As much as we try to impose impose order on our monthly music roundups here at Laid Off NYC, the law of entropy eventually takes over and the blurbs take on a life of their own. This lunar cycle, we've got a whopping 19 of 'em, which led to more sleepless nights nights for the two Raphaels, tears in our typing pool as we hammered out last-minute edits in the small hours of the morning.
Our roundup begins with the introduction of another revolutionary blurb style (read last month's blurb by text conversation): the serial blurb. Those readers intrepid enough to scroll through our entire list will be treated to the tale of "Homer Ribeiro, music critic extrordinaire" as imagined by our own Rapha Grumser. (Those less intrepid can just Command + F the Roman numerals to choose their own reading adventure.)
Our Favorite Songs list is a democratic one: This month, we've got blurbs about ecstasy, blurbs about depression, blurbs about fucking; blurbs about happy music, sad music, good music, funny music, and songs like Bo Burnham in them (also and in addition to those other kinds of music).
We like to joke around here at Laid Off NYC, but we also take these blurbs seriously, and I want to take this time out to thank all of our contributors, who give us the fruits of their unpaid creative labor for the love of the game; our small but loyal readership, without whom we'd be nothing; and most of all our staff, who give up hours of their free time every week to keep this ship afloat.
Homer Ribeiro, music critic extraordinaire. Homer Ribeiro, of dubious origin: part Anglo, part Luso, wholly classic. Homer Ribeiro, tortured genius without the talent.
Homer Ribeiro’s grade school music teacher quit after hearing him play the recorder. He cannot tap a rhythm or hum a melody, but all day long he hears beautiful music in his head. His tragedy is one of quiet travesties; he exists in the halfway space between self-knowing irony and loveable naiveté, as if his creator was having a laugh while writing him into existence.
At 2 AM, Homer is in the kitchen, listening to Tana Quartet’s recording of Philip Glass’s second string quartet. His eyes tear as he chops onions carefully for a mirepoix that will become the base of his late-night lentil stew. His mouth waters as he listens to Tana’s rendition of Glass’s composition, originally written in 1983 for a stage adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s 1979 novella, Company. The stage adaptation was scrapped and the music extracted, and now it is performed by string quartets across the globe. “A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine,” Beckett writes.
Homer has perused through Beckett’s novella and has the general gist of it: alone, on your back in the dark, a voice, many voices, etc. To be frank, Homer can’t stand late Beckett and finds it, well, a bit too Becketty. Like a parody of Beckett. The image that comes to Homer’s mind is of an old tawny cat that vomits, eats the vomit, regurgitates, eats again, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Nevertheless, he does his due diligence; If he is to review Tana Quartet’s recording of Glass’s piece, he’d better damn well get acquainted with the Beckett novella. But it is late and Homer takes what he needs from Company: loneliness, voices, darkness. It is true, he thinks: These qualities characterize Glass’s piece, its four movements written in the same minor key at two alternating tempos—like a still-life of a chopped onion from four vantage points. Knives and watery eyes.
It is now 3 AM and Homer has finished preparing his stew. He sits down at his laptop with a bowl of the steaming lentils closeby, ready to write about the Tana Quartet—founded in 2010 by violinists Antoine Maisonhaute and Ivan Lebrun, with violist Julie Michael and cellist Jeanne Maisonhaute, and hailed by The Guardian as “impeccable players” who have committed themselves to the task of promoting new and contemporary music. Homer raises heaping spoonfuls of the soupy, oniony sludge to his mouth as he scans the quartet’s press release. “They have been crucial advocates for the saturist movement,” he reads. Homer’s hand slips and his bowl of early morning slop pours definitively onto his laptop. He looks down: The keyboard is saturated with steaming lentils. He looks up: The screen goes black, then poltergeist white. Homer is alone. —Rapha Grumser
Stream and purchase “String Quartet No.2 (Company)” here.
June was a good month for deep cuts. The 1:39 runtime of “MUGU” makes it a minor track on Black Metal 2, which will ultimately be considered a minor entry in Dean Blunt’s catalog. And yet, it’s also the smoothest track on Blunt’s smoothest album to date. Like the record it belongs to, it’s deceptively discrete; it’s slippery exterior leaves little to latch onto for meaning. Shapeshifting as always, Blunt’s performance recalls his Babyfather persona, his most stylish analog and thus the one most devoid of solid form. Slick self references like the opening words, “Pilladelph halflife”—a callback to a tossed-off instrumental (lusted after, as his loosies always are, by his content-craving internet fandom) which is itself a reference to a Roots album and which later became the beat of Meek Mill’s hugely popular “Dreams and Nightmares”—are distractions from the track’s hollow core…
Which is exactly the point. Dean Blunt coasts throughout BM2, which pales in comparison to the original Black Metal (and to nearly all his other fleshed-out full-lengths) in ambition and scope. But it still soars above most of this year’s AOTY hopefuls in part because it’s such an effortless feat. Dean Blunt does not operate in the same dimension as us normal people. He’s always a step ahead, and he wants you to know it. “And these crackers stay hype,” he gloats, openly laughing at the unshowered masses of white music journos (present company included) who will rush to scribble his praises no matter what he does. Like Kanye, Blunt has “forgot better shit than you ever thought of.” There’s a good chance he’s forgotten this record already.
“MUGU” is not Black Metal 2’s best track—“SKETAMINE,” “LA RAZA,” “NIL BY MOUTH” and “the rot” are all more interesting—but it’s the one that feels most emblematic of the album as a whole. “Everybody’s gotta sin,” he sings midway through the song, winking at us through the fourth wall. “So a scammer’s gotta have a win.” —Raphael Helfand
Buy Black Metal 2 here.
What is music without violence? A howl of passion, bloodying the throat from which it emanates, collides with rippling eardrums. Even without the context of language, the point is clear: pain.
This particular howl belongs to Abdurozik, the viral pop star from the Panjakent region of Tajikistan. Abdurozik’s small stature, an effect of rickets, has garnered a great deal of notoriety in recent months, after a press conference with Dagestani fighter Hasbulla Magomedov devolved into kicks and insults. A highly divisive topic on Russian social media channels, the fight has created an unlikely global anthem out of Abdurozik’s song “Ohi Dili Zor.”
Drawing from the long lineage of Ismaili, Pamiric, and Persian music and poetry—foundational artistic traditions responsible for modern Tajik music—Abdurozik’s “Ohi Dili Zor” deals in mythical expressions of love and violence. On its surface, it is a lament for lost love. Upon closer inspection, however, the song reveals a deeper truth. “I am writing on a piece of paper with the blood of my heart,” he sings, in recognition that all music, and whatever instrument is used to create it, is rooted in destruction. As Ted Gioia writes in his book Music, “Our earliest stringed instrument was a hunter’s bow.”
Abdurozik’s throat, coursing blood, bile, and saliva, is a gaping wound of an instrument. His voice is strong, sharp and agile with a nasally timbre that verges on the visual. I mean that it is incredibly easy to picture his throat when I hear him sing. There’s a poetic magnificence to the scope of his pain. One might visualize the specific motion of a spear impaling a victim. As the pain dulls, whatever weapon has struck Abdurozik has been reshaped into a hook.
It’s no surprise that UK drill producer Ghosty, famous for his work with scene-defining artists such as Digga D and 22Gz, found a sympathetic resonance in Abdurozik’s music; drill has always existed at the intersection of destruction and entertainment. With a relatively simple flip, Ghosty matches Abdurozik’s performance with a more nimble tempo and worthy low end. If the original instrumental attempted to match the tenor of lyrics like, “let the melody of my heart be wounded,” then Ghosty renews the energy of the song and transforms it into an anthem for the next challenge: for combat, for sport, for a fight. —Justin Enoch
Only available to stream at Soundcloud link above, as far as we know.
“Solar Power”, the first single off Lorde’s new album of the same title, defies easy classification. It’s both a continuation and a departure from her previous album, Melodrama, where she used dreamy, synthetic sounds to explore the heartbreak and elation of going to parties in one’s early twenties. On that record, she seemed sincere in her sadness, but the title also felt like a self-aware nod to the near-comical intensity of her emotions. While “Solar Power” is both sonically and visually quite different—the day to Melodrama’s night—it also fluctuates between satire and sincerity.
Here, Lorde celebrates summer days spent at the beach while quietly skewering the self-styled wellness gurus one might find there (“I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus,” she sings, almost deadpan). She “throws [her] cellular device in the water” but also makes sure that her exploits are documented (“my boy behind me, he’s taking pictures”). The song is a coda to an undeniably difficult time (“come on let the bliss begin”, she sings), but it leaves listeners with the eerie sense that there might be something synthetic about the ecstatic release of a new beginning (“blink three times when you feel it kicking in”).
As I emerge from lockdown into what Bill De Blasio has assured me will be “the summer of New York,” I have found myself on Brooklyn rooftops and Long Island beaches feeling sun-drenched and bewildered, trying to make sense of everything that has happened in the past 15 months. “Solar Power” doesn’t offer any answers, but it’s a potent reminder that there is something to be celebrated amidst all the strangeness. —Mikaela Dery
Pre-order Solar Power here.
Black Dice is back and ready to party. Since Big Deal, their 2016 release on L.I.E.S that cemented their transition from the nastiest boys in noise to dance floor freaks, the brothers Copeland and bandmate Aaron Warren took some time off to recoup—a compilation here, a side project there. The band didn’t completely stop up the creative fountain, but their absence was felt by those for whom the early-2000s noise rock scene represents a high water mark in avant-culture writ large. But fret no more—rejoice!—for I am looking at a bandcamp page with ten new Black Dice tracks set to drop in late September. “White Sugar,” the lead single from Mod Prog Sic, picks up where the group left off, fusing their legendarily twisted vibe with their drive to dance. Within the album’s first 20 seconds, we hear all the hallmarks of a great late-age Black Dice song: computer-stuttered vocals, filthy guitar buzz, a stumbling drum beat and joker energy. Ahh, it feels good to be back. —Ben Shear
Buy Mod Prog Sic here.
Deafheaven has always had a fraught relationship with metal purity: Past album covers and vocal melodies have been more reminiscent of Grizzly Bear’s than Gorgoroth’s. In keeping with this tradition, “Great Mass of Color”—the lead single from their upcoming album, Infinite Granite—abandons metal almost entirely. Employing the classic loud-quiet dynamic famously used by the Pixies, the band alternates between heavy guitar-led choruses and dreamy, pensive verses where singer George Clarke’s tender vocals are almost whispered. “Do I need this affection?” he asks. Other metal singers might be secretly insecure about their need for love and tenderness, but Clarke allows himself to be openly vulnerable.
The song ends with a trick: It is seemingly metal-less until its final ten seconds, when Clarke repeats “owns you” six times, crescendoing towards a classic black metal scream on its final iteration. It’s unclear if this primal holler is a red herring or a genuine hint at what Infinite Granite will sound like. Is “Great Mass of Heaven” a shoegaze detour on an album of owns yous, or is it indicative of a fundamental change in Deafheaven’s sound? Given the band’s status as black metal gadflies, this is an ambiguity they relish in. —Andrew Burton
Pre-order Infinite Granite here.
Per usual, Lust$ickPuppy delivers a swift serotonin dump, this time facilitated by some characteristically chaotic production from Death Grips’ Andy Morin. For 103 blissful seconds, the dream duo is relentless. They start at a 10 and stay in overdrive, white-knuckling till the track’s final moments as “BUSTDUSTER’S” hook—“Imma bust and leave ‘em in the dust”—phases out in Reichian fashion. A perfect track. —RH
Buy “BUSTDUSTER” here.
The morning sun casts a sidelong ray upon a pile of lentils on the floor, drying the swollen seeds as it climbs the couch past Homer Ribiero’s legs, past the dead computer on his lap and the paper towels strewn around him, up to his already-open eyes. He looks at the clock and rubs his face, heading off to the PC and Mac Repair Shop.
As he walks, he listens to Rodrigo Amarante’s new single, released in anticipation of Drama, the Brazilian singer-songwriter’s follow up album to his acclaimed 2013 debut, Cavalo. “I can’t wait / Serenading hope for idle hands,” Amarante sings on the melancholic, psychedelia-steeped track. In the music video, the camera opens on an early-morning Amarante, seated in bed, gripping his chest, lost in a singular thought. He gets up and walks to his open door, hallucinating a woman in a red dress (Cornelia Murr) carrying shoes and an open letter as she walks through the grass toward him. She disappears. He writes a letter and walks down his driveway to the mailbox as the video ends.
“It doesn’t look good,” the PC and Mac Repair Shop man tells Homer. The tufts of lateral white hair that adorn his tanned pate glisten in the morning light. “You need a new screen, but for the price you might as well buy a freshly used laptop. I have some on sale here… I might be able to make a quick fix for £150—no commitment, of course.” The man grins. “I can take it from you, you come back tomorrow, that’s OK?”
Homer quietly despairs.
“Are you a student? No? You know, I was a student once,” the PC and Mac Repair Shop man offers. At this point Homer has the distinct feeling that he is being taken for a ride, but he is too tired to haggle. “I know how it goes. You come back tomorrow.” —RG
Pre-order Drama here.
Glaive will have a Billboard #1 hit by the end of 2022. Really not much else to say about it. And he bought his highschool girlfriend a Porsche for her 16th birthday, and he is 6’3’’. Wish I could say the same! With each new track Glaive seems to further perfect the art of the earworm. “Detest Me” is the catchiest song he’s made to date and the clearest distillation of his brand of edm-inflected pop. —BS
Nothing to buy yet but stream his stuff, and keep an eye out for an E.P.
Joy Crookes’ first offering of the year carries the weight of the last 12 months. Premiered on a PA system at London’s Primrose Hill, the charm of “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” hangs from its 1960s doo-wop sound and the Bangladeshi-Irish artist’s mesmerizing vocal ease. Crookes delves into familiar lyrical territory, exploring the political apathy that stems from both fear and ignorance in the social media age. “I think the chorus is universal and I hope it can be a call to action,” Crookes explains in her press release. “I hope the song encourages people to be a bit braver. It’s important to open up a dialogue, speak out, make mistakes—that’s ok, and that’s how progress happens.” —Martha Cleary
Stream and purchase “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” here and look out for more info on Crookes’ next album, title and release date TBA.
TikTokers spent the month of June infatuated with the soundtrack of Bo Burnham: Inside, Burnham’s latest comedy special for Netflix. “Shit” has become the accompaniment for video clips depicting all manner of physical, social, and emotional discomfort. “Bezos I” and “Bezos II” have become the unofficial anthems of Amazon.com's package delivery mishaps, extreme working conditions, and staggering disregard for the impending climate apocalypse. It may be a terrible irony that the film—which is in large part about the profound psychological damage inflicted upon us by social media—has become a TikTok sensation. But anyone could have predicted that: what makes the behemoth of social media so impervious to harm is that any critique hurled its way is fated to be absorbed into it—as if into a forcefield that is strengthened by every blow—reinterpreted, recontextualized, and debated into meaninglessness.
This grim sense of inevitability permeates the film, which crescendos to far and away the most-listened-to (and most-TikToked) musical number on the soundtrack, “All Eyes On Me.” It begins with an imperative—“Get your fucking hands up”—a standard electro-dance-jam invocation, which summons images of nightclubs, music festivals, oceans of anonymous people crowded together like bees on a hive. But he’s not on stage; he’s alone in a cluttered, undecorated, claustrophobic room—the same room where he spent a year of the pandemic writing these songs, setting up intricate lighting designs, shooting the footage that would become this film. It’s the same room in which we, the audience, have been for the last hour, and where we’ve just, moments earlier, witnessed Burnham break down into despairing sobs.
Many of the early TikTok videos that incorporated “All Eyes On Me” did one of two things: They either salivated over the ASMR-inducing drop at 3:22 or used it to express their shock at how utterly, devastatingly sad the special was. Burnham is a comedian by reputation, and most of the songs on the soundtrack employ typical joke structure (set up an expectation, then subvert it) but calling Inside a “comedy” is misleading. It’s more of an uncomfortably intimate story of a guy losing his shit during lockdown, taking stock of the miseries of modern life, and fretting over various portents of societal collapse—set to songs that (occasionally) prompt a knowing chuckle.
“All Eyes On Me”—a song fraught with uneasy contradictions—encapsulates the troubled spirit of Inside. It’s an ode to connection—“We’re gonna go where everybody knows / Everybody knows everybody…”—set in extreme isolation. It’s heartfelt and intimate—Burnham meets the viewer’s gaze with chilling intensity in a closeup so close you can count the pores on his skin—but gestures toward satire: the fake audience sound effects, the distortion of his voice, the way he never articulates “get your fucking hands up” quite enough, as if he’s too caught up in the energy of the invisible crowd to enunciate.
By now, if you scroll through the TikTok content that uses this track, it’s clear that “All Eyes On Me” has been absorbed into the social media forcefield—turned into an ill-defined setup for any old punchline. (Here’s one about periods, one about a hungry dog, and one made by some police officers for #copsoftiktok.) But there was a moment before it was co-opted by TikTokers into an impotent sound byte—before it devolved into yet another ubiquitous ear worm, divorced from all context—when so many of us watched Inside and, arriving for the first time at this song, were deeply, achingly moved. —Lily Houston Smith
Buy Inside (The Songs) here.
I was hoping someone else would write a blurb about Tyler this month; at this point in my life, I’m a casual fan at best. I haven’t been especially excited for a new album of his to drop since 2013, and while his evolution from homophobic demon child to queer icon—and from amateur sample-jacker to accomplished producer—is certainly compelling, it’s not one I’ve paid close attention to. I was a fan of Flower Boy, thought Igor was just OK, and would rank his new record, Call Me If You Get Lost, somewhere between the two. Having said all that, it would be obtuse to deny that he’s a hyper-talented human being and one of the most magnetic performers alive.
Of the many unassailably solid songs on his latest album, “HOT WIND BLOWS” is not a standout on first listen. There are flashier tracks on the record with artfully crafted, narrative music videos—“CORSO” and “JUGGERNAUT” are probably the project’s funnest cuts—but this mid-record sleeper has stuck with me more than the others. The Euro fusion jazz flute beat is an earworm, and Tyler’s wordplay (“I love when she let me rub ‘er like Michelin”) is clever enough to match the instrument’s slinky timbre.
In the end, though, it’s the Wayne feature that sells the song. Dwayne Carter Jr. has come back from the dead (creatively) more times than most any other artist alive, and now, newly married and closing in on 40, he’s teasing another return to form. On Polo G’s “GANG GANG,” a track we regrettably omitted from our May roundup, he went bar for bar with one of the most exciting artists in the game. Here, he’s just as sharp, moving from a laid back, old school flow to a flurry of extremely 2015 machine gun triplets—a reminder that he got us from point A to point B in the first place. —RH
Stream and purchase Call Me If You Get Lost here.
Every so often when the air is sweet in that it tastes good in my mouth, a quiet refrain comes to occupy my thoughts, as if carried there by a gentle puff on a cigarette: “W-w-when I’m in the club/ I’m always on a drug / if you get a hug / guess what drug / I’m On Ecstasy.”
Soft cooing about mdma over a Lil Wayne beat—let’s go.
For a few brief years in the aughts jj were in their own lane. Plenty of Stereogum-monthly-mix-core bands made music about getting fucked up (see FIDLAR, Wavves) but nobody made it sound as cool and sexy as jj did. Silky rap-inspired production with hot vocals; what more could a young man want?
But the passage of time affects all, and a brutally honest historical gaze shows that jj lost their luster after that album with the weed leaf and blood drops.
There must be something in the water in Sweden, though, because in their wake, a whole new crew of young artists making singular, drug-influenced music has emerged. Plenty of Laid Off ink has been dedicated to SBGDG/GTBSG (Sad Boy Gang Drain Gang/Gravity Boys Shield Gang), which is good, because they’re the best to do it right now. The Drainers’ most recent output is a collaborative EP of ambient bangers from Whitearmor and Joakim Benon of jj. Attentive listeners will detect elements of both producers’ styles throughout the whole, especially in “9Liv,” the centerfold track that injects the power ambient of an act like Yellow Swans with some melodic-ass keys. Here, Benon’s cig-addiction-activating synth washes meet Whitearmour’s pointillist rap production to create another drained masterpiece. —BS
Buy Längtan Får Vingar here.
On “You Never Do,” singer-songwriter and flautist Kasia Konstance creates a world of summer daydreams laced with producer Beau Diako’s acoustic guitar and keys reminiscent of peak-Corinne Bailey Rae-era British Soul. It’s a tender, soulful track, but Konstance is more concerned here with the spiritual connection and platonic love for her friends she discovered during lockdown than she is with romantic desire. The track features a verse from Manchester-based rapper KinKai which brings its jazz-tinged trance into a deeper realm. —MC
Buy “You Never Do feat. KinKai” here and look out for more info on Konstance’s Cosmic Dust EP, out this September.
The summer sunset fills the bedroom with warm, fiery hues. Wine glasses, aromatic candles, ludic limbs—you get the idea. Homer has come to visit his Other, who encourages him to pick the music for their encounter (he is a music critic, after all). But this produces an effect upon Homer unintended by his partner; his attention is diverted to the space just above the weighted horizontal of the bed, where music fills the air.
Homer has selected João Gilberto Eterno, a tribute album celebrating the late bossa nova pioneer’s 90th birthday, produced by Brazilian arranger Mario Adnet and Japanese producer Shigeki Miyata. They bring together a variety of prominent and emerging Brazilian artists such as Monica Salmaso, Leila Pinheiro, Guinga, João Donato, and Dora Morelenbaum, among many others. It’s a veritable treasure trove of finely recorded renditions with intricate string arrangements by Adnet: a celebration typical of the large family that is Música Popular Brasileira, facilitated by a Japanese predilection for bossa nova.
On the 13th track of the album, Joyce Moreno sings Italian composer Bruno Martino’s “Estate” (“Summer”), a minor-key bossa about a lost summer love in which a sun “that warmed us every day / that painted beautiful sunsets / now only burns with fury.” Strings swarm as Moreno embraces a parallel major-key chorus and wishes for the winter to come and cover the thousands of rose petals with snow, so that “perhaps a little peace will return.”
“What are you thinking about, Homer?” asks the Other.
Homer is thinking of Claus Ogerman’s lush string outro for Gilberto’s rendition of “Estate,” from his iconic Amoroso. Something subtle happens in Ogerman’s outro right after the line “to let me die of pain” is delivered: The track boots up into a new space of demi-resolution with a simple, two-note motif in the strings, mirrored below in the bass. But the overall sonic effect, it strikes Homer now, is strikingly similar to the sound his laptop makes when it is successfully powered on.
“Homer, where did you go? You seem distant,” insists the Other.
While Homer lays in the Other’s bed, his computer spends the night in the PC and Mac Repair Shop. In this moment he feels a profound longing for his laptop, the only instrument he has found thus far that allows him to create, to do justice to the beautiful music he hears in his head. He misses his machine dearly—the crack in its display, the comfortable weight of the keys. And though the beauty of the Other has by this point obscured the elegance of Ogerman’s outro, the two-note motif persists in Homer’s inner-ear as does his worry for the laptop.
Homer has always been of the opinion that somebody should sample the ending tag from Gilberto’s “Estate.” He hopes it will happen soon... —RG
Buy João Gilberto Eterno here via the iTunes Store.
Ulla is making the best music in the ambient scene right now. (Who knew ambient could sound fresh in 2021?) This song—and every other track on the album—sounds like a physical space. Which space, I’m not sure, but it’s out there and I would love to visit. Over the course of the past year, Ulla and her recent collaborator Perila, who also has a new record out, have been drifting from peaceful ambient squiggles towards pieces that bring to mind Satie’s furniture music: composed, discrete works that have a definite sense of place. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you hear it. —BS
Buy ‘Limitless Frame’ here.
MIKE’s music lives in the thin rays of light that slip through the folds of deeply drawn curtains, the moments of strength in which we drag ourselves from days-long stupors and dark rooms filled with balled-up tissues and takeout containers. More than any other artist today, MIKE captures grief—not as a monochrome emotion or a series of discrete stages, but as an ever-evolving state, one that ebbs and flows to occupy the full spectrum of human emotion.
Disco!, the latest offering from the Jersey-born, London-raised, Brooklyn-based rapper, is a warmer record than his last two, which he wrote in the wake of his mom’s death. Here, his late mother is a source of strength. From opener “Evil Eye:” “It's for my momma when I make raps dummy, when I pray / Because I know she gonna pray back for me.” “Babyvillain (in our veins)” sits near the middle of Disco! and, aside from having an excellent name, does not overtly signal its preeminent position in the project’s psychogeography. But it is the track that most precisely locates the intersection of lingering trauma and hope where MIKE currently stands.
In its first half, we’re taken on a tour of some of MIKE’s most desperate moments—watching his family struggle through the 2008 recession, battling his own self-destructive demons as a teen, self-medicating with weed and liquor. This free-associative spiral ends on a cryptically phrased but unequivocally negative note: “When you prepare to get your shit caved in, terror did the trick / Got some areas to fix, we take hysteria, it’s lit / Every carrier is mistaken, buried in abyss.”
DJ blackpower’s murky beat fumbles for a few moments, flickering before it cuts out completely and MIKE reenters with a new flow, the “abyss” now a distant speck receding in his rearview mirror. “I used to fiddle with death, it’s OD / Thanks to my sisters, they check up on me,” he raps—a contradictory call-back to the start of the song, where he dejectedly muses that he “ain’t caught up with my sis lately, forgetting we was kids.” The beat comes back, still slow and hazy but now driving towards the track’s end with a tangible pulse.
As he readies himself for arrival, MIKE reiterates his gratitude for his sisters’ continued support, talks about his fitness journey (“Tryna get bigger, ain’t getting obese”), and falteringly forgives a friend for flaking on him. When the next song begins, “Babyvillain” is left unresolved but not entirely in shambles. There’s no easy fix for the grief MIKE feels. With work and time, though, his wound will continue to scar over, and he’ll turn that new tissue into art, as he always does. —RH
It’s amazing how heat can turn garlic into acrid poison. Only a few seconds can render an old clove into a weapon. Apply the same heat to an onion, however, and an hour later the burnt sugars have transformed the sharp and spritely flavors into something seductive. Feed either of these to a cat and the cat dies.
With the release of Fausse nouvelle, a pandemic-inspired reworking of their 2020 album Fait Divers, French duo Daisy Mortem has turned the heat up. With time, the temperament of these songs has evolved in delicious and unpredictable ways. Take the original version "L'Empoisonneur de Chats,” a song whose rallying cry—“Cats died / Before our eyes, dead in the city”—triggers a frenzy of gabber kicks and a sudden tempo change. Now, with the added perspective of frequent collaborator Pakun Jaran, Daisy Mortem has caramelized the onion, melting its louche atmosphere into a coquettish amble: The tempo is slowed, the screams are muffled, and the noir sax takes considerable advantage of the song’s increased width.
Maybe a year of stewing in pandemic uncertainty has catalyzed a Maillard reaction: A world of long shadows, streets lined with cat corpses, and meatballs with nails suddenly reveal a sublime sort of darkness. It’s a gothic horror whose remix adds some mellow sweetness back into the mix. If only it were so easy to unburn the garlic. —JE
Buy Fausse Nouvelle here.
...Much to Homer’s critical delight, Sam Gendel sampled the last bars of Gilberto’s “Estate” earlier this year on his track “Eternal Loop,” where Ogerman’s strings serve as a bed for Gendel to layer sparse saxophone lines atop, filling the space with airy lightness above the weight below.
It is morning again and Homer is walking once more to the PC and Mac Repair Shop as he listens to the trotting, understated funk of Sam Gendel & Sam Wilkes’ “Cold Pocket,” the latest from their ongoing Music for Saxofone [sic] and Bass Guitar project. The track—a single released ahead of the series’ second episode, Music for Saxofone and Bass Guitar More Songs, due July 21—is a single-speed C dominant jam. Wilkes holds a bass ostinato while Gendel layers over it with chord clusters processed to the point of abstraction (Is it a synthesizer? Several saxofones, maybe?). The track fades as he enters the shop to reconnect with his machine.
“Ah, yes, Homer Ribeiro! I have your laptop right here.”
Homer takes out the laptop and attempts to turn it on. He is confronted by the same menacing, poltergeist-white screen he faced before. He will not pay: “£150, no commitment,” the man had said. The two of them go back and forth.
“Well, my friend, Homer, the computer was working just yesterday afternoon. I am sure that if you take it home and restart it, you will find that it works. I’ll tell you what: Why don’t you do just that and bring it back if you have any issues? I’ll get you sorted out. Just one thing, that’ll be £35.” The PC and Mac Repair Shop man points to a tiny paper rectangle behind the desk that seemed to be obscured the day before: “ALL REPAIRS WILL CHARGE MINIMUM OF £35 CONVENIENCE FEE. NO EXCEPTIONS.”
“Sorry Homer, my friend. Store Policy. What can I do?”
Pre-order Music for Saxofone and Bass Guitar More Songs here.
*Thumbnail graphic by Jda Gayle
**The Spotify playlist (which we embed reluctantly) does not include Ghostly's flip of “Ohi Dili Zor” by Abdurozik or Ulla's "Something Inside My Body" because these songs aren't available to stream on the devil’s platform. As indicated above, they are all available to stream elsewhere, and “Something Inside My Body” is purchasable on bandcamp.