentation. Whereas HEALTH is rough around the edges, APTBS is velvety smooth, each track adding to the album’s merits. Exploding Head is a movement deftly capturing atmospheric exuberance.