Justin Strauss shares his take on NYC singer Amy Douglas’ track “Never Saw It Coming.” The original limited release 12” was co-written and produced by Tim Wagner of 33Hz, with two remixes by Sheffield artist Crooked Man. With a five-octave range and a diverse background in performance, ranging from rock to soul to jazz, Douglas’ voice is the heart of the song, lending heightened drama to the steady mechanical funk of Wagner’s production.
Though this is Douglas’ first release on the label, she is no stranger to the DFA roster. She is the voice behind “Happiness,” the epic closing track on Crooked Man’s self-titled 2016 LP, and also appears on Crooked Man’s 2018 album Crooked House. Amy also works with Juan Maclean as one half of Peach Melba, who have released singles on both DFA and Defected / Classic. Most recently, she co-wrote and sung the Horse Meat Disco single, “Let’s Go Dancing.”
Legendary NYC DJ Justin Strauss is a staple of the scene and one half of production duos Whatever/Whatever and a/jus/ted. A longtime friend of DFA, his career as a go-to remixer spans decades, and he has remixed artists as diverse as Blood Orange, Ryuichi Sakamoto, 808 State, Franz Ferdinand, and Depeche Mode. This is his fifth remix for the label.
NYC singer Amy Douglas makes her official DFA debut with “Never Saw It Coming,” a limited release 12” single co-written and produced by Tim Wagner of 33Hz, with two remixes by Sheffield artist Crooked Man. Buy the record here.
With a five-octave range and a diverse background in performance, ranging from rock to soul to jazz, Douglas’ voice is the heart of the song, lending heightened drama to the steady mechanical funk of Wagner’s production. The two remixes by DFA artist Crooked Man let the track grow and build slowly with longer, lush arrangements, while his hypnotic dub doubles down on the woozy bassline and has Amy’s vocals echoing out into the ether.
Though this is Douglas’ first release on the label, she is no stranger to the DFA roster. She is the voice behind “Happiness,” the epic closing track on Crooked Man’s self-titled 2016 LP, and also appears on the forthcoming Crooked Man album, due out on DFA this fall. Amy also works with Juan Maclean as one half of Peach Melba, who have released singles on both DFA and Defected / Classic. Crooked Man’s signature maximalist house sound has always been complemented by the support of strong female vocalists, and together the pair take each other’s work to a new level for an impressive collaboration. Rumor has it they’re currently working on more tracks together…
Lots of artists these days aim to ‘reimagine’ the sounds of disco, house, and soul, but Amy Douglas and Crooked Man are creating something all their own that pulls from the best of times past, while also looking decidedly forward.
Out now on DFA Records.
Guerilla Toss legit flex their new wave influences on new single “Come Up With Me,” both spastic and graceful, like Debbie Harry backed with the jittery energy of Devo. The track is taken from their forthcoming album Twisted Crystal, out worldwide September 14. Preorder here.
Analog synthesizers give tangible life to the works of Guerilla Toss. Whether it be the sound of a rocket ship, a kitten-with-a-wah, distorted dolphins, or a clavichord made out of honey-baked ham, the band consistently finds new ways to bring together the many ideas that combine to shape each new batch of art-rock puzzle pieces.
Twisted Crystal, Guerilla Toss’ new LP, feels more personal than ever for the band. Angular yet irresistibly catchy, this collection of pop songs pulls influence from powerful groups like The Slits, ESG, Gina X, and early Madonna, with sing-speak vocals from Kassie Carlson nodding to legendary artists like Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, and Lizzy Mercier Descloux – combining this all into a twisted, crystalline concoction.
Oracles and enigmatic egos are common lyrical themes, but charismatic instrumentality springs the listener back to extraterrestrial comfort. Old favorite sounds ring true from the trusty Sequential Circuits Six Track Synthesizer and Clavia Drum Machine. New, more refined sounds are molded and polished by drummer/producer Peter Negroponte, whose passion for perfection and creation goes far beyond an all-consuming Tetris effect. Peter has truly excelled on this new recording, creating a complex networks of beats and sound that become easily intertwined with the rhythmic fabric of life.
Raised in a devoutly religious family, vocalist Kassie Carlson started performing at the age of five. She often participated in large pastoral choral performances, as well as her family’s four-part harmony gospel quartet, making her no stranger to the stage. Growing up under the fear of God leaves a distinct footprint on your perception. An omnipresent male dictates not only your present waking life but also the rest of your eternity. Discovering a rock band was more than self-expression for Kassie, it was a manifestation of a self-healing temple, a personal pipeline for power. What better way to part the waters of toxic sludge than a matriarchal shout?
Arian Shafiee, Guerilla Toss’ resident textural-guitar guru, is inspired by aspects of non-Western tuning and extended techniques. He designs moments of dense, glistening, pitch-shifted harmony and measured strumming that link classical impressionism to no-wave and early minimal music. His recent solo work truly comes through on this new record, as he tethers fantastical surreality to noise rock to deconstructed Middle Eastern pop music.
Keyboardist Sam Lisabeth paws the keys with distinct virtuosity and expressive sass. A new member, Stephen Cooper (of the band Cloud Becomes Your Hand), binds the group with an urgent, disciplined, and melodic style. The hypnotic, ostinato-like basslines and up front rhythm tracks guide and grip each song like gravity, keeping the listener from swirling off into the cosmos.
In albums past, Kassie’s performances resembled more of a manic, possessed high priestess; humming at the gates of hell, hacking telepathy and tugging the strings of every audience member. Twisted Crystal goes beyond this familiar darkness, leading us into a rhythmically calming charm with deep wisdom, serenity, and understanding. What is a twisted crystal? And who told you it would heal?
At times the listener wanders through mazes of dizzying, alternately pulsing time signatures, but the roads always bounce, meet and magically snap back together. That meditative groove, both live and in the studio, has become signature for Guerilla Toss, drawing deep influence from 70s krautrock and experimental rock music like Tom Tom Club, Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Neu!, Cluster, Todd Rundgren, and La Dusseldorf.
A constantly evolving, living breathing entity, the band now presents the album Twisted Crystal. Enjoy the same surrealistic, kinetic healing energy of live Guerilla Toss, today in your own home.
“Magic is Easy. Hypnotize yourself well.”
Album image courtesy of Jacob van Loon.
On New Path, their second album for DFA, Montreal electronic duo Essaie pas (Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau) take inspiration from Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly, a dystopian science fiction classic. The album sounds like the book reads – a voyeuristic, druggy, and paranoid narrative of existence in the surveillance state.
“I read the book a long time ago, maybe 15 years ago, and it had a strong impression on me,” explains Pierre. “In our previous work we always looked to music as inspiration in our lives, but this time we felt the desire to try something different, that’s not based on ourselves but on someone else’s universe. It was going to be more conceptual, more political.”
New Path touches on addiction, loss, and the lingering strength of identity within late capitalism’s mass media paranoia. It pins down the central character’s destructive tendencies, using this as a metaphor to explore the dichotomous rupture between our inner lives and our social environment, one that is often fed and soothed by various kinds of dependences.
“I think it touches us on many levels,” Pierre continues. “We can talk about drug addiction issues, we can talk about the mass surveillance world we live in, but there’s also the experience of loss, of grief. I was surprised by how the book felt so modern and accurate to the time we live in right now. Dick’s visions of surveillance are the reality of social control today.”
Essaie pas possess a wiry, experimental take on the more leftfield end of techno music, in the way of pioneers Chris & Cosey and Cabaret Voltaire, as well as newer acts like Fever Ray, Factory Floor, and Helena Hauff. The album trades in hypnotic pads of strings, punctuated by dramatic stabs and sensual rhythmic patterns, with Marie’s tripped-out, pseudo-scientific verbiage further adding to the ambience. The world the duo have created here offers a tangled vision of tomorrow’s aesthetics, a soundtrack stacked with cold music for cold times.
With his Familiar Five EP, London-based producer Marcus Marr has taken his darkest and most thrillingly outré turn yet. Recorded through the long dark nights in the splendid isolation of his Brixton studio, lead single “Familiar Five” is a tale of bizarre transformation that points up the fragile boundaries between dreams and reality.
“Familiar Five” feels like an outsider anthem. “It’s about being a freak and accepting it – being happy to be a freak,” notes Marr. He narrates the song with his finest deadpan lip-curl, managing to make the lyrics sound suggestive, malevolent and wildly empowering all at once. “It was sounding quite sinister as I was making it, and I thought a voice would sound good on it,” recalls Marr. “I was reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kafka’s Metamorphosis as well,” he remembers. Other diverse influences setting the track’s fabulously unnerving tone include Marr’s readings about “familiar spirits” – the occult animals believed to assist medieval witches in their nefarious deeds.
The other songs featured on the Familiar Five EP include “Love Release,” which taps into the energy and live power of his DJ sets; “High Times,” a track that’s influenced by his love of early 80’s dance music (“I was definitely thinking of Nile Rodgers in 1979, 1980, there… I have a bit of a thing for that period at the beginning of the ‘80s before drum machines took control of dance music.”); and previous single “Rocketship.”
Montreal-based electronic duo Essaie pas today release a new single, “Futur parlé,” via DFA Records.
“We’re excited to share our new single ‘Futur parlé’ with you,” say Essaie pas’ Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau. “We decided to conceptualize this one based on Philip K Dick’s work, by paying tribute to his classic novel ‘A Scanner Darkly.’ You will hear Marie’s tripped-out pseudo-scientific verbiage in the spirit of the book’s bleak but humorous dialogs, over hypnotic pads of strings, punctuated by dramatic stabs and sensual rhythmic patterns.”
Directed by Christopher Royal King, the video for ‘Futur parlé’ (premiering today on Clash Magazine) brings this modern interpretation of ‘A Scanner Darkly’ to life, merging rushes of surveillance and drone cameras, abstract digital landscapes, and facial recognition software.
“The realization of ‘post-truth’ in modern times has ultimately blurred the lines of reality and the perception of what is ‘real,'” says King. “The domino effect has created this frenetic, almost post-apocalyptic landscape and I wanted to attempt to create a narrative and world that attempts to capture the paranoia of trying to function and survive in such an environment.”
Dawn People’s The Star Is Your Future is a studio collaboration between New York musicians Nick Forte and Peter Negroponte. The pair’s mutual disregard for musical categorization results in a genre-bending ride on the nine-track LP, which portrays their diverse backgrounds while maintaining a sense of accessibility, continuity, and purpose.
Both veterans of the underground experimental scene, the duo entered into the project preparing to make a serious racket. In time, their mutual appreciation for breezy 70’s jazz fusion, kraut rock, and library funk became apparent, setting the course for the sessions. In the summer of 2016, they started tracking live jams with drums and electronics at the Outlier Inn studio in upstate New York with engineer Josh Druckman. As the tracks took shape, Forte and Druckman arranged the material and Negroponte overdubbed guitar, synthesizer, bass, and percussion. Finally, the tracks were handed to Abe Seiferth for mixing and post production.
Dawn People’s dense, funky, and psychedelic music is the result of the wide range of musical influences of the collaborators. Nick Forte’s resume spans influential hardcore punk band Rorschach, post-punk outfit Beautiful Skin, and recent underground sensation Raspberry Bulbs. With Dawn People, Forte digs deep into his own childhood nostalgia: making mixtapes from the early NYC hip hop show “Rap Attack”, watching Christian Marclay experiment with vinyl on the TV show “Night Flight”, and his first musical instrument, the Casio SK1 sampler keyboard.
Peter Negroponte is a virtuosic drummer and guitarist whose influences are rooted in rock & roll, jazz, funk, fusion, and free improvisation. In reaction to his brief stint at the New England Conservatory, Negroponte sought to transcend what he felt to be an esoteric approach to making “experimental” music by forming the psychedelic-art-rock-noise-funk band Guerilla Toss. He has worked with an array of contemporary DIY labels such as Feeding Tube, NNA Tapes, Digitalis, and John Zorn’s Tzadik.
The sound of this LP harkens back to a time not too long ago, in the early – mid 90’s, with groups like Air, Cornelius, Stereolab, Tortoise, and Cibo Matto. All these artists combined a love of Krautrock & David Axelrod records into a lushly produced jigsaw puzzle of live instrumentation, editing, sampling, and immaculate production. It is a genre that Pitchfork’s Eric Harvey recently described as “recombinant pop”, which is applied to “adventurous, sample-driven and style-copping music”.
The Star Is Your Future shifts aesthetically and dramatically between sections and phrases, woozy in the best way and never unfocused. Together, Forte and Negroponte have cobbled together a dazzling scope of sonic elements to create something cohesive and mesmerizing – put on the record and get lost in the haze.
01 Be Cool Tonight
02 Get Life
03 Inner Refuge
04 Never Be Afraid
06 Wishing Ring
07 Dawn People Rising
08 Chew On Air
09 The Star Is Your Future
“High Times” is the new single from London-based producer and DJ Marcus Marr, due for release October 27 via DFA Records.
A crowd favorite from Marr’s live set, “High Times” channels the electric guitar stylings of Nile Rodgers circa 1979, and makes good use of the producer’s trademark whizzing synths as well as additional vocals from Nandi Bhebhe. “Once I had come up with the guitar parts I then added all the other instruments one by one ‘til I had an arrangement I liked,” Marr says. “I’ve been playing it out for ages and it always works.”
Juan Maclean is a Brooklyn-based DJ and producer who has been a mainstay of the New York club scene, as well as maintaining a rigorous international touring schedule, since the release of his first records on DFA in 2002. After putting out an extensive catalogue of 12” singles and LPs for the label with vocalist Nancy Whang (most recently, 2014’s In A Dream LP, and this year’s 12” single ‘Can You Ever Really Know Somebody’), he returns to the label with ‘The Brighter The Light,’ a deep piano-based club track, augmented by three equally DJ-friendly remixes.
“The Brighter The Light” emerged while Juan waits (somewhat) patiently in Brooklyn for Nancy Whang to return from touring with her ‘side gig,’ LCD Soundsystem. Taking the tiniest splice of a demo vocal and sprinkling it throughout, Juan spun off the work being done for the next LP and created a new piece altogether, offering the smallest glimpse of what is to come, but ending up with something with a completely different purpose: his DJ set.
The remixes are a truly euphoric bunch of tracks, coming from Australia’s Len Liese (yes his remix is Balearic AF), DJ Tennis, (fresh from his fantastic DJ Kicks released in July) and Octo Octa, who contributes her second remix for The Juan Maclean (look up her remix of ‘Here I Am’ from 2014, it’s brilliant).
There are already two more singles being planned (with a similar club-driven purpose) to tide over fans and DJ sets while Juan and Nancy finish work on their fourth LP, to be released in 2018.
CCFX is a new supergroup resulting from a merger between two seminal Olympia, Washington pop outfits: CC Dust and Trans FX. On their debut self-titled EP, artists Chris McDonnell, Maryjane Dunphe and David Jaques join forces for a record that is at once a showcase and an aberration of what is currently coming out of the Pacific Northwest.
Recorded and mixed with local OG Captain Tripps, the EP’s sound partially recalls late 90’s/early 00’s indie pop as chiming, melodic guitar parts counter and complement Maryjane’s emotional vocals. In the same vein of the past few decades’ most beloved hitmakers (both in the clubs as well as on the radio), the music feeds on a sense of nostalgia not necessarily specific to any one time or place – sun-kissed riffs seem to go on forever, supported by a steady breakbeat.
The timbre of the music is warm and just slightly fuzzed out, and the expressive quality of Maryjane’s voice is pushed to the front. Without a clear indication as to how, CCFX have struck that rare balance between heartfelt sincerity and calculated disillusionment that many groups strive for, bearing the mark of a project which is as fearless as it is humble and out there living as big as it wants to be. These four tracks grant listeners access to suppressed and superseded feelings from youth, paired with a strange glint of whatever luxury this epoch’s future might still hold.
FFO Saint Etienne, Q Lazzarus, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, dancing, celebrations, success stories, etc.