shirley tetteh’s nardeydey mixes alt-pop and post-punk
Even among all the young talents on the rise from London’s incredible new jazz scene, Shirley Tetteh stands out as a true don. She is a guitarist of high renown, and a key member of the spiritual-jazz big-band Maisha and the all-star, all-women’s ensemble, Nejira. But on “Speedial,” her first single under the name Nardeydey, Tetteh also reveals herself a fabulous alternative pop singer-songwriter.
Though Tetteh says “Speedial” is under the influence of jazz progressives like Ornette Coleman and Kurt Rosenweinkel, it could not be easier on the ears if it tried. Over an inviting mix of rolling percussion, and a guitar riff detuned and jagged enough to be classified post-punk yet melodic enough to be full of Afro-pop sweetness, Tetteh addresses a partner not sitting in front of her: “I wish I had you on the speedial/just press a button and your person appears,” she sings as matter-of-factly as you like, intimating a complex modern relationship.
Yet by the time we reach the chorus, and Tetteh’s voice ascends to a strong insistent falsetto, and the vibe has become more passionate and elemental. “So I’ll sing to thunder/dance my rain/I will sleep with the fire,” she sings — before returning to her phone, “don’t wait for me.”
It’s a masterful turn-of-perspective, one that the songwriter and singer pulls off with comfort. And it makes us very excited to hear more. With all the other stuff Shirley Tetteh has got going on — both Maisha and Nejira also have albums scheduled for 2018 — it’s fascinating to wonder what the rest of the Nardeydey project will sound like.
premiere: river spirit’s unclassifiable “fall”
“Genres? Where we’re going we don’t need genres.”
Hailing from Detroit, a city where musical movements are born on the regular, River Spirit cross lines no-one else had even noticed were intersecting. Their new single “Me I Fall” bares traces of jazz-punk, Oakland Afropop, math-rock, and a little classic R&B for good measure. Jagged riffs vie for space with Vanessa Reynolds’s plaintive, expansive melodies. It’s haunting one moment, riveting the next. Basically, it’s a lot of awesomeness packed into a little over two minutes.
River Spirit (photo: Tricia Talley)
“Me I Fall” is the title track to the band’s forthcoming full length. The record has been years in the works. The band tells us that “the album explores what it means to fall apart and what can be created when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to unravel; spaces of transition, the feeling of being submerged, literally and metaphorically.”
River Spirit, ‘Me I Fall,’ image by Hillary Illyssa
Me I Fall is due out January 25th. That’s a ways out, but helpfully we’ve calculated that you can listen to “Me I Fall” roughly 69,617 times between now and then. You’ll want to.
premiere: makaya mccraven’s ‘suite haus’ swings hard
Count 2018 as one of those occasional years when jazz regenerates its context by stealing away from the rarefied and insular spaces of older crowds, straight towards the club and the young ears of people who’ll move to it — with London and Chicago among the movement’s hotbeds. On his new album, Universal Beings, Windy City-based drummer/producer Makaya McCraven creates collisions between the “new jazz” epicenters, recording a slew of tracks on which musicians from those locales (as well as Los Angeles and New York) initiate grooves, which McCraven then takes back to the lab Madlib-style, and chops up into dance-floor burners.
“Suite Haus” is one of the album’s London sides, and features an all-star line-up of the city’s exploding group of improvisers, with saxophonist Nubya Garcia, bassist Daniel Casimir and Rhodes player Ashley Henry rounding out the quartet. Led by Garcia’s deeply melodic tenor line and multiple loops of McCraven moving all over his kit, it smokes like a classic (but contemporary AF) re-edit of a Oneness of Juju or Osibisa track, the kind of thing crate-digging DJs and producers will flock to.
L-R: Nubya Garcia, Daniel Casimir, Ashley Henry and Makaya McCraven (photo: Fabrice Bourgelle)
It is also a perfect exemplar of McCraven’s process — take the raw parts of a great jam, and post-produce them into something greater — as well as an insight to how today’s improvisers engage with recordings versus live performances.
“The intro section [of “Suite Haus”] was just Nubya playing a melody,” Makaya told AFROPUNK. “We were setting up a groove, an African kind of vibe with this triple kind of feel and rim-shots which gives it a woody, organic sound. And then when it flips to, like, a house track, that’s where there’s a lot of tight chopping and then a bit of overdubbing to develop the track. I called it ‘Suite Haus’ because after that first little triplet section, which sounded very sweet (major diatonic-y, and simple), the second section becomes a little more house, darker, grittier. That was really the meat of that piece, the house section, so to speak.
“When it gets to that second part, that’s when the track starts to bump, and you start to get that hard, looping feeling of contemporary sound of electronic music because of the tighter chopping, and after that we’ve kind of transcended into a different realm. Which is something I really like about that track.
“That’s the way I like to think of it: When you’re in the room with us, that’s an organic space. When I take that and re-contextualize it [with studio post-production], then what we’re listening to is not just being in the room with the musicians, but a world that doesn’t exist, a sonic space. That’s one of the challenges to performing this music. Unless you come and see me doing an electronic set, it will never sound exactly like the recording. From a jazz musicians’ perspective, now we’re gonna take the nuts and bolts of the thing that I produced, and we’re gonna reinterpret that through the lens of performing musicians.”
Welcome to jazz, circa 2018.
trumpeter ambrose akinmusire + kool a.d. go deep
There’s a lot going on in “a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie,” the first piece released from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire upcoming album, Origami Harvest. There’s the interplay between pianist Sam Harris and the strings of New York’s Mivos Quartet, that might make you wonder what sort of new-music ish you stepped into. There’s an insistent, spiritual groove courtesy of Marcus Gilmore‘s drums, and Akinmusire’s horn, which at times sounds pliant as a sheet of wind and at others, rides the rhythm. And in the center, there’s grand verse from Kool A.D., once of bratty rap crew, Das Racist, sounding eloquent and poetic, trying to balance a lot of non-jokey stuff while still having fun. Often all these things happen at once. The result is beautiful and heavy—which is not unexpected for a track named in recognition of Trayvon Martin‘s murder by the coward, George Zimmerman.
“a blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie” is the opener on Origami Harvest, an album that has all the making of a masterwork from the musician best known by heads for his trumpet’s graceful lines on Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly closer, “Mortal Man.” This one too has the feel of a personal epic, and Akinmusire says much. “Origami refers to the different ways black people, especially men, have to fold, whether in failure or to fit a mold. Then I had a son while writing this and I thought about these cycles repeating: Harvest.”
The Oakland-born trumpeter says that the album came out of a question posed by Judd Greenstein, who runs of experimental Ecstatic Music Festival in New York: “What’s the craziest idea you have?” Akinmusire replied that he “wanted to do a project about extremes and putting things that are seemingly opposite right next to each other.
“I was thinking a lot about the masculine and the feminine,” he continues. “High and low art. Free improvisation versus controlled calculation. American ghettos and American affluence. Originally, I thought I put them all so close together that it would highlight the fact that there isn’t as much space between these supposed extremes as we thought, but I don’t know if that’s actually the conclusion of it.”
sampha produced & features on london singer rose gabor’s entrancing ‘illusions’
If you haven’t heard of Roses Gabor then it’s likely that you have heard her. The North West Londoner’s voice can be found featured on club/pop stylist SBTRKT’s biggest track “Pharaohs” as well as Gorillaz’s mammoth hit “DARE” live on tour with Damon and co. Gabor’s vocals have been making the round and in now in 2018, she is launching her solo career, sharing her own vision with the world with first single ‘Illusions’ featuring Sampha.
A child of Grenadian parents, Gabor’s musical upbringing consisted of “new jack swing R&B, classic Stevie Wonder, soca and the commercial sounds of Capital FM blaring from her carpenter father’s van driving through London.’ Her first musical love was Mary J Blige, which comes through in her distinct vocal timbre.
Sampha’s meditative production underscores the heady combination of his euphoric crooning paired with Gabor’s R&B soprano, delivering a track with surprises at every turn. The off-kilter digital ad-libs, piano and wistful voices in the background build a sonic landscape that gives us a taste of the individualistic sound we’re likely to experience from this songstress.
‘Illusions’ is out now.
the internet released the sensual soundtrack to your summer with new album ‘hive mind’
In this time of uncertainty, long Summer days can feel never-ending. Luckily for us, The Internet came through and gifted us with the sensual, funky soul album of the Summer with their latest release, ‘Hive Mind’.
When the band went on to pursue solo projects after releasing ‘Ego Death’ back in 2015, vocalist Syd, guitarist Steve Lacy, producer Matt Martians, drummer Christopher Smith and bassist Patrick Paige II came back and combined all their individual growth to create a cohesive “slow burn” masterpiece that can easily provide the perfect soundtrack to our memorable Summer moments.
kendrick lamar collaborator kamasi washington brings his funk spaceship to the arcade
Ahead of the June 22nd release of his sophomore album Heaven and Earth, experimental artist Kamasi Washington shared a new track from the much-anticipated project. “Street Fighter Mas”, named after the cult video game, was inspired by Washington’s childhood spent at the arcade playing Street Fighter with dudes from other hoods, dudes he wouldn’t have been able to share a peaceful common space with otherwise.
“We used to go to this place called Rexall to play Street Fighter. At Rexall, there would be different people from different hoods there playing the game. It was the one place that was like an equalizer. It was just about how good you were at Street Fighter…for the most part.”
When I was young, I was obsessed with Street Fighter! I thought I was going to be a professional gamer, so I made a theme song. I still imagine it playing when I walk into a tournament, kind of like I'm entering a boxing ring. Street Fighter Mas is available everywhere now! Link in bio. 🎥: @a.g.rojas
premiere: a tribe called quest’s ali shaheed muhammad & adrian younge issue anti-police brutality call to action with new track
Behold the latest collaborations between A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge since their 2013 album ‘Souls of Mischief’. A cut from their forthcoming ‘The Midnight Hour’ project, “Black Beacon” is a splendidly theatrical track lush with vintage soul vibes that blossom into a kaleidoscope of jazz and hip-hop that is simply engrossing. Bright horns seamlessly interweave throughout the magnificent soundscape, harkening back to the music of the 1970s, a turbulent time for black history, just like now. And it’s freakin’ dope.
“’Black Beacon’, is a call to action for our brothers and sisters to unite against police brutality, inequality and social injustice. Like our jazz forefathers of the civil rights movement, we’re using our horns for unity”, the artists told AFROPUNK.
Stream it below:
Photo by The Artform Studio
send your ears into orbit with psychedelic indie band monoculture’s latest release
“Think outside your mind”
Here’s a little something to melt your ears. Monoculture’s heady mix of psychedelic, indie, jazz, and math rock ought to come with a masters in music theory. But despite the mind-altering complexity, the band keeps it grounded with a tempting groove and Olan Mijana’s plaintive vocals. And then the mathy breakdown kicks in and it all goes into orbit.
The full album ‘Blueprint for Dysfunction’ dropped today. Check it out:
Blueprint for Dysfunction by Monoculture
premiere: yazmin lacey’s soul jazz has attitude
Not sure which part at the top of Yazmin Lacey’s second great single of 2018, “Something My Heart Trusts,” is more appealing. Is it the rhythm section flourish that begins it? At once, forceful and smooth, tight but relaxed, a heavy kind of light-hearted — effortlessly setting up the song’s off-kilter scene, an odd time signature, and a groove. Or is it the lyrical put-down that the East End girl transplanted to Nottingham delivers seconds later, which does pretty much the same job but with words. “You won’t shut the fuck up, so I won’t let you in,” is a line tailored for righteous punk anger, but when delivered with Lacey’s soulful drawl, it’s a declaration of weariness. And in 2018, who of us does not share that mental exhaustion?
Lacey, who first began demanding the spotlight with a wonderful 2017 EP called Black Moon, makes music that takes advantage of the U.K.’s current mass re-connection of soul, jazz and broken beat. Backed by a crack quintet, where the electric keys (Pete Beardsworth) and electric guitar (Charlie Bone) provide a melodic sheen, while the bass (George French), drums (Tom Towle) and percussion (Owen Campbell) set down the rhythm figures. Yazmin’s is a dynamic variation on what was once tagged “neo-soul,” her vocals up-front, on the listener’s plain, not hidden behind a recording studio’s veils, earthy and relatable.
Like most of Lacey’s songs, “Something My Heart Trusts” is too: the end of the affair and a yearning for a truer bond that is easy to recognize. The difference is that as the rhythm section, lyrics and the attitude of the vocal all make clear, the desire that Lacey projects comes from a place of strength not weakness. Which is why, when the group stirs behind her and Yazmin arrives at a chorus that can easily serve as a double entendre for the darker times unfolding all around us, the expressed weariness is couched in a declarative need, a demand:
Something’s got to give
Something’s got to change
Something my heart trusts