A Gentleman’s Guide’s nasty musical ooze is the perfect example of how lo-fi quality can trump glossed-up production any day of the week. You can keep your perfectly EQ’ed radio tunes, because I’ll be staying right here with these gutter-thump beats and raunched-out rhythms that combine to make a strangely compelling record. I can’t begin to explain how happy I am to have heard “A Gentleman’s Guide” EP” — which I’m assuming is both the name of the record and band. I received an e-mail pointing me to these songs, and unlike most notices I read, nothing else came with it excepting these “bio words”: “Distortion, Drum Machines, Ay Oh Let’s Go, I Iv V, Stay Alive”. Whatever the hell that’s suppose to mean, I don’t care — I just love the music. The EP consists of four simply composed DIY songs with a muffled, white noise quality. They’re an odd, smoldering concoction of disco beats, hand-clap rhythms, grizzled production, rock guitar solos, new wave edginess, goth, and a healthy dose of sludgy punk. I hear some Velvet Underground drome-hum , the trashy B-movie aesthetic of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, all wrapped in the group’s distinctly stylistic repetition and vocal moaning. They’re like four aural montages, the vocals sometimes indecipherable, excepting a few catchy phrases and some catchy lyricism, like that in “Hypnotized”: “Like a clock that can’t tell time / Like a word without a rhyme / Has you hypnotized once again”. The siren-guitar solo at the end of the track is short, but smoking hot. “Number One Girl” is the opening gambit, a song assuring a girl just who is at the top of the guy’s list. The four-song cycle feels like a quick tale of tail, a gentleman’s guide full of attraction, persistence, and sexuality. The group leave the best for last, “The End” being one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. Without fail, every time I get kinda bored with the music I’m hearing — some unknown band drops a thunderbolt in my e-mail to defibrillate the soul. Follow this Brooklyn band at bandcamp. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Zero 7 has gone back to its roots on EP3. They’ve found and reconfigured that kind of sound they initially created back in 1997. Back when the duo’s remix of Radiohead’s “Climbing Up the Walls” brought them deserved attention and right before Air’s “Moon Safari” took off. After four official LPs, including the underground hit, “Simple Things” (2001), the band seemed try to easy themselves away from that female-lead style and back into the instrumental. EP3 is back to the moody, atmospheric Zero 7, but there’s also something darker, more spiritual and wise about these singles. Maybe that’s part of the reason they’ve opened the EP with a song tipping a cap to the name of François Truffaut’s “400 Blows”, a film about consequences and growing up. Follow Zero 7 at facebook. — David D. Robbins Jr.
iZem and Nina Miranda make a great musical pairing. The globetrotting French DJ/producer is streaming a bumping new jazzy, Latin-flavored song called, “Agua Viva”, from off his forthcoming debut album Hafa to be released on May 15th. But perhaps the most exciting news is that former Smoke City songstress, Miranda, is singing on the cut, infusing iZem’s upbeat groove with her patented and pretty high-pitched blend of Portuguese vocals with English and everything else. Okay, so 14 years has passed since Heroes of Nature and 17 years since Smoke City’s debut Flying Away (1997) — but Miranda’s voice hasn’t changed one bit. It’s still as lush and beautiful as ever. “Agua Viva” is at its best when Miranda and the instrumentation are chasing each other, matching the same melodies in harmony. iZem’s tease to the new record is a sweet one that will take you to Rio and beyond. Note: Photo by Ica Chevallier, taken from the artist’s facebook page. You can follow iZem at facebook and Miranda at twitter. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Last year, Mini Dresses released a lovely lo-fi five-song EP entitled Three, featuring five beautifully crafted moody tracks. I compared them a little to School of Seven Bells and Reverie Sound Revue. But this new song, “Bracelets”, feels even more lo-fi, a deep and trudging bass guitar plays elegantly underneath high-pitched vocals and a swirling rhythm guitar. I’ve come to appreciate the way this duo patiently builds its songs. There’s that moment nearly halfway into the song where two guitar threads play off each other in a kind of dance. Or take the vocal moments in the song where the high-pitched lead blends into a breathy counter choral vocal. It gives the track a wispy but textured feel that’s as energizing to listen to as it is relaxing. “Bracelets” is the first single off the Boston band’s Four EP, out April 28th on cassette via Little Death Records. Follow the band at facebook. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Back in February, Glendale’s mAsis released the single, “Make Me Higher”, a soft slow-jam with quiet electronics and gorgeous high falsetto. That single is the lead to a new three-song EP called “Kennesaw”. The new tracks, “Pop Rocks” and “Salt” are just as good. The former is a more sultry, electronic R&B style reminiscent of some of the more sensual jj tracks. It’s a relationship song fueled by these sweet lyrics: “Take off your shoes at the door / Come and lay with me / I have something to say / Don’t walk out the door / You’ll be making the biggest mistake …” Where “Pop Rocks” stands out as a moody and atmospheric song, “Salt” is a bit more visceral, about the velvety vocal stylings, upbeat tempo and musical transitions. It’s a beautiful beginning for a group that seemed to come from out of nowhere. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Wilsen is streaming a pretty, new song, “Garden”, the first track from off the band’s upcoming LP to be released later this year. The track was produced and mixed by Ben Baptie. There’s a good deal going on here, the track opening with a kind of stuttered metronome, acoustic finger-picking ala Jose Gonzalez-style, and a warped instrumental, like merry-go-round music in reverse. It’s multi-textured without feeling like the experimentation for the sake of itself. Tamsin Wilson’s vocals are soft but confident. Follow the band at facebook. — David D. Robbins Jr.