Zombie Zombie – Livity

French synth wave / electro trio Zombie Zombie (Etienne Jaumet – synths and saxophone, Cosmic Neman – drums, vocals, and effects, and Dr. Schonberg – percussion, electronics, and trumpet) didn’t want us to walk out of 2017 without dancing, so they’ve brought a new album full of vintage analog synth dance grooves and mood-changing tracks on their new album Livity.

The title track alone is worth the purchase price.  The title refers to a Rastafarian term for “life force.”  It’s almost nine minutes of head-bopping beats, haunting synth bass, and synths that are straight out of your 1980’s dreams.  Put this in your earbuds and your perception of the world around you will shift.  “Ils Existent” moves along with hypnotizing sci-fi synth loops until Neman’s wicked drum licks almost turn the song into an action movie theme.  The percussion on “Hippocampe” is so damn good it might make you lose your mind.  Jaumet’s synths build and build to wind you up and the whole song morphs into a cosmic journey around the 2:40 mark.

Zombie Zombie were the highlight of Levitation Austin 2015 for my wife and I, and the funky, acid jazzy “Looose” is an example of why that was the case. “When you have nothing to lose, it gets groovier,” Neman sings as his drums seem to fall off their kit in the chaos of the song.  “Acera” gets us back to the sci-fi themes of the album with spaceship dance club beats and alien menace buzzes and bleeps.

“Heavy Meditation” would’ve fit in perfectly on the Blade Runner 2049 score.  It’s perfect for scoring some soba noodle soup in a rainy downtown future L.A. while flirting with a replicant prostitute.  The closer “Lune Noire” is a dark, simulated rainy night on a lonely space station near a fading super nova encapsulated into a 4:52 song.

Livity is one of the best electro albums of the year.  It’s especially impressive when you consider the seven tracks were recorded live in just seven days.  Zombie Zombie continues to explore new ground in the synth world an experiment with sounds you don’t seem to have heard before now.  Get into this groove and live.

Keep your mind open.

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Live: Gary Numan and Me Not You – Chicago, IL – November 29, 2017

I hadn’t seen electro / industrial legend Gary Numan live for many years.  His new album, Savage, is getting rave reviews and debuted as high as #2 in the U.K.  His live shows are loud, dazzling, and impressive affairs, and his November 29th show at Chicago’s Thalia Hall was no exception.

Opening for him were the Brooklyn quartet Me Not You, who put on a nice set of shoegaze and synth-rock.  I’d like to hear more of their material.  Unfortunately, I missed part of their set due to getting a phone call from work that I had to take.

Me Not You

Numan and his four-man band came out and immediately kicked down the back wall with a blast of industrial rock on “Ghost Nation” – the lead track from the new record.  Upon hearing it, I immediately thought, “Yeah, I need to get this record.”

“Ghost Nation”

Although he’s not much for nostalgia, Numan delivered a great version of “Metal” right afterwards.  He had the crowd in his hand by this point, and it was only the second song.  Other solid cuts from the new record were “Bed of Thorns,” “Mercy,” “Pray for the Pain You Serve,” “My Name Is Ruin,” and “When the World Comes Apart.”

Gary Numan might be a Green Lantern. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, really.

“Down in the Park,” of course, remains one of the best electro-goth songs ever, and Numan’s path down more industrial roads puts a new spin on a lot of his classic material.  He has the bass brought up on “Cars” to make it almost a metal track, for example.  “Love Hurt Bleed,” from his Splinter album, is a new highlight to his show.  It’s everything Trent Reznor owes Numan in one song.

Perhaps Mr. Numan is actually a herald of Galactus. I’d believe that, too.
“Cars”

He performed “M.E.” and “Are Friends Electric?” for an encore.  Both were stunning, especially “Are Friend Electric?” – which is the greatest song Phillip K. Dick never wrote.

“Are Friends Electric?”

This was easily one of the best performances I’ve seen all year.  The crowd was a fun mix of aging hipsters like yours truly, young industrial fans, old punks, metal heads, and goths.  I know this makes me sound old, but it was great to see people younger than I having a great time at the show.  It ensures me that Numan’s music will continue through new generations of fans.  Don’t miss this tour if it gets close to you.

Thanks to the lucky lady who scored this set list for letting me take a photo of it.

Keep your mind open.

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Moby gives away four hours of ambient music.

In an effort to calm everyone down, including himself, DJ / author / producer Moby has created four hours of ambient music to help you sleep, meditate, practice your yoga, or just do nothing.  Even better, he’s giving all it away for free.

You can download the music from his WeTransfer website for no cost whatsoever.  Most of the pieces are between 20 and 30 minutes in length and are perfect for a sitting meditation session or just to chill out while you’re on the train or on a long flight.

His WeTransfer site says there’s no delete date on the files, but get it while you can.  You might need it to survive the holidays.

Keep your mind open.

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Live: Flying Lotus – Chicago, IL – November 14, 2017

I wanted to see Flying Lotus‘ 3-D show since I saw it without 3-D glasses at Mamby on the Beach earlier this year.  He put on an impressive set there, so I figured one in an enclosed venue like Chicago’s Riviera Theatre would be a good time.

It was, albeit the place was packed once you got past the bar in the main theatre because everyone wanted the best spot to see the visual spectacle.  It was indeed impressive, and I sure a wild trip if you were high during the thing.  A guy next to my friend and I snapped at her when he thought she had been staring at him every time she turned around to talk to me.  We explained that he had misread all of it and nothing was intentional.  As my friend told me later, “If you can’t handle your fucking drugs, don’t come to a Flying Lotus show.”

He put on a good set, spinning in some stuff he did with Thundercat along the way.  That was a big hit with the crowd.  The visuals were mostly different from the ones at his Mamby set.  Some of the best were a “Flying Lotus” logo that seemed to push from the screen to above the crowd and a floating woman’s head that would curl out from the screen like a snake.  It probably gave some chemically altered folks nightmares.

Just a floating wheel made of human limbs. Nothing to worry about.

Go see this tour if you’re able.  It’s worth it for the visual feast, and Flying Lotus is one of the best experimental artists out there right now.  His future is bright if he’s already doing stuff like this.

Keep your mind open.

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Loma release haunting “Black Willow” from upcoming debut.

LOMA, NEW PROJECT BY SHEARWATER’S JONATHAN MEIBURG AND CROSS RECORD, ANNOUNCE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM, OUT FEBRUARY 16TH ON SUB POP

WATCH VIDEO FOR LEAD SINGLE, “BLACK WILLOW”
https://youtu.be/u4yA8zM0ifY

Photo Credit: Bryan C. Parker
Loma, the new project comprised of Jonathan Meiburg, best known as the singer of Shearwater, and Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski of Cross Record, will release their self-titled debut album on February 16th via Sub Pop. A product of a joint pilgrimage around the globe by fellow touring musicians, it’s a beautifully detailed and emotionally rich album that reveals a band obsessed with songs as sound. Today, the trio presents the video for the album’s final song and lead single, “Black Willow.”

Meiburg, Duszynski and Cross became friends when Cross Record, on their first-ever tour, supported Shearwater throughout America and Europe in 2016. “I couldn’t believe all that sound was coming out of two people,” Meiburg says. “They were mesmerizing.”  In the van or at soundchecks, they shared their musical knowledge and love of nature and animals, and after an especially memorable show in Belgium, Meiburg approached Cross and Duszynski about working together. “I fell in love with their music,” he admits, “and I wanted to know how they did it.”

The trio convened in a house in the Texas hill country to see what would happen, and quickly realized an album was imminent. “There was something powerful about the combination of the three of us,” Meiburg says, “and very different from either of our bands. But I think we were afraid to say so out loud, for fear of jinxing it.” For the next few months, Loma met for two weeks at a time, shaping and revising new songs and casting others away.

It was also a strangely charged time. When the album began, Cross and Duszynski were a married couple, but their relationship ended during the sessions—an atmosphere Meiburg found both challenging and inspiring—and the isolated house became the album’s muse. Dogs wanderered by the microphones; the sounds of birds and wind in junipers and live oaks hovered at the borders of the songs, and a close listen reveals cicadas and frogs from a nearby stream. Except for Cross’s translucent voice in the foreground, there were no assigned roles on the album; each member of the trio played every instrument as needed.

This feeling of freedom let buried energies find expression. Cross wrung catharsis from Meiburg’s lyrics and melodies, while Duszynski immersed himself in the sonic details of engineering and mixing. In the end, the record became a document of an urgent and ephemeral place and time, and the strength that comes with letting go of something precious. It closes, fittingly, with the subtly defiant marching anthem of “Black Willow,” in which Cross’s voice, backed by a hypnotic bass and drums, offers a lesson in survival. “When I walk,” she sings, “I carry a diamond blade.” She means it.

Loma is now available for preorder from Sub Pop and select independent retailers [http://smarturl.it/loma]. North American preorders of the limited Loser edition will be available on clear vinyl with red and black swirlies (while supplies last). A new T-shirt design will also be available.
Watch Loma’s “Black Willow” Video –
https://youtu.be/u4yA8zM0ifY

Loma Tracklist:
1. Who Is Speaking?
2. Dark Oscillations
3. Joy
4. I Don’t Want Children
5. Relay Runner
6. White Glass
7. Sundogs
8. Jornada
9. Shadow Relief
10. Black Willow

Pre-order Loma
http://smarturl.it/loma

Com Truise – Iteration

Electronic music comes in many forms, and Com Truise’s new record, Iteration, falls somewhere between electro-pop, space lounge, and avant-garde.

The opening track, “…Of Your Fake Dimension” is dark synthwave that would easily fit into the Stranger Things 2 soundtrack with its Joy Division guitars and throbbing bass line. “Ephemeron” refers either to something short-lived or, according to Wikipedia, “a data structure that solves two related problems in garbage collected systems.” I’m willing to believe the title refers more to the latter from the way the songs devolves into distorted, warped, and subdued electronic bleeps and the beat slows to a creepy crawl.

There isn’t a Wikipedia entry for “Dryswch,” but that’s probably because the song is hard to describe (much like the rest of the album). It like something the Art of Noise would have created if they’d stayed in the game a bit longer. “Isotasy” refers to the gravity between the Earth’s crust and the mantle. It’s a neat choice of title because the track floats along with spacey synthesizer sounds, but there’s a subtle heaviness to it that’s easy to miss. “Memory” is practically a lost cut from the Miami Vice soundtrack and deserves to be spun at dance clubs everywhere.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “Propagation” and “Vaccume” are songs Com Truise (AKA Seth Haley) yanked from a milk bar jukebox in the future after they stepped out of the Time Tunnel. “Ternary” (“composed of three items”) is a trio of drum machine beats, synth loops, and trippy keyboards. It’s all he needs to make one of the best synthwave tracks of the year. “Usurper” has some similar keyboard sounds in it, which is appropriate for the title and how it take the previous track’s themes in a new direction.

“Syrthio” is almost a salute to John Carpenter film scores with its foreboding bass and Escape from New York synthesizer work. The title of “When Will You Find the Limit…” doesn’t end with a question mark. Either Com Truise doesn’t want to finish the question, or he thinks it’s best if we finish it. It’s one of the peppier tracks on the album, and even has a bit of New Age keyboard sounds in it. The title track is the closer, and it refers to new hardware or the repetition of a process. Much of the album is made of loops and processed beats, so the choice of title is a good one. Synthwave is enjoying a renaissance right now and Iteration is a good example of the genre’s comeback.

Keep your mind open.

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Live: LCD Soundsystem – Chicago, IL – November 09, 2017

We got to Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom not long after they opened the doors for the second of three sold-out shows for LCD Soundsystem.  We were hungry and hoped to grab a bite before the show.  I asked a bouncer outside when LCDSS would start their set.  “Nine, I think,” he said.  “There’s a DJ opening, I think.”  We went to a nearby Thai restaurant, had a nice meal, and then headed to the show to line up around the corner of the building and nearby some vendors selling street tacos that smelled delicious.  We got in without trouble, although one bouncer thought my earplugs were pills for a moment, and went upstairs to the main floor.  The DJ was spinning a remix of the Police‘s “Voices Inside My Head” as we moved up toward front stage left.

The DJ, it turns out, was Derrick Carter – one of Chicago’s most legendary DJ’s and a pioneer of Chicago house music.  He’s spun all over the world and was putting down a solid set that no one in our area seemed to notice.  The bouncer outside and the Aragon Ballroom massively undersold this.  Carter’s name should’ve been on the marquis under LCDSS.  It was a wonderful surprise and we would’ve come up extra early to catch his whole set if we’d known he was going to be on the bill.

LCDSS shot out of the gate at almost exactly nine o’clock with “Get Innocuous.”  The whole place was jumping and then went positively nuts when light bounced off LCDSS’ massive disco ball above the stage.

The moment before Murphy announced Daft Punk was playing in his basement.

Not ones to rest soon, they followed it with their mega-hit “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House” and the electro classic “I Can Change.”  The band was cooking with gas for the whole set, and were obviously healthier than when I saw them at Pitchfork Music Festival earlier this year when lead singer James Murphy openly spoke about getting over a cold and keyboardist Nancy Whang having “a bum knee.”

“I Can Change”

“Trials and Tribulations” was another crowd favorite and is one of those songs that sounds even better live.  The crowd disappointed me when no mosh pit broke out during “Movement” (as it rightfully did at Pitchfork).  In fact, the crowd was a bit subdued compared to the Pitchfork crowd.  I don’t know if the outdoor venue and nice weather of Pitchfork made everyone a bit looser, but many around us at the Aragon weren’t even dancing.  “Tonite,” one of the best singles of 2017, was another sharp cut and I was happy to hear it live for the first time.

“Tonite”

After taking a break “to go pee,” as Murphy put it (“It’s hard.  A two-hour show.  You know, you get older, you have to pee,” he announced before they played a great rendition of “New York I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down.”), they came back onstage to play “Oh Baby,” the lead cut from their excellent new record, American Dream.  They followed it with another track off the new record and one that should’ve inspired the second mosh pit of the night – “Emotional Haircut.”

“Dance Yrself Clean” still ranks among the greatest of their hits and is easily one of the best parts of their live performances.  They closed with “All My Friends” and Murphy wished everyone a safe trip home.

All of Murphy’s friends were in the audience, it seemed.

It was good to see them again and good to see them all healthy.  LCDSS have become one of those bands I will see at any opportunity, as should you.

Keep your mind open.

Thanks to the lucky chap who scored this and let me take a photo of it.

 

Bootblacks – Fragments

Brooklyn’s Bootblacks (Alli Gorman – guitars, Barrett Hiatt – synthesizers, Roger Humanbeing – drums, Panther MacDonald – lead vocals), play an interesting mix of post-punk, shoegaze, goth, and synthwave, and their new album, Fragments, is a showcase on how well they float between those genres.

Lead track “Hold & Dissolve” instantly plunges you into creepy synthwave with a good mix of live and processed beats.  It reminds me of some of A Place to Bury Strangers‘ tracks, but with vocals that sound more like Peter Murphy than Oliver Ackermann.  “The Longest Night” seems to be a song about the first night after MacDonald’s lover walked out on him.  Hiatt’s synth work on it blends so well with Gorman’s guitar riffs that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart.

If there’s any justice in the world, “Memory Palace” is currently tearing up goth and industrial night clubs throughout New York City and will soon be catching on across the country.  It’s like a Joy Division track if they had decided to be a dance band.  “Sudden Moves” is a journey down a wet road under a gray sky with occasional bursts of sunlight through the clouds (mainly from Hiatt’s synths).  “A Pale Fire” is a fast, almost poppy electro track, and “Reincarnate” is something that could be spun by a replicant Los Angeles dance club DJ in 2049.  I like how Gorman knows when to fade back and let the synths take the lead and when to step back up and shred.  She’s quickly becoming one of my new favorite guitarists.

“For You (Lois)” might be a love letter to Lois, or it might be an ode to Lois, or it might be a cynical takedown of Lois.  I’m not sure, but it is a cool cold wave track.  The closer, “Gone,” has definite Depeche Mode influences (especially in MacDonald’s vocal stylings) and synths that sound like something from a rare krautrock single.

My thanks to Bootblacks’ label, Manic Depression Records, for letting me know about this band.  They weren’t on my radar until MDR contacted me.  I’m glad they did because this is one of the most interesting finds of the year for me.

Keep your mind open.

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Yumi Zouma – Willowbank

Electro-pop quartet Yumi Zouma‘s new album, “Willowbank,” is a delightful breeze blowing across the first nice day of spring, a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, a romp through dry leaves in the fall, or the first clean snowfall of winter – take your pick.  It’s a delight.

“Depths (Pt. 1)” gets off to a snappy start with a toe-tapping beat and bouncy vocals, and the follow-up, “Persephone,” is about as perfect of an electro-pop song you’ll hear this year.

The Cure-like bass of “December” will get you moving, even if you’re seated.  “Half Hour” is a pretty love song with subtle percussion and synths and excellent use of male-female vocals during the chorus.  The beats on “Us, Together” remind me of early 1980’s New Order tracks, but the guitar is straight-up shoegaze.

“Gabriel” might be a song about having a crush on a ghost.  I’m not sure, but it is pretty dream-pop nonetheless.  “Carnation” is one of the sexiest songs on the record with lyrics about staying in bed all day and letting the world go by without a care except for each other.

The beats on “In Blue” are so slick that you might fall down when they spill out of your speakers and onto the floor.  They’re dance floor-ready on “Other People,” which is about thinking twice before and after a break-up (“Took it hard when I sent you out to sea.  I think I love you, but I could be wrong.”).

The synth bass on “A Memory” is the soundtrack of your favorite 1980’s video game you played once at a cousin’s house and could never find after that.  “Ostra” has a light soul / R&B vibe to it that I love.

The album ends with “Depths (Pt. II),” a song about how love changes as we grow older, uses many of the same lyrics as the first part but now at a slower, more ethereal pace.

Get this record if you need a break from anger, online rants, or work B.S., or even if you just love dream-pop and shoegaze music.  It’s one of the loveliest records of the year.

Keep your mind open.

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