I had the good fortune to meet Devin last year after he and his artist collective, Eyes of the Cat, got involved in the wonderful No Small Plans graphic novel (shout out to co-author Gabe Lyon!). Not only is he a fantastic artist and a wonderful teacher (at ChiArts), but it turns out he's got great taste in music. He's responsible for turning me on to the superb Jorge Ben Jor album A Tabua De Esmeralda, which I wrote about last May. It seems like every time I talk to him I learn about a different place around the world he's lived. A genuinely nice guy, full of surprises. Check out some of his art here, and enjoy the music!
Enchantment In An Age of Mechanical ReFAUXduction
Four Tet - Two Thousand and Seventeen The concept of “enchantment” is something that I think about as a maker. Walter Benjamin makes the case that in “the age of mechanical reproduction,” (he’s thinking about photography and film, and their relation to the individual and sacred art object - a painting or a sculpture, etc…) the “aura” of a work of art can no longer remain, and that the value of works of art no longer reside in their uniqueness or specialness. Yet, I can’t help but get that sense of enchantment from the best works of Kieran Hebden (Four Tet). I’m really in love with his latest release, New Energy, and this track seems to me like a shimmering gem in a shallow, loamy bed of water.
People Under the Stairs - Suite for Beaver Pt. 1 Skip to 0:28 and let the groove swell around you. I remember downloading this one on Kazaa back in the day. P.U.T.S. manage to elevate the simple narrative of trying to get motivated to party to another level. Thes One (DJ and instrumentalist) has such an ear for groove, and this is one of his best productions.
KAYTRANADA (feat. Anderson .Paak) - GLOWED UP Kaytranada is one of my favorite new producers. I found him on Soundcloud a couple years ago and was really excited when he finally released his first LP - 99.9%, an album with some real bangers, "Glowed Up" being first among them. Anderson .Paak is also one of my favorite new artists, but for his musicality and his lyrical cleverness and sincerity. This track is for feeling your oats, celebrating achievement, and reflecting on goals met. It also switches up and gets more introspective in a sort of bonus song tacked on the final third of the track.
Kadhja Bonet - This Love Her voice is unmistakable, and all of her work sounds to me out of another era. Kadhja Bonet sings eloquently about love, loss, and matters of the heart generally.
Mick Jenkins - Shipwrecked Mick Jenkins is a mega-talented visionary rapper from Chicago’s west side, with strong poetic style. This album is a must listen if you’re interested in rap and Chicago today. He also tends to team up with producers who make cinematic landscapes that his vocals charge through.
Frank Ocean - Provider I’m not a huge Frank Ocean head, but I found this track on Spotify at the beginning of this school year, and if I’m being honest, biked around the city with it on repeat in my headphones. It’s filled with love, spiked with angst, all over top a beautiful and surprising beat.
DJ Day & Aloe Blacc - Closer DJ Day is another groove-focused DJ (listen to his album Land of 1000 Chances) out of California, like Thes One. He mostly produces original instrumentals with a melancholic tone, but I think Aloe Blacc compounds this feel on "Closer."
Cola Splash - Cola Splash Listening to Soundcloud will take you down some fun blind alleys. A couple years ago I found myself listening to lots of what I’ve heard called “internetghetto” or “cyberghetto” in some circles, which is a genre that uses goofy sound effects, ranging from macbook sounds to cheesy gun shots. The tempo is usually very fast, and often calls back to Jungle and Happy Hardcore. Cola Splash makes this sort of music, and it’s glorious.
Arthur Verocai - Na Boca do Sol Found this track (and the album, probably my all time favorite album out of Brazil) from an MF Doom instrumental sample. I can listen to this song (and the rest of Arthur Verocai’s self-titled album) endlessly. Apparently, Madlib agrees, as indicated by his testimony on the cover of the vinyl that a friend recently got me for my birthday. The arrangement is so dense and perfect, with just the right amount of futuristic effects. It’s got all the best elements of jazz, funk, groove, Brazilian melodies; it manages to soar and dig at the same time.
Hiruki Hayashi - Theme de l’eau Haunting melody on a simple guitar, overlaid with sparse flute. Movie soundtrack.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Envelop Strange and lovely sounds emanate from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.
Anushka - Kisses A bubbly banger of a love song. Who doesn’t like kisses?! Who doesn’t love weird mutant British electronic production?!
Kelela - A Message - DJ Spinn Teklife Remix Kelela is a stunning singer who pairs up with future-facing producers like Kingdom and Bok Bok. This is a track that I think was vastly improved by the Chicago-based Teklife collective artist DJ Spinn. Her vocals keep you from slipping into the dangerous gears of footwork beats that undergird this one.
Basement Jaxx - Romeo (Acoustic Version) Basement Jaxx are an unapologetically goofy and fun British pop group. This is a tear-jerking acoustic version of one of their better known songs.
WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA - Chaplin This group does J-Pop in a refreshing way, and this song mixes self-aware ironic vocal styling with sincere choruses. The album SUPERMAN that houses “Chaplin” is wonderful, give it a listen!
FaltyDL - Brazil (feat. Lily McKenzie) FaltyDL isn’t perfect, but this track showcases his niche sensibilities (he’s really into UK Garage beats and house chords). I love how he sings with the samples warped in the beat around Lily McKenzie’s clear vocals. There are other great selections from this album, which I think is his strongest and most original. Hardcourage is another good one.
DJ FLP - Close the Door Let’s “close the door” on this mix with a track a student of mine put me onto. I don’t know anything about the artist, but this is a beautiful footwork track, fast, light on its feet, full of feeling.