Beat of the Week: Elaquent “Butterflies”

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 Elaquent’s “Butterflies” is smoother than smooth. It’s one of those tracks that forces the listener to instantly vibe with it. This song has a clean set of chords, a kick you can feel in the base of your spine, and one of the best baselines I’ve heard in a while. Elaquent’s piece is one of twenty three beats on the compilation album On and Onwhich, more uniquely, features twenty three producers. Give this jam a listen; it definitely gets my head wobbling like a bobble head. You can purchase the album here.

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Song Review: Noid  “Kattepajo”

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Kattepajo is a lullaby on crack. Or maybe it’s addicting like crack–well, not that I’d know how addictive crack is. Anyway you break it down, the song is just as catchy as it is unique.

Hailing from Karelia, Russia, Noid offers a idiosyncratic genre of music which focuses on Vepsian songs performed in a world music style. Lead singers, Elena Pavlova and Maria Chernysheva, gracefully open Kattepajo as accordion player, Vladimir Solojev, harmonizes in the background. At around 70 bpm, the song maintains a slow, soothing, easy-on-the-ears tone. Around the fifth measure, the crooners chant “Uinda, uinda linduizem/ Babuskon da vonukeine,” which translates to “Go to sleep, go to sleep, my little bird/Grandmother and little grandchild.” The singers continue–in the Veps language of course–as they sing, “Bye, bye, bye…/Grandmother puts you to sleep/Grandmother makes you tired/Little grandchild is something of his own.”

The addition of a clean bass line–thanks to Alexander Shashin–and a briskly paced drum pattern, pick up the track’s pace. Not before long, Kattepajo moves from a jog to a full on stride. In the climatic breakdown, Solojev’s skill behind the accordion is akin to Horse the Band’s Erik Engstrom’s mastery of the electronic keyboard as he ferociously plays his instrument alongside drummer, Ruslin Popov’s, hyperactive beat pattern. Oddly, I feel the urge to throw on a pair of knee high socks,clogs, and shorts high enough to show off my thighs of steel–you better believe I don’t skip out on leg day–as I river dance myself into a frenzy.

The pacing works, the composition is well done, and the overall song is enjoyable. Heck, it even got me to shake my rear end–in the comfort of my own room at least.  Give Kattepajo a whirl; it’s worth it.

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Interview with Ethan Jano

Pennsylvania native Ethan Jano found his love for performing on a whim. At the young age of eight years old Jano’s father gave him a guitar, taught him a few major chords, and let him loose. His natural talent to perform occurred around a campfire after a failed attempt to get his younger sister to sing as he played. Jano took it upon himself to sing his best rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues.” His audience was speechless and Jano found his gift.

It took years of playing in cover bands for Jano to pick up a pen and paper and create his own sound. Now, the twenty two year old is fresh off of releasing his debut album I’ll be fine, which debuted last month, and is currently on a mini tour on the east coast. I was fortunate to get a few words with Jano and discuss growing up in his hometown, his dislike of social media, and his current album.

I don’t know much about Pennsylvania, so please tell your fans what it’s like growing up there?

Well,  from the part I grew up (Somerset) it was very secluded. So, unlike a lot of the town kids, I spent a lot of time alone playing guitar or banjo and trying to figure out who I really was. That’s maybe why I’m sure of who I am now (unlike a lot of my peers). I also spent a lot of time in a family setting–which was great–and there was never a shortage of love at home. My parents have always been very supportive of life in general and never pushed me or my brothers and sisters into anything they wanted us to do. But we grew up in a place of very clean morals. Then you would venture from home and you see the drug abuse and the impact of divorce and the recession and it would confuse you which can create a brilliant environment for writing.

If you can recall, what was it like performing in front of people–other than your family–for the first time?

I don’t remember totally, but it was better than I expected. People were amazed at my voice. It was very fulfilling, but I was so nervous that I don’t remember any of the performance!

The first show that really enjoyed was with your sister at Wells Creek Station. What did you enjoy about this show?

Most definitely the fact that people were listening. And also being able to play an original song, look into the crowd, and see people receive it was very satisfying.

You got a lot of practice gaining a stage presence performing at open mics and bars. How would you say your performing differs now compared to when you started?

I think when everyone starts they are worried about what people think, but eventually you find that if you are not totally engaged and confident in what you are doing that no one else will be either. So if you want the background noise to stop you need to stop it. And music is an art in itself that you will be forever working on. Now I can just do my thing, and I think that becomes a lot more attractive to people of all kinds.

What inspires your musical process?

Life.

I read that you still work at a lumber mill is Pennsylvania. Does your work reflect in the topics you sing about? If so, how?

Very much so. It’s the life I deal with day in day out. The good of it, the bad of it, and how it impacts the rest of everything else. Im real excited to get away from it and see what else I can experience in this world.

How do you find time to create music while holding a job?

Lots of coffee and late nights ha. I am a strong multi tasker and a lot of songs I write in my head are at work or while dealing with other obligations.

You said in an interview that you were picked on because you chose to listen to artists such as Buddy Holly while most others listened to what was “hip.” Did your music selection translate into the type of people you hung out with and the other kids you related to? 

Well that was early on, and I don’t think I really had any close friends that shared the same love for music until I was out of high school.

You’re not much of a social media person. How has the transition been from not caring about social media to having to care about Facebook, Twitter, etc?

It definitely keeps you busy, and I’m still not a fan because more than half of the stuff on there is crap in my opinion. It’s necessary now more than ever–especially in the art–so I guess I just have to get use to it.

Do you find yourself wanting to be on social media more now that you are a part of it?

Yes, it is a bit like a disease but I think you just need to stay conscience to whats going on right in front of you!

Your album was just released on February 10th. How does it feel?

Great! I’m happy to be spreading the word, playing shows, and having people enjoy something that I work really hard on. I have already been back in the studio as well. The whole process of the first album really sparked a different inspiration and let me meet and see different kinds of people.

Any last words for your fans?

Thank you so much for the support!

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Song Review: Ships Have Sailed “Criminal”

 

Sometimes less is more. The bare bones sound of Ships Have Sailed’s “Criminal” weaves ambient noise and slow-pulsing drums to glide you through its introduction. The lyrics are soft spoken, succinct, and chosen with delicate consideration. Toward the latter end of the record, Ships gracefully guides their listeners with a choir-esq “oh” chant and a drum pattern reminiscent of a high school marching band. The song is short and sweet. And coming in exactly 2 minutes, Ships asserts that they have the moxie to move music enthusiasts merely with drums, vocals, and an atmospheric background.  You can buy their album on iTunes here.

And check out their full album review Moodswings here.

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Beat of the Week: Mother – Temperance [Free download]

Name: Mother
Age: 24
Location: Planet Earth
Music genre: Hip Hop/Trap/RnB/Electro Pop
Influences:  Michael Jackson, Prince, Daft Punk, Air, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Hip Hop from the 70’s, Childish Gambino, famous producers from the 80s to now, retro video games, SF, and all good stuffs.
What inspired this beat: Retro Video Games, SF. As regards of ambiance, I like to work with words to define ’em, it helps me find the sounds I’m gonna’ use. For this one [Temperance] it was “pure” and “fluid.”
Equipment used: Maschine 2 to make the beat/ Izotope Ozone 6 for mastering.

 

Atmospheric strings and an uplifting melody open Temperance.  Hoarse synths, muffled kick drums and a thick bass line gradually follow. The vibe is reminiscent of the background sounds of 8-bit Atari goodness. But the tempo is chill enough to bring out your inner Buddha (if that floats your boat).

It take a well-crafted production to string together a piece of work that manages to demand attention for the entire five minute duration with very subtle transitions. Mother avoids chord progressions and  sparingly welcomes a bit of filtering to alter his sounds. It’s not much, but it manages to come together nicely.

But maybe that’s the point of Temperance—to move through stillness. Or maybe I’m getting a little too deep on myself here. And if you haven’t already noticed, Temperance is a free download. Enjoy.

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Luca Bluefire Himmel: A Long Cold Winter [Album Review]

Himmel   Luca Bluefire’s debut album “Himmel: A Long Cold Winter,” is a superbly crafted artistic collaboration. The album, which was released February 15th, introduces an array of vocalists, each voice interpreting the instrumental sounds that Luca weaves together, making it their own. The result: a fresh,  well-balanced piece of work.

Himmel opens with the atmospheric sounds of “Reverie.” The overall vibe is peaceful. Aurora Sebastiani’s operatic vocals and Luca’s trance-inducing guitar licks perfectly fit the theme of a song that’s definition is literally “Being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts.”

I was suddenly shaken awake from my near dreamlike state as I was instantly introduced to the rebellious, do-what-it-feels-like second track that is“Promises.” From the thumping kicks to the growling guitar, this track is the most unique out of the bunch. The real strength here is its catchy chorus, where the vocalist Mak Others really shines as she harmonizes with Luca’s guitar breaks; The aggressive gut-punching guitar strings, where Luca showcases his rock roots; and the overall song composition.

“Give me Life” and “The Dark” are much like Reverie in the sense that they both emit the same atmospheric, almost psychedelic feeling. Not to mention they also feature female vocalists Lola De Hana and Millie Guam respectively.

Distorted synths and airy guitar melodies open up “Magneto,” Luca’s first instrumental track.   Next to “Promises,” “Magneto” is the closest track to nearly get you off your heiny to bust a groove. The chord progression introduced later in the mix is noticeably simplistic compared to the superb guitar melody, but the overall product is enjoyable.

In “Shatter” Luca opens with lonesome strings which are later accompanied by a cross-melodic, aggressive growl of chords. This is the first–not to mention–only song that Luca laces his vocals with. Interestingly, this is the most well-balanced song on the entire album. The vocals are clean, melodic, and the breaks never slow down the overall relaxing aura of the song. I’m not gonna’ lie, there were times I felt the the urge to close my eyes and unconsciously sway my body like a wet noodle (a wet noodle with rhythm at least). “Blackest Hearts” is the longest of the bunch, coming in under seven minutes.

The militaristic drum patterns, solemn guitar strings, and somber spoken words of Jason Bradley provokes the feeling of unrest and contemplation, yet it emanates utter bliss. That and it bears probably the strongest guitar solo the album has to offer.

Himmel wraps up the album with one final instrumental “Snow Glitters.” The minimal layers makes this track  have a sense of vulnerability. Its soft-spoken guitar plucks are accompanied by a single cross-melodic instrument. The sound is risky, but it works.

There is no doubt that Luca had a well-crafted vision for Himmel. What could have easily felt like a grab bag of artist features really came together as a solid collaboration. It would have been great to hear more of Luca’s craftsmanship behind the guitar–which is undoubtedly his strength–but he more than makes up for it with composition, well-crafted transitions, and great production quality. You can find the album here.

Rating: 3.75/5 Songs to look out for: “Promises,” “Shatter,” “Blackest Hearts,” “Snow Glitters”

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Interview with Ships Have Sailed

Will Carpenter is a lucky man. Carpenter, who spearheads the Los Angeles-based Ships Have Sailed, found his love for music at a very young age. But his journey has not always been easy. At the age when most fifteen year olds are concerned about the zits on their pizza-munching faces, Carpenter made a life-changing decision to leave home. With a focused mind and sheer determination, Carpenter pulled himself out of a position where many would succumb to the challenge. Now, the thirty-one-year-old Vermont native is riding the current wave that is his recently released single “Midnight” while simultaneously gearing up to take the stage for the first time with his band.

Please tell me a little about yourself?

A lot of you probably already know from my bio, but here’s some more: I can be introverted at times, like many artists, but I also love people. I think a lot can be learned about the world from watching and trying to understand the people around us, and I try to increase my awareness every day! I have both a creative and an analytical mind…and I personally believe that those two aspects of my mentality really play off each other when it comes to my musical process and the style of music I’ve chosen to create for myself. On a fluffier note, I’m more of a dog person than a cat person (although my mom does love cats, and I can get along with them when I need to), and I like moderate walks on the beach–too long of a walk and I might get bored… ;-)

So how would you say the creative and analytical part of your brain play a role in your musical process and style of playing music?

I would say they sort of compete with each other. The analytical side likes patterns and neat, tidy, symmetrical forms; whereas the creative side is, well, more creative. The net result is that the two balance each other out and provide a healthy competition between symmetry (which can be boring honestly) and more inventive forms, chord voicings, riffs, etc. My composition style certainly wouldn’t be the same without both sides of my brain/personality.

I’ve read that you’re originally from a small town in Vermont, where you were raised by “an array of talented women.” How would you say your mother and your four sisters inspired you as a musician?

My mother definitely was responsible for encouraging all of us to pursue music from an early age. That said, she tended to like classical and folk music–Jazz she heard as chaotic, and the most she leaned towards Rock music was The Beatles. I have either myself or my eldest sister Jena (who introduced me to everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica and Nirvana) to thank for all of my exposure to the more modern genres of music. Being one of five siblings growing up adds a healthy amount of competition to the mix, which I personally think is really important as a motivator to practice and make sure you’re growing better at what you do every day.

What was it about The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors that made you want to make music to change the world?

Listing those artists, it’s hard not to notice that each one of them created significant change through their music, all in rather different ways.  Some had political messages to share (some more subtle than others) and all of them brought something extremely unique from a musical perspective into the world that has helped shape the way music has developed into what we hear today. Also, I would say that all the artists in this particular list are timeless and have music that still translates to a listener today even though they didn’t have the benefits of modern, flawless, digital production. I find as an artist it is always important to find the things that inspire you and to find ways to incorporate that inspiration into what it is that you specifically do.

Tell me a little bit about playing the violin. Was this instrument hidden away in an attic? Was it a gift? How did this instrument fall into your hands?

Well, we definitely were a thrift-store type of family and didn’t really have too much in the way of finances growing up, so purchases like violins and such were definitely a stretch for my mom. However, as an early childhood educator, she placed huge importance on music and the arts as elements that help a young child’s brain develop. So finding a way to get or borrow instruments, such as the violin, and finding ways for us to learn how to play was something she prioritized. Once you have a 1/2, 3/4 and full size violin with 5 kids, the instruments get handed down, shared and recycled. So that was basically how it worked.

Interesting. Actually, it seems like you’ve picked up on several instruments at a very young age—something that is not typical in children—did your passion have much effect on your childhood?

Again, I think it was my mother’s emphasis on music that is responsible for this, definitely tailored towards a more classical musical education in my early years.  She tells a couple stories of me as a two-year-old humming Vivaldi or Mozart almost flawlessly to myself as I was playing, or as a four-year-old sitting down at the piano and playing a Beethoven piece decently by ear after hearing one of my sisters practice it. So I think she recognized an aptitude for music in me early on and decided it would be a good thing to cultivate.

That’s amazing! Not only to be moved and influenced by great artists, but for your mom to recognize your talent and to guide you towards your passion. Say that weren’t the case, what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a musician?

Well, I’ve already had a few different careers in addition to music. I’ve done everything from working in all aspects of food service (from waiting tables to being a line cook), doing stage production, security positions, software development, and architecture.  It’s hard to say what I would have found a distinct passion for if music hadn’t filled that space, but if I were to pick a career at this moment following or during my musical pursuits, I don’t know, maybe something in the education field…college professor?

Some kids get the boot from living in the luxury of their parent’s home at the age of eighteen, but you decided on leaving at fifteen. How did you make this decision? And was your family ok with this decision? Why or why not?

Well, without getting too deep into the weeds on this one, let me just say that at 14 and 15 years old my mother and I were having a somewhat contentious time in our relationship. She made an ultimatum that she certainly must have thought I would cave in to, and instead of caving I moved out of the house. She was not happy about it, but I guess she felt that she also couldn’t go back on her stance. To be honest, it has taken us a long time to get past that point in our relationship, but I’m happy to say that we have. I should also add that living on your own (often homeless) at such a young age is really difficult, lonely, and not something I would recommend…but with that said, the experience made me stronger as a person, and so I have no personal regrets.  I learned a lot about taking responsibility for the trajectory of my own life, and I think all those lessons (no matter how hard they were at the time) have helped me become the person I am today.

Wow. It must’ve been a difficult transitional period in your life. How did you bounce back from being homeless?

Well, I think we all go through difficult transitions from time to time, this particular one for me just ended up happening fairly early on.  I try to bounce back from all my various struggles the same way over the years: I make a list of goals and accomplishments that will project me away from the situation and elevate me out of it, which usually result in a bunch of things I need to do in order to accomplish those goals. Then it’s pretty easy to work your way through the list one item at a time and one day at a time…again, I guess my analytical side at work. This is how I try to approach almost any problem in life because it separates the reality of the issue from any emotion you might be feeling around it, and it gives you a clear direction on how to move past it.

How did you wind up playing lead guitar for 7lions? How is that coming along at the moment?

When I moved out to LA, I decided that I was going to take a break from creating and fronting my own bands and take a lead guitar role in an existing project.  I answered an ad on Craigslist and wound up auditioning with a group that included Forrest Fulmer as the lead singer.  After a bunch of line-up turnovers, which left only Forrest and I as original members of that group, we were still creating music and playing shows. We met Prophet through an artist in residency program at a clothing line store where Forrest worked at the time, did a quick collaborative track with him and had him jump on stage a couple shows in a row. The reaction from the crowd was just undeniable. Forrest and I decided to change the format of our project at the time and create something new with Prophet as a full member. That project eventually became 7Lions.  Everything is great with 7L currently. We are working on new music and are always exploring different ways to impact and grow our fan base. I love all those guys like family and certainly my love for Ships Have Sailed will not impact my dedication to 7L. I’m a great multi-tasker! :-)

Please tell me about how Ships have Sailed came together?

Well, basically 7Lions has a very specific sound, and I tend to write all types of music. I found myself with a few songs that I couldn’t find a home for in 7L, but that I really didn’t want to let go either. They were very personal to me, so I started doing production for them. A couple of these songs felt like they needed more than I could give them at the time, and so I called up a good friend of mine, Morgan Taylor Reid, who is an incredible producer, songwriter and musician (and also a 7L member) and asked if he was interested in co-writing and co-producing a couple tracks. Those turned into “Midnight” and “Someday,” and all of a sudden I had an EP. That’s pretty much how it happened; it was like “Oh hey, here’s a new project that needs to be named and released!”

Speaking of “Midnight,” how has your audience reacted to it so far?

The reaction to “Midnight” has been nothing short of amazing. I launched this project extremely quietly, and to have a single song contribute so massively towards building a following and generating some good online feedback in such a short period of time has been surprising in the best possible way. Almost everyone seems to love that track as well as the video, and I’m extremely grateful that it has gotten so much love.  As an artist, really the best possible reward is to touch people with your work, and I think “Midnight” has accomplished exactly that.

That’s Amazing! I definitely think many other artists would agree that affecting people with their work is the utmost greatest feeling. Switching gears, how does your creative process work? In other words, how do you go from having ideas in your head to putting them down on paper?

[My creative process] tends to be different each time. It’s really easy when I have an instrument around or when I’m near my home studio—there I can just play ideas out and record them rough for later development, but more often than not, I will be in my car, on a plane, or somewhere where it’s impossible to do any of that when a good idea pops into my head. I’ve gotten really savvy at singing into my phone very quietly in public if that’s what I need to do, and I also have a pretty decent short-hand for chord progressions and forms that I can just take down in a “notes” program. With smartphones, it’s really pretty easy these days to sock something away for later. I don’t know how I survived without them!

Technology could definitely be a lifesaver when it comes to making music on the go. Any last words you’d like to say to anyone reading this?

Just that I’ve gotten a lot of questions about live performances. Yes, Ships Have Sailed will be playing live starting very soon!  The project took off rather unexpectedly, and I wanted to take the time to line up the right musicians to make the live experience translate on stage.  We have a very solid lineup at this point, and hope to be playing shows within the next month around the LA area, then branching out and hitting the road later this year!

Fantastic! Thank you for your time, Will!

You can purchase Ship Have Sailed’s EP ‘Someday’ on Itunes here.

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