Jazz / Soul / Funk

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Yasuaki Shimizu - Music For Commercials (LP)Yasuaki Shimizu - Music For Commercials (LP)
Yasuaki Shimizu - Music For Commercials (LP)Crammed Discs

Originally issued by Crammed in 1987, this is one of the most sought-after releases in our legendary Made To Measure series. Known for his numerous albums, soundtracks, and collaborations with an impossibly broad array of artists (from Ryuichi Sakamoto and DJ Towa Tei to Van Dyke Parks, Björk, Manu Dibango and Elvin Jones), composer, saxophonist and producer Yasuaki Shimizu also released several electronic music productions during the '80s, which are currently generating a lot of interest (a.o. his recently reissued Mariah project).

"Music For Commercials" is a brilliant and inventive collection of short pieces, initially conceived as soundtracks for Japanese TV commercials (and bearing sweet titles such as “Seiko”, “Sharp”, “Honda” etc). These twenty-three tracks (each clocking in at two minutes or less, except one longer piece composed for a computer-animation short) abound with hit-and-run sound collages, twittering computers, and energetic ricocheting between myriad styles of music. This album has achieved near-mythical status in the last few years, which have seen artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never sing its praise.

Joseph Shabason - The Fellowship (Sky Blue Vinyl LP)Joseph Shabason - The Fellowship (Sky Blue Vinyl LP)
Joseph Shabason - The Fellowship (Sky Blue Vinyl LP)Western Vinyl

Across eight tracks that mesh jazz-laced, emotive, and spacious composition with fourth-world and adult-contemporary tonality, Toronto saxophonist Joseph Shabason sketches an auditory map of the transcendence, unity, conditioning, and eventual renunciation of his upbringing in an Islamic and Jewish dual-faith household. The resulting album The Fellowship bears the name of the insular Islamic community Shabason’s traditionally Jewish parents belonged to from a time before he was even born; a mental and spiritual push-pull which continued shaping, even controlling, his outlook well into his adulthood. As a listening experience The Fellowship follows a chronological arc that spans three generations covering his parents’ early lives, his own spiritual and physical adolescence, and his subsequent struggle to eschew the problematic habituations of such a conflicted past.

“Life With My Grandparents” commences The Fellowship in overcast hues. A cassette recording of a child’s voice pops in and out of a murmuring brass tone as both elements drift like memories receding forever into the past. “My parents grew up in really difficult households. Both of my father’s parents had just survived the Holocaust only six years before he was born.” Shabason explains, cutting right to the root of what might have led his parents to diverge from their inherited spiritual conventions. "My grandparents were deeply traumatized from having lost so many friends and family members, and even if the war hadn’t happened I don’t think they would have been particularly emotionally available.” Exchanging the gloom for tension, the anxiously experimental “Escape From North York” jolts the cadence forwards and backwards by way of skittering jazz percussion as a nauseated synth melody balloons into full-on terror, all while the melodic elements are ambushed from below by a flash flood of air-rending texture. The title (a play on John Carpenter’s Escape From New York) refers to the area of Toronto where Shabason’s parents were raised, and rebelliously fled in their twenties against their own parents’ wishes. The title track of The Fellowship swings toward relief and reflection, and buoys the mood up to something childlike. It is suffused with saxophone, upright bass, chorus-drenched guitar, and digitized pan flute; the kinds of 90’s jazz timbres that mark a time in Shabason’s adolescence when the dilemmas of his family’s faith were still obscured by comfort, community, and a dash of the forgivable naivete of early youth. At the same time, the piece shows Shabason at his most melodically athletic, darting around chord changes with fervor for the subject at hand.

From here the perspective moves from third to first person as Shabason unpacks his teenage years across a three song suite, the titles of which mark the exact years they are meant to sonically illustrate. Where the previous track floated ever upward on innocence and clarity, “0-13” dispenses with both by its final third at which point things have unraveled into aleatoric unease representing “the first chink in the armour,” as Joseph admits, “and the first time I really started to question everything I’d been taught.” By “13-15” the pendulum is fully back on the side of apprehension as galloping percussion, an unrelenting synthetic marimba, an off-key wood flute, and jittering electric guitar tell a story of doubt and anger, dressed in fourth-world atonality. “By that time,” says Shabason, referring to the age denoted in the track name, “I was smoking weed and really getting into my head. According to my religion, smoking weed was gonna land me in hell, and all my friends who drank were also on the path to hell. The whole thing seemed totally absurd. The idea of a God that was that petty and vengeful made no sense. Those thoughts just swirled and created this background dissonance that existed all throughout my early teens. Middle school was fucked.”

“15-19” is the sadness that follows outrage, when the dust settles and the pieces need putting back together, yet they simply won’t fit in light of a new found perspective. As such, this final movement is bathed in tragic, futile optimism. Under a bed of half-tempo RnB, muted trumpets glow like dying embers catching the wind. Shabason elucidates, “at that point, I’d discovered punk and hardcore and decided to be straight edge. It provided me with a community and a great cover for why I didn’t drink or do drugs. It felt like this really cool disguise. It kept me from questioning why I was doing it in the first place, but underlying it all was sadness. Why were my gay friends going to hell? Why did women have to be modest and not men? Why did God want to punish me for so many things? Was I going to hell because I had sex with my girlfriend? None of it made sense, but I was so completely brainwashed that I never thought to seriously question it. Instead, I just slipped up more and more, did drugs, fooled around, and tried to put the divine ramifications of my actions out of my head.”

“Comparative World Religions” is a caffeinated gamelan named for the college course that caused Joseph-- and so many other young people engrossed in inherited repressive ideologies-- to see the irreconcilable nature of his beliefs from the outside in. Like the class itself, it stands apart from the backdrop of The Fellowship by replacing the seesaw of religious ecstasy and uncertainty with the type of transcendence that can only be arrived at through factual illumination. Using mournful brass and glassy keys, the aptly titled “So Long” represents the slow walking away that Shabason had to do mentally and emotionally, even long after the illusion had been cracked open. “It took me at least another twelve to fifteen years to fully deprogram myself from all the guilt and shame that was bred into me by religion, but I think that I’m finally free from it,” says Shabason of his present-day outlook. “This song is a final goodbye to that life… an exhale and deep inhale before I start a new chapter.” On The Fellowship, as on prior albums that bear his name, Joseph Shabason does what only the best instrumental music makers can: tell a story with emotional clarity that conveys even the subtlest of feelings, all without singing a single word. As wordless as ever-- with as complex a theme as ever-- this album may be his most emotionally articulate yet. Most importantly, those lost in the woods of repression and self-doubt that organized religion can be at its worst now have The Fellowship to help guide them into a softer light.

Vaudeville Villain - Viktor Vaughn (CD)
Vaudeville Villain - Viktor Vaughn (CD)Rhymesayers Entertainment
In 2003, MF DOOM introduced us to one of his most intriguing alter egos, Viktor Vaughn. As the story goes, Viktor Vaughn was an interdimensional time-traveling MC from another realm where Hip-Hop was banned. He’d been exploring time and space looking for new dimensions to sharpen his MC skills, which eventually led him to 90s era NYC, where he found himself stranded from a mechanical mishap with his time machine. He began hitting open mics and small venues, battling other MCs and picking up side-hustles in order to raise the funds to repair his time machine. Vaudeville Villain is a concept album like no other, where MF DOOM re-envisions himself as a younger, hungrier, more brazen persona in order to explore a different point of view. Of course, developing a second self from a more technologically advanced universe, he took a new approach to the production too. Viktor Vaughn fittingly raps over next-school beats that move freely in spaces between Electronica and Hip Hop, courtesy of Sound-Ink producers King Honey, Heat Sensor and Max Bill, along with one track from RJD2. Vaudeville Villain is one of the more uniquely creative entries in the MF DOOM universe.
MF DOOM - MM..FOOD (Green & Pink Vinyl 2LP)MF DOOM - MM..FOOD (Green & Pink Vinyl 2LP)
MF DOOM - MM..FOOD (Green & Pink Vinyl 2LP)Rhymesayers Entertainment
MM..FOOD, a 2004 concept album "about what you find at a picnic or at a picnic table," released by underground rap's greatest voice MF DOOM on Rhymesayers, is back in analog form! The fifth studio album, which debuted at #17 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart, features guest appearances by Count Bass D, Angelika, 4ize, and Mr. Fantastik.
MF DOOM - MM..FOOD (CD)Rhymesayers Entertainment
MM..FOOD, a 2004 concept album "about what you find at a picnic or at a picnic table," released by underground rap's greatest voice MF DOOM on Rhymesayers, is back in analog form! The fifth studio album, which debuted at #17 on Billboard's Independent Albums chart, features guest appearances by Count Bass D, Angelika, 4ize, and Mr. Fantastik.
Helene Smith - I Am Controlled By Your Love (Metallic Silver Color LP)
Helene Smith - I Am Controlled By Your Love (Metallic Silver Color LP)Numero Group
Teenage melancholy from the original Miami Sound Machine. Backed by the infamous FAMU Marching 100 Band and Frank Williams’ crack shot players The Rocketeers, I Am Controlled By Your Love compiles sides from Helene Smith’s ’60s tenure with the Deep City, Lloyd, Reid, and Blue Star labels. A sweltering album of 12 deeply soulful, alternate universe hits from the First Lady of Miami Soul!
V.A. - Eccentric Deep Soul (Opaque Purple Vinyl LP w/ Pink Splatter LP)
V.A. - Eccentric Deep Soul (Opaque Purple Vinyl LP w/ Pink Splatter LP)Numero Group
The next installment of our "Eccentric" single LP compilation series, in the same style as our Eccentric Funk and Eccentric Disco releases. A simple digestable run-down of our favorite genre specific tracks.
V.A. - Eccentric Funk (Opaque Purple Vinyl LP w/ Pink Splatter)
V.A. - Eccentric Funk (Opaque Purple Vinyl LP w/ Pink Splatter)Numero Group
Twelve unstoppable deep funk burners from across the Numerosphere. A smorgasbord of sounds from R&B’s dapper younger cousin. Loose guitars and chunky drums lie in wait for discerning break-makers to finely chop and flip. The only funk record you’ll ever need to own.
V.A. - Penny & The Quarters & Friends (Smoke Vinyl LP)
V.A. - Penny & The Quarters & Friends (Smoke Vinyl LP)Numero Group
"You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters simply refused to stay lost. For 40 years, the song sat silent in a box of reels before heartthrob Ryan Gosling selected it to star in 2010's indie weeper Blue Valentine. The power of the track set off an international treasure hunt in pursuit of the mysterious artists behind it. Since then, “You and Me” has soundtracked thousands of weddings, spawned hundreds of YouTube covers, and tugged heartstrings for scores of advertisements and films. Fifteen years after Eccentric Soul: The Prix label became Numero’s worst selling compilation, we’ve reanalyzed the tapes and selected 11 equally-as-fascinating rehearsals caught by engineer Clem Price in Columbus, Ohio, in 1970. Please note: Physical items are o
V.A. - Seafaring Strangers: Private Yacht (Seafoam Green Vinyl 2LP)
V.A. - Seafaring Strangers: Private Yacht (Seafoam Green Vinyl 2LP)Numero Group
With pop music’s volume knob adjusted for deflation in the early '70s, softness begat smoothness. Crewmen arrived from the worlds of jazz, folk, rock, and soul, all peddling a product that was sincere, leisurely, and lofty. A sound that was buoyant, crisp, defined. Sometimes classified as West Coast—and, later, Yacht Rock—the compass points of our Private Yacht expedition are the blue-eyed harmonies of Hall and Oates, the cocaine-dusted Fender Rhodes of Michael McDonald, and the combover strums of James Taylor. Here, at the glassy apex of rock’s softer side, 20 strong swimmers are gathered together. An album for both relaxation and reflection, where listeners can enjoy the present, a cool breeze, and a taste of the good life. As if fired from a cannon, the cacophony of ’60s rock left a ringing in some ears. Burned out or bummed out, fatigue had set in. Free Love had come at a price. Many young couples had become young families, with their bandleaders-turned-breadwinners gracious they’d purchased a station wagon rather than the customary van. As rock began to mellow and folk began to solidify, “Our House” became a work of nonfiction—with a mortgage. Some escaped the vortex of the collective cul-de-sac and lived to headbang another day, while others followed their collective hairlines, receding into the margins of the counterculture. Stretching an extension chord to the bonfire had always posed an obstacle for lackadaisical strummers. Likewise, plugging in poolside proved a new hazard. Others found it less of a bother to get an acoustic guitar in and out of rehab than an amplifier. Everywhere the wind blew, James Taylor and Carly Simon were soft rock’s power couple, with a combined catalog mellow enough to enjoy after the kids had been put to bed. This is not to say soft rock was a sacrifice. Rather, it reflected the refined tastes of the boomers: better wages, better dwellings, better drugs. Greater musicianship led to improved songwriting, chord voicing, and a deeper respect for harmony. Sometimes classified as West Coast—and, later, Yacht Rock—the architects of this sound were not exclusively Californians or mariners. These were stylistic tides felt in North Dakota and Colorado, along the Outer Banks and the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Softer fare could occasionally serve as a salve for city life, a coping mechanism for strong swimmers still treading the nations’ metropolises. With pop music’s volume knob adjusted for deflation, softness begat smoothness. Songs conceived on the Gibson Dreadnought were embellished with Fender Rhodes, hand percussion, and chimes. Crewmen arrived from the worlds of jazz, folk, rock, and soul, all peddling a product that was sincere, leisurely, and lofty. A sound that was buoyant, crisp, defined. Numerous artists were able to coexist along this narrow stylistic isthmus. There was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—and, eventually, Scaggs, Rundgren, Hall & Oates. All the while, James Taylor was still plucking away with a beautiful head of hair, no end in sight to where a capo could take him. The hands that hoisted the sail over the ’70s went down with the ship in the early ’80s. Feeding tributaries of Caucasian reggae, Salsalito, and Marina Rock, some ponds were drained while others stagnated, and others still overflowed. With the pop charts littered with shiny keyboards, sherbet guitars, and gated reverb, our celebrated strain of rock became a casualty of the gluttonous hair decade. Marriages capsized. Staring out from either coast, a thin membrane is almost visible, one that separates the calmness of the sky from the stillness of the sea. Likewise, it’s hard to distinguish the event horizon where acoustic forces swirled around thoughtful rock, creating the estuary subgenre to which this compilation is devoted. There, at the glassy apex of rock’s softer side, away from all of the commotion, exists a place for both relaxation and reflection, where listeners can enjoy the present, a cool breeze—a taste of the good life.
V.A. - Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights (Indie Exclusive) (House of Grass Vinyl 3LP BOX)V.A. - Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights (Indie Exclusive) (House of Grass Vinyl 3LP BOX)
V.A. - Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights (Indie Exclusive) (House of Grass Vinyl 3LP BOX)Numero Group
It was a musical cocktail born in a marketing meeting: Two parts easy listening, one part jazz, a healthy dollop of conga drums, a sprinkling of bird calls, and a pinch of textless choir. Serve garnished with an alluring female on the album jacket for best results. Exotica! The soundtrack for a mythical air conditioned Eden, packaged for mid-century, tiki torch-wielding armchair safariers. Be it mosquito-bitten torch singers, landlocked surf quartets, fad-chasing jazz combos, mad genius band leaders, D-list actors, or a middle aged loner programming bird calls into a Hammond, Exotica was always more concerned with what geography might sound like over who was conducting. Captured across three albums (or three compact discs) are 48 (or 54) curious examples of the short-lived genre’s reach, each summoning their own sonic visions of Shangri La, bringing their versions of the Pacific, Africa, and the Orient to the hinterlands of America. Technicolor Paradise is where one makes it, after all.
V.A. - South Side Story Vol. 23 (Tri-Color Vinyl LP)V.A. - South Side Story Vol. 23 (Tri-Color Vinyl LP)
V.A. - South Side Story Vol. 23 (Tri-Color Vinyl LP)Numero Group
For the lowriders, the souleros, and for any armchair drag racer who still has a record player within reach, South Side Story pays tribute to the aftermarket sounds of soul music, inspired by the record industry’s metric trunkload of cruising compilations, legitimate and otherwise, that soundtracked an entire subculture. This getaway ride mixtape strips aesthetics from the timeless East Side Story series, and poaches music from Chicago soul groups (mostly, of course, from the historically soulful South Side). Tracks never before issued ride shotgun with songs known only from minuscule 45 pressings, with a few chromed-up classics to boot. Roll with a jacked-up masterpiece.
Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My (LP)
Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My (LP)Jagjaguwar
'Oh Me Oh My' is both elegant and ferocious. It is stirring in one moment and a balm the next. It details histories both global and personal. Lonnie Holley's harrowing youth and young manhood in the Jim Crow South are well-told at this point — his sale into a different home as a child for just a bottle of whiskey; his abuse at the infamous Mount Meigs correctional facility for boys; the destruction of his art environment by the Birmingham airport expansion. But Holley's music is less a performance of pain endured and more a display of perseverance, of relentless hope. Intricately and lovingly produced by LA's Jacknife Lee (The Cure, REM, Modest Mouse), there is both kinetic, shortwave funk that call to mind Brian Eno's 'My Life in the Bush of Ghosts' and the deep space satellite sounds of Eno's ambient works. But it's a tremendous achievement in sonics all its own.It's also an achievement in the refinement of Holley's impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. On the title track which deals with mutual human understanding", Holley is able to make a profound point as ever in far fewer phrases: "The deeper we go, the more chances there are, for us to understand the oh-me's and understand the oh-my's." Illustrious collaborators like Michael Stipe, Sharon Van Etten, Moor Mother and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver serve as not only as choirs of angels and co-pilots to give Lonnie’s message flight but as proof of Lonnie Holley as a galvanizing, iconoclastic force across the music community.
Okonski - Magnolia (CD)
Okonski - Magnolia (CD)Colemine Records
The studio at 122 West Loveland Avenue was not an unfamiliar space for Steve Okonski, the leader of his eponymous trio Okonski. Ever since the Colemine label set up shop in Loveland, Ohio it has been a host to a number of groups passing through town, including Durand Jones and the Indications who all of this trio’s members have connections to. After setting aside some time in winter of 2020, Okonski, trained initially as a classical pianist, invited Michael Isvara “Ish” Montgomery and Aaron Frazer to work on an album that was initially planned to be beat driven and fully composed trio instrumentals. After finishing this first session with some improvisations, a second week was booked in the summer of 2021 to try and capture some more of that spontaneous energy. During this session, the tracks were all improvised and recorded live to a Tascam 388 during several late nights at the Colemine HQ. They were structured to allow the group’s collective intuition to fully shape the melodies and arcs of the music. The album opens with Runner Up, where a triumphant yet melancholic melody in the piano leads to a more reserved B-section driven by the drums and bass of Frazer and Montgomery. As you journey through the remainder of the album you are met with a plethora of evoked and explored emotions. The calmness one has walking down a moonlit street after midnight, the connection one has for a person who comes into their world for just a moment or a lifetime, and the nerves and catharsis one feels when starting upon a new, unknown journey. Magnolia closes with Sunday, a track that was recorded late into the night at the close of their first recording session. Without the spontaneity of Sunday, the remainder of Magnolia would likely have never come to fruition. Magnolia was composed from the heart and from the spirit of those in the studio those late nights in Loveland. It is the culmination of an emotional and artistic release that was not afforded or recognized before the band sat at their instruments, and because of that it is introspective, meditative, spiritual, and new.
El Michels Affair & Black Thought - Glorious Game (Sky High Vinyl LP)El Michels Affair & Black Thought - Glorious Game (Sky High Vinyl LP)
El Michels Affair & Black Thought - Glorious Game (Sky High Vinyl LP)BIG CROWN
When Leon Michels and El Michels Affair released their first record, Sounding Out The City, in 2005, it was hard to guess what was next for Michels and his then-introduced, now-patented “cinematic soul” sound. Now, four EMA studio albums and scores of tribute and remix projects later—all while producing for some of the biggest names in the industry—Michels has trademarked his sound, with each project taking audiences somewhere new and pushing the boundaries of what he is known for. The man is a river, not a lake and this time he takes his golden touch into the realm of hip-hop laying down a musical bed for one of the greatest to ever rhyme into a microphone: Black Thought of The Roots crew. Releasing on Big Crown Records, the LP is called Glorious Game and it is a remarkable debut partnership in more ways than one. Michels provides his bottom-heavy, soul-tinged production for Black Thought who gives us some of the more personal and transparent verses we've ever heard from him. Michels and Black Thought have been in each other's orbit for a while now. The two first met in the 2000s when Thought was first getting familiar with the contemporary soul scene. "Out of that whole world, Menahan Street Band was probably my favorite," recalling the funk and soul group Michels was a founding member of back in 2007. Fast forward a few years and musicians from that collective—Dave Guy on trumpet and Ian Hendrickson-Smith on sax —are now full time players with The Roots. This connection eventually led Leon and Thought to doing a few fundraising events around NYC and Philly together. "Before long, Black Thought was coming around the studio and would jam with us from time to time," Michels explains. "Then, fast forward to 2020 and COVID lockdowns, he just hit me up out of the blue, wanting me to send him stuff to write to. We both were looking to stay busy." Being that Black Thought is the co-founder and emcee for, hands down, the best live-band group in hip-hop. Michels took a decidedly different approach to this project and instead of sending recorded tracks of live compositions, he pulled out the sampler and sampled himself and some records from his collection. "I'm a big fan of soul music," as if Michels has to remind us. "And part of hip-hop's appeal to me has always been the sample-based production" For Glorious Game, Michels would make wholly composed and recorded soul songs in his studio, sample himself, then chop and/or loop up his sounds and create instrumentals for Black Thought. On some tracks he took a more traditional hip-hop approach, starting from samples of other people’s music but then adding live instrumentation on top. But for the most part, it's him reinterpreting his own compositions into something new. The result is an organic feel of loop-based tracks that breathe and fluctuate enough for Black Thought to flex on. "What I write about is determined by the equation of the producer's energy and my energy," Black Thought says. "It's about where we meet." So armed with Michels sampled and re-sampled soul cinematics, Black Thought rhymes through personal memories and distinctive perspectives, all dripping with visuals. The first single titled "Grateful"—a thick, low-end banger with a haunting flute line—gives you a nice intro into how the record will go. Black Thought's verses lay heavy in the way we've come to love: cadences that walk a line between street teacher and poet, explanation and experience, as he pays homage to what's come before him and how it's made him". The title track “Glorious Game” with its unhurried bassline and bouncing drum track finds Black Thought rhyming double-time about the trials of fame and respect but also speaking to his gifts and his well established place in hip-hop. On “The Weather”, he paints a vivid portrait of growing up in Philly. You can almost see his Grandma’s house in your mind as he rides the tempo changes of the track flanked by ghostly background vocals. "To me," Black Thought says about Glorious Game, "these songs are like scenes from a film that is my life. That's the way it evolved." And with his pure lyrical skill on full display and Michels' custom-made approach to making beats, this record is a bit of a rarity in today's hip-hop atmosphere: there are no flashy guest features and no attempts to be on trend. "This is an effing rap record. He's a storyteller; the point is to listen to the story. It's not a verse-chorus, verse-chorus approach. Listen to what he has to say and the way he has to say it."

Brainstory - Buck (LP)Brainstory - Buck (LP)
Brainstory - Buck (LP)BIG CROWN

What is Buck?
Buck is a state of mind, a way of life, a demeanor that gets you through the good times and the bad. If you ask Brainstory, It is also the energy that permeates their debut album.
Kevin, Tony, and Eric are a trio of brothers bounded by blood, fate, and a small town with nothing to do. Their story begins in the long lost lands of the San Bernardino Valley, in the twilight zone known as Rialto, California: An arid wasteland of boredom and empty lots. Through punk rock and skateboarding they found temporary liberation from the local monotony. However, it wouldn’t be long before a hunger for more led them to explore musical realms beyond that of the hardcore punk they admired. After stints at music school and steady disappointment trying to navigate their local jazz scene they moved to Los Angeles and Brainstory was born.
Through a introduction from Chicano Batman’s bassist, Brainstory caught the ears of Big Crown head honchos Danny Akalepse and Leon Michels. Shortly thereafter they were on their way to Queens, to record at The Legendary Diamond Mine with Michels at the helm. An instant chemistry yielded 10 songs in 10 days and now Brainstory has gifted the world with one hell of an introduction to all things Buck. Highlights include the sublime slow burner, “Dead End” which was the A-side to their first 45 on Big Crown that sold out in a matter of days. With Kevin’s sublime falsetto floating atop Tony and Eric’s unflappable and unmistakable backbeat, this tune has become a favorite with the ballad heads, the low-riders, and the slowie collectors. “Breathe” showcases another side of their sound taking a page out of the Shuggie Otis playbook and flipping the script with some stoned out west coast swag. Kev and Tony’s father, Big Tone, an accomplished performer himself, steps in on “Peter Pan” to sing lead vocals over a chorus of friends and family. Bassist extraordinaire, Tony, takes over lead vocal duties on “Sorry”, a smoked out, G Funk groove that is just waiting to be sampled.
These guys have come a long way from their self released EPs and opening tours with Chicano Batman. Their musical growth is undeniable, and taking their California sunshine vibes and mixing them with Michels’ NYC aesthetic has proven to be an amazing combination. It’s a debut record that pulls influences from so many genres seamlessly it’s hard to nail down. Call it Funk, call it Rock, call it Soul, but over here at Big Crown HQ, we’ve decided to call it BUCK. 

Hailu Mergia And The Walias Band - Tche Belew (LP)Hailu Mergia And The Walias Band - Tche Belew (LP)
Hailu Mergia And The Walias Band - Tche Belew (LP)Awesome Tapes From Africa

The acclaimed and highly sought-after LP by Hailu Mergia and the Walias, Tche Belew, an album of instrumentals released in 1977, is perhaps the most seminal recording released in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution. The story of the Walias band is a critical chapter in Ethiopian popular music, taking place during a period of music industry flux and political complexity in the country. Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and arranger diligently working the nightclub scene in Addis Ababa, formed the Walias in the early 1970’s with a core group of musicians assembled from prior working bands. They played Mergia’s funk- and soul-informed tunes, while cutting 45rpm singles with various vocalists. While the Walias performed at top hotels and played the presidential palace twice, their relationship with the Derg regime was complex, evidenced by the removal of one song from the record by government censors. Decades later, Hailu Mergia was surprised to see the album fetching more than $4,000 at online auctions (it helped that the most popular of all Ethiopian tunes “Musicawi Silt” appeared on the record). Now everyone has the chance to listen again―or for the first time―to this timeless pillar of Ethiopian popular music.

V.A. - L80s: So Unusual (Metallic Gold Color Vinyl LP)V.A. - L80s: So Unusual (Metallic Gold Color Vinyl LP)
V.A. - L80s: So Unusual (Metallic Gold Color Vinyl LP)Numero Group
The tenth volume of Numero's elaborately packaged Cabinet of Curiosities series, L80s finds the group exploring the far-flung corners of the global downtempo underground. This 12-song mix tape weaves icy hot coldwave, Sausalito seafood jazz, Glaswegian goth, makeshift Madonna, Sade spoofs, and Brat Pack balearic into a high-waisted, party-ready pair of danceable denim.

Roman Norfleet and Be Present Art Group (LP)Roman Norfleet and Be Present Art Group (LP)
Roman Norfleet and Be Present Art Group (LP)Mississippi Records
Premiere LP by Portland's finest practitioners of Great Black Music. A spiritual record for the ages. Roman Norfleet And Be Present Art Group play deeply felt sometimes earthy and sometimes cosmic music. A trio (sax, drums and organ) are augmented by additional percussion, soaring vocals and even a vocal appearance by a toddler. This record will take you where you need to go. Don't miss history in the making. Across six expansive tracks, Roman Norfleet and Be Present Art Group build from free-flowing ceremony through meditative groove-based prayer and into full-on gales of improvised music. “We build our own time,” Norfleet said, a collective act of liberation through sound. Raised in the Baptist church and trained in the Hindu/Vedic philosophy of Swamini Turiyasangitanada (Alice Coltrane), Portland multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Roman Norfleet travels a lineage of Great Black Music and the world’s spiritualities on his debut for Mississippi Records. The album emerged out of drum gatherings in Washington DC’s Malcolm X Park - a pocket of freedom built on collective improvisation and shared rhythm. In Portland, Norfleet gathered a collective of artists including Jacque Hammond and members of Brown Calculus to transmit the spirit of those DC sessions. A formative encounter with Pharoah Sanders furthered the young saxophonist’s journey via the spaceways, through Sun Ra and into the universe of contemporaries like Angel Bat Dawid. The album culminates in the beautiful “Turiya the Butterfly,” sung by 2-year-old Turiya Raiah. A daughter of band members Andre and Mia and named after the great Alice Coltrane, Turiya completes both the intergenerational circle and a spiritual classic in the present. Record comes with a glossy band photo and insert
Pale Jay - Bewilderment (Opaque Red Vinyl LP)Pale Jay - Bewilderment (Opaque Red Vinyl LP)
Pale Jay - Bewilderment (Opaque Red Vinyl LP)Karma Chief Records
Bewilderment - the feeling of being perplexed and confused - is the inspiration behind Pale Jay's new album. It's a soulful exploration of a family's gradual disintegration due to years of avoidance and miscommunication. During this difficult time, Pale Jay began to question the stories he had always lived with and re-examined his identity. The resulting work, Bewilderment, is his first full-length album, which strives to find answers to these questions and more. The album is set to release on 8/18/2023 on Karma Chief Records, a subsidiary of Colemine. Pale Jay is a trained jazz vocalist and pianist, and he wrote, recorded, and produced all songs on the album, except for 'By The Lake', which is a collaboration with labelmates Okonski - Steve Okonski, Aaron Frazer, and Michael Montgomery. Pale Jay's music is influenced by a wide range of songwriters, including Labi Siffre, Carole King, and William Onyeabor. 'Bewilderment' is a seamless blend of Pale Jay’s trademark dusty soul, slow disco, and Afrobeat, with string arrangements by Raven Bush adding an extra layer of magic to the beat-heavy productions. Preface: the platform In the early stages of recording, Pale Jay met Terry Cole, the owner of Colemine and Karma Chief Records, and the two decided to work together on Pale Jay's first full-length LP. Inspired by this connection, Pale Jay wrote the song 'Preface', which expresses his gratitude for finding a platform for his music. In Your Corner: the antagonist At its core, the Afrobeat inspired song is a conversation with the self. An uplifting tune at first glance, the lyrics lay bare the internal struggle for self-acceptance. The song explores the push and pull between self-love and self-judgement that can often leave us feeling lost and uncertain. My Dirty Desire: the introvert Another standout track on the album is a warbling slow-disco tribute to the introvert. Pale Jay acknowledges that society rewards extroverts, but he embraces his introverted nature and the benefits of solitude. Pale Jay's debut LP is a captivating journey of self-discovery. Each song on Bewilderment tells a unique story, but they all share a common theme of personal growth and self-understanding. Grab a copy on 8/18/2023 to dive in and experience the new album.

Say She She - Silver (CS)Say She She - Silver (CS)
Say She She - Silver (CS)Karma Chief Records
Say She She, the soulful female-led trio, stand rock solid on their discodelic duty with their boundary breaking sophomore album Silver. The three strong voices of Piya Malik (El Michels Affair staple feature, and former backing singer for Chicano Batman), Sabrina Mileo Cunningham and Nya Gazelle Brown front the band. Following the NYC siren song, the trio was pulled from their respective cities — Piya from London, Nya from DC, and Sabrina from NYC — to Manhattan’s downtown dance floors, through the Lower East Side floorboards, and up to the rooftops of Harlem, where their friendship was formed on one momentous, kismet eve. Silver was entirely written and recorded live to tape at Killion Sound studio in North Hollywood earlier this year and produced by Sergio Rios (of Orgone). While these analog recording techniques help root Say She She’s sound in a bedrock of tonal warmth that only tape can achieve, it is also their process of cutting the track in the moment and capturing the magic of communal creativity that has seen their sound described as “a glorious overload of joyful elation and spiritual elevation” (MOJO) and “infused with the wonky post-disco spirit of early '80s NYC” (The Guardian). Musical inspirations include Rotary Connection, Asha Puthli, Liquid Liquid, Grace Jones and Tom Tom Club. Ultimately, Silver oozes with quirk and adventure and embraces the multifaceted nature of what it means to be a modern femme. Say She She fully embrace their role as beauticians, actively reminding people of the inherent beauty in the world. They skillfully employ double entendres and humor to encourage open dialogue and fearlessly address important matters that demand attention.
Tamba Trio - Tamba (LP)
Tamba Trio - Tamba (LP)Audio Clarity
This record shows many different places, from some electronics, SambaJazz, Batucada, etc. Surprise. Perhaps almost unknown by many friends at Loronix. This is a work of a serious Jazz Band. This cover edition is sponsored by Varig Airlines that gave this album as a gift to their DC-10 passengers.
Pharoah Sanders - Karma (LP)
Pharoah Sanders - Karma (LP)Audio Clarity
Karma is Sanders' third recording as a leader, and is among a number of spiritually themed albums the Impulse! record label released in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Although it is followed by the brief "Colors", the album's main piece is the 32-minute-long "The Creator Has a Master Plan", co-composed by Sanders with vocalist Leon Thomas. Some see this piece as a kind of sequel to Sanders' mentor John Coltrane's legendary 1964 recording A Love Supreme (whose opening it echoes in a muscular yet lyrical opening "prelude", with Sanders playing over a suspended, non-rhythmic backdrop, before the entrance of a bass figure which underpins much of the piece). It features Sanders on tenor sax, along with two of his most important collaborators, the aforementioned Leon Thomas and pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, as well as a supporting cast of musicians who were major musicians in their own right: flautist James Spaulding; French-horn player Julius Watkins; bassist Reggie Workman, who had played with Coltrane earlier in the 1960s; second bassist Richard Davis; drummer Billy Hart, and percussionist Nathaniel Bettis. While later recorded versions of the tune, some of which featured Sanders and Thomas, became shorter and more lyrical, this original contains extended free instrumental sections, particularly the third section, where the saxophonist demonstrates some of the techniques which build his distinctive sound, including a split-reed technique, overblowing, and multiphonics, which give a screeching sound.

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