RubbleBucket – Omega Lala

27 04 2011

In spite of the lack of income for artists, everyone loves free music. For budding stars eager to increase their listenership, releasing music for free download is an excellent way to get their sound out there, but when artists drop an entire album, us poor fans nearly weep with joy. Finally, a chance to get something legally without paying!

Unfortunately, all too often musicians release music for free because, well, the music itself is nothing more than mediocre. So when Brooklyn-based Rubblebucket released their sophomore album Omega La La in just such a fashion a few weeks ago, I was understandably apprehensive at first.

To my great surprise, however, from the very first track, Rubblebucket’s clever rhythms, simple yet catchy hooks, beautifully layered vocals and instrumental harmonics hit my ears causing bubbly audial excitement deep within my inner ear.

An epic, 10 person motley crew headed up by the vocal/saxophonic musings of Kalmia Traver and excited trumpeteer Alex Toth, Rubblebucket brings jiggly, giddy boppiness with every track on this album, whose physical release date is slated for June 7th, yet they still avoid the common pitfall in this genre of sounding just “too cute.”

Omega La La plays like a soundtrack to a warm Spring day in Prospect Park. Listening to “Came Out of a Lady” I can just envision Traver and Toth leading their rag tag marching band through the park, with streamer-girls and tambourine-accompanists following in their wake, lightening the moods of all those Park Slope moms and their unruly kids on a breezy Sunday afternoon.

But then there are the slower songs of the album, however few they are, which come out hit or miss. “Raining” tells a pensive story of distant attraction and curiosity over some very clever instrumentation, complete with arpeggios and melodic breaks. Similarly, “Breatherz (Young as Clouds)” soars through the sonic sky like a digilectric albatross, even despite the nearly nonsensical lyrics.

But then we come to the lengthy “Lifted/Weak Arms,” and Rubblebucket’s heretofore hiptastic groove bottoms out into a cacaphonic disarray of strange, sleepy monotony and uncomfortable dissonance. I’m really not too sure what the purpose of this song is, even the masterful production from Eric Broucek (LCD Soundsystem, !!!, Holy Ghost) can’t seem to save this track from the pit of failed experimentation. It just doesn’t fit right with the theme of the album. Thankfully, it only takes up six minutes of the listening experience, so it could be worse.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed by this little “pre-“release.  It is fresh, creative, uplifting and just plain fun to listen to.  Great work, Rubblebucket, I hope this album gets you paper, even though you’re giving it away for free. 92%, A-

Download Rubblebucket – Omega La La Here


Appointment #1: Charlene Kaye & Matt Jones @ Caponegro Urological Associates [RECAP]

11 04 2011

urology |yoŏˈräləjē|


the branch of medicine and physiology concerned with the function and disorders of the urinary system.


When I caught wind of this show, a small acoustic set in a quiet little Polish-dominated neighborhood in Queens known as Ridgewood, I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that the show featured vegetarian chili, mulled bourbon cider and two of my favorite up-and-coming Michigan-bred singer-songwriters, Charlene Kaye and Matt Jones.  The venue, billed as the Caponegro Urological Associates, gave me nothing beyond a simple wordpress site billing the show to go by, and so my expectations were correspondingly vague.  Was this actually a doctor’s office?  How does the smell of hipsters mingle with that of formaldehyde and ether?  Would they be able to help me with this uncomfortable burning sensation while I was there?

Surprisingly, at first to my chagrin but quickly dissolving into ecstatic jubilation, when we walked in to the Caponegro offices they turned out to be no doctors’ offices at all, but rather the aforementioned converted into a lovely little apartment.  Arriving a little late, we encountered many a 20-something sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, sipping on cider and enjoying an amplification-less acoustic performance from Charlene.  The walls were adorned with a mixture of Ridgewood history and Michigan imagery, and I suddenly realized that I had walked into a good old-fashioned house show, just the performers, the audience, libations and food.

Upon further investigation, we soon realized that much of the furnishings were left-over from the actual Urology offices; old, white, metal cabinets filled with old-timey, Queens-centric trinkets, black-and-white illustrations of vistas and buildings from days of yore, complete with a couple boxes of unused catheters.  Venturing into the kitchen, Urology and Queens quickly gave way to Michigan-centric adornments: historical maps, license plates, catch phrases (“Ypsilanti, a cool city!”) and the like.  Bubbling on the stove were pots filled with cider and chili, and on the counters lay the whiskey, a growler full of Carlo Rossi sangria, a couple cans of PBR and, the crowning surprise, a beautiful pastel blue and white ice cream cake.  All of a sudden I felt like I was back in the Mitten, hanging out at some friend’s house with other friends listening to more friends’ music.  But all we had to do was hop on the M train!  How fantastic!

Charlene’s performance was a wonderful little slice of beauty.  As she strummed through many songs both old and new, covered and original, Charlene’s angelic voice soared over the small room, through the ears of all the youngsters who managed to find their way here, infecting them all with a sense of peace, love and tranquility that one can only find in such an intimate setting.  At one point, Charlene remarked at how great it is to play shows like this, as compared to the bigger venues that have come along with her rising status in the music world, and I couldn’t agree more.  Accompanying Charlene was the lovely Megan Cox on violin and melodica, effortlessly producing beautiful harmonies and counter-melodies to support Charlene’s songs.  Even though I missed the first part of her performance, hearing Charlene after such a long personal hiatus (How long as it been?  Four years?) in such an intimate setting caused my skin to tingle and my heart to soar.  How wonderful!

After a short break to refill glasses, grab some grub and take advantage of the aptly-labeled “lavatory,” Ypsilanti’s own Matt Jones took the stage, flanked by the amazingly-talented Colette Alexander on cello and the gifted Misty Lyn, providing stunning vocal harmonies.  Off the heels of Charlene’s set, Matt’s performance brought a surprising amount of energy into the room for an acoustic performance, largely thanks to Colette’s highly-emotive chopping motions on her instrument.  After only a couple songs, Matt and his crew got the audience clapping, stomping and humming along.  Maybe the cider and sangria had kicked in, but when shows are this intimate, the energy of the performer and that of the audience basically become one, and Matt’s energy was obviously exciting.  We were getting into it so much that, after a fair but unsatisfying number of songs there came a loud banging on the pipes… apparently the neighbors were not amused.  The decision was made to cut the performance short, but apparently not short enough for the folks upstairs, because as we were leaving the 5-0 had pulled up and were questioning our lovely hosts at Caponegro.  I didn’t stay to see the outcome, but the small party—little more than 20 people were in attendance—was basically over anyways, so I’m sure those cops were lenient enough.

In the end, I was extremely glad to have made the trek up to Ridgewood for this little show.  The chance to catch up with old friends and listen to some heartfelt and sincere music from some seriously talented musicians was enough to satisfy my craving, but the unexpected meeting of fellow Michiganders and the familiar decor on the walls provided an amazing sense of comfort and belonging, and even if it was just for a couple of hours, my longing for the Mitten was gone and I felt like I had come home.  Thank you, Caponegro, I look forward to any more chances you may be able to offer to hang in your humble abode.

Charlene Kaye Official Website
Matt Jones on Myspace

The Squeezebox: James Blake – James Blake (2011)

5 03 2011

How ’bout that dubstep?  Popular with British clubheads since the late 90s, dubstep’s head-nodding, syncopated beats and complex percussive arrangements have provided a very chill, cerebral alternative to the house/techno standards common in British club for quite some time.  But its spacey nature, instrumental focus and fixation on the club environment have limited dubstep’s popularity to its own small niche market, just waiting for someone to break it open into the mainstream psyche.  Last year, James Blake began that process with his series of EPs, The Bells Sketch, CYMK, and Klavierwerke, a collection of some of the most innovative dubstep to be released last year.  The title track off CYMK, a groovy slice of dubstep-pie featuring heady vocal samples, sliced, diced and pushed through effects boxes like a garlic press, received plenty of acclaim and airplay, ranking highly on several “songs of the year” lists and helping the 3-EP set reach #8 on Pitchfork’s top albums of the year.  But even with all this critical acclaim, it was still just dubstep, and as cool as it was, as pumped as the electronic music scene was about it, it was still a niche sound, not quite ready for the mainstream.

But then, in November, James Blake dropped a bombshell with his single “Limit to Your Love,” a cover originally recorded by Feist off her 2007 album The Reminder.  The song starts with an immediate surprise to those who were expecting more dubstep: no effects, no samples, nothing but a piano and Blake’s voice, crooning like he was born for it.  As the song develops, it picks up some barebones percussive instrumentation and some great supportive vocal harmonics, but through the whole thing it retains that slow, swaying, narcotic vibe, shocking anyone who expected more beats and bumps and adding a whole new facet to Blake’s cache of musical skills.  Critics were left dumbfounded, wondering how he would use this previously cloaked vocal prowess in his upcoming album.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh Fish: J-Live – No Time To Waste (2011)

14 02 2011

Immenent NYC Hip Hop guru J-Live kicked off the new year last month with the release of his latest single, “No Time to Waste,” produced by classic D.I.T.C. DJ Diamond D and featured on J-Live’s upcoming album, SPTA Said Person of That Ability.  As has come to be expected from this crew, Diamond D keeps the sound fresh and tight, with some well placed piano trills, string-ensemble-driven harmonics and, it goes without saying, smooth, smart and relevant rhymes with a sense of urgency and necessity.  It’s almost as if J-Live isn’t rhyming because he wants to, but because he needs to.  These words must be heard, y’all, and who else can spit them better?

Reading the liner notes on the Bandcamp page, though, I came across production credits that mention a Triple Threat production studio in Atlanta… what?  Are D.I.T.C. and Triple Threat not NYC-based?  Is this a sign that J-Live is expanding his record label to the Dirty South?  After much sleuthing and investigation all over the internet, I still have come up with nothing.  This question thus remains a mystery, and until J-Live answers it himself, it looks like we’ll all be sitting in the dark, wondering what that ATL tag means…


The Squeezebox: Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine (2011)

10 02 2011

When Chaz Bundick, aka Toro y Moi, released Causers [of This] last year, he rocked the chillwave scene with a clever mixture of airy, echoey vocal harmonics and downtempo, wistful electronic accompaniment.  Just listening was enough to send you into a hazey, hallucinogenic dream state.  It’s a trip, no chemical additives necessary.  So when I found out this Colombia, SC-bred enigma put up his newest LP, Underneath The Pine online for free streaming a good two weeks before its February 22nd release date, I grabbed my favorite blankey and a big cup of hot chocolate, hit play and prepared myself for what was sure to be another wild trip through the senses.

Just ten seconds into track one I had to pause.  What happened to all the electronic beats?  What are all these sounds, so natural and ethereal?  Is that a harp?  Bongos?  Where’s the Korg?  Is this the same guy?  Mr. Bundick, what have you done?

It’s okay, I told myself, it’s just the beginning.  Track two will be more predictable, I’m sure.  So I start listening.  The vocal qualities are the same, so it’s definitely the same guy, but the instrumentation is much more organic, malleable, natural.  And this new groove permeates the entire album.  Sure, there’s still plenty of synths and effects, but the addition of live guitars, bass and drums, along with plenty of other interesting instruments, gives it a much more accessible, down-to-earth feel.  If Causers was conceived in Bundick’s hazey, techno-nerd basement bachelor pad, Underneath the Pine came from his back yard, among the bright clouds and sturdy trees.

From start to finish, Underneath the Pine brings a fresh, exciting new aspect to Toro y Moi‘s musical repertoire; a natural, traditional style of musical composition that compliments fantastically his previous, more electronic sound.  Bundick has proven to us that he is a talented multi-instrumentalist who can meld and shape any instrument, digital, analog or otherwise, to fit his personal stylistic vision.  So go ahead and grab your own blankey and hot cocoa, hit that play button and enjoy.

–87% travlife

Urban Outfitters 1st Listen – Toro y Moi

Balafonic Music Podcast Episode 1: Seanzee

25 01 2011

After much toil and anticipation, we at Balafonic present to you our very first audio podcast!  This episode features budding Grand Rapids-based Hip Hop producer Seanzee.  Take a listen to hear us talk all about Seanzee’s history, influences, process, future dreams and more.  Not to mention a hefty serving of Seanzee’s best beats.  Enjoy our rantings!

Click the little down arrow below on the right to grab the mp3.

DISCLAIMER:  The interview for this podcast was recorded on a macbook built-in microphone, and as such lacks a fair amount of audial quality.  Nevertheless, the conversation is still audible and more or less intelligible, and rest assured that in the future we will be recording with much more professional equipment.  More to come, get excited!

The Squeezebox: Mux Mool – Drum EP 2

24 01 2011

So you like electronic music.  Video game bleeps, boom-claps and synths.  You enjoy dancing like a fool in your room to music that could evacuate a dancefloor with its weirdness.  You spend your days holed away playing with pirated copies of Fruity Loops, Cakewalk and Ableton Live.  You’re a beat junkie, and you love it.  Fear not, young pilgrim, for the Balafonic Crew is right by your side, freaking with the best of ’em.

So what’s bumping on the speakers this morning?  Why, if it isn’t Brooklyn-based Big Beat Electro-Hip Hop-Nerd Mux Mool, with his Drum EP 2, released last Friday and available online by donation only.  I love concept albums for their overarching themes.  So many albums out there today are just collections of songs that a band made, but with concept albums there is a larger narrative, a flow between tracks and throughout the album that gets me giddy, even if some of the individual tracks aren’t that hot.

And so it is with Drum EP 2, in which Mux Mool presents us with six songs he produced entirely while riding on airplanes.  As to be expected with an airplane album, Drum EP 2 is appropriately dreamy and introspection-inducing.  I can feel the stale air, the loud whirs and hums of the air conditioner, the sterile attendants and crying babies.  Please keep your tray tables in their upright and locked positions.

But Mux himself says it best when describing why he made this EP on Soundcloud:  “traveling in general can be rather soul sucking if you don’t properly prepare yourself. So this is an exercise in trying to remain inspired and present at a time when there is only frustration and anxiety and crying babies and snoring people and bad smells and stale air and delays and loneliness all around you.”

We can see then, that out of the most uninspiring, oppressive and ugly situations it is possible to still find inspiration, to create beauty and to appreciate soul.  Thanks for this little diddy, Mux, can’t wait for more.


Pick up your copy of Drum EP 2 over at Moodgadget

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