RobotMonkeyArm is a multimedia project of the mind, set to a cinematic mix of surf rock, Italian Western, and B-movie themes. We talked to creator Ryan Baker about his influences, the future of the project, and which adversary (gorilla or robot) stole whose arm first.
In February, producer/rapper Jneiro Jarel and masked wordsmith MF Doom announced a collaborative album under the name JJ Doom, teasing us with “Banished” as well as a string of contributors such as Blur/Gorillaz front-man Damon Albarn, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, and Jarel’s old Willie Isz partner, Khujo Goodie. Now the wait is over, as Key to the Kuffs finally gets its release on Lex.
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Damon_Albarn_The_Marvelous_Dream.mp3|titles=Damon Albarn: “The Marvelous Dream”]
Brit-rock fans may have been more excited to learn that a Damon Albarn-fronted Blur has become an active prospect again, but fans of music in general should be more thrilled to know that he’s been up to a lot more than that. Albarn, as a solo artist and a collaborative one at that, has stirred up some amazing music by delving into Malian blues, scoring the Chinese opera Monkey: Journey to the West, and continuing his hip-hop cartoon group Gorillaz. Now he’s created the soundtrack to an opera based on the life of 16th Century astrologer/mystic John Dee — and it’s beautifully accessible.
Tomorrow is the third Saturday in April, which means that independent record stores across the world will face an influx of limited-edition vinyl, avid fans, and rabid audiophiles. With myriad releases hitting shelves, we’ve provided you with some of our most anticipated picks to make Saturday’s shopping (relatively) quick and painless.
In the early 2000s, music exported from Sweden was notorious for its rock-n-roll demeanor. With acts like The Hives, The Sounds, and The Caesars coming of age in the earlier part of the last decade, the Scandinavian country quickly became associated with fast, raucous, danceable, and sometimes absurd music. But in the last five years or so, a new sensibility has emerged from Sweden. More soft-spoken, musically inclined acts, like Jose Gonzales or The Tallest Man on Earth, have emerged, and with them, a new style has been established. Among this new wave of Swedish exports is the highly acclaimed mellow-wave act, Little Dragon.
With its debut in 2007, the band made a name for itself in its home country as a digital minimalist. Its 2009 effort, Machine Dreams, garnered a bit more attention, but it wasn’t until Little Dragon collaborated with Gorillaz on Plastic Beach that much of the indie scene started paying attention. And now, with Ritual Union, the band has managed to release its best effort yet.
[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Del_One_Out_of_a_Million.mp3|titles=Del: “One Out of a Million”]
Del The Funky Homosapien has come a long way from being known as Ice Cube’s weird cousin (who isn’t even gangsta). After lending his inimitable, elastic flow and irreverent lyricism to “Clint Eastwood” and “Rock the House” (singles that helped launch Gorillaz to super-stardom), teaming up with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala for sci-fi concept album Deltron 3030, and helming his own group (Heiroglyphics), Del has carved himself a place in the halls of hip-hop history.
Although Del went from 2000 to 2008 without releasing a solo record, his current rate of output is staggering. His latest record, Golden Era, is packaged with two albums from 2009 that were previously only available electronically, Funk Man and Automatik Statik.
As the title suggests, Golden Era hearkens back to Del’s heyday, with astonishingly funky beats throughout. Smooth, nimble bass lines bounce along effortlessly, with slick synthesizers and guitars providing a melodic touch.
Some tracks, however, stray from this formula, keeping the album from repeating itself. Most notably, “Double Barrel” uses discordant synth bleats and bursts of guitar fuzz to create a noisy, Dälek-lite atmosphere. Tracks like this break up the stretches of old-school funk, keeping the record from becoming monotonous.
Gorillaz: “Phoner to Arizona” [audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Gorillaz_Phoner_to_Arizona.mp3|titles=Gorillaz: “Phoner to Arizona”]
Morrow: Over Christmas, Damon Albarn of Gorillaz (as well as Blur and The Good, The Bad & The Queen, et al) released a free album of material called The Fall for paying Gorillaz fan-club members. Recorded on the road during the American portion of the group’s recent Plastic Beach tour, the material (which can be streamed for free by non-paying mailing-list members) is most noteworthy for being entirely recorded and produced on an iPad.
The music isn’t the high-water mark that was Plastic Beach, which benefited from virtuosic performances by The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music and others and which featured high-profile guests such as Lou Reed, Mos Def, De La Soul, and many others. But the songs are fun, dance-y little electronic numbers (with Albarn singing over some of them), and there isn’t much in the production that would tip it as being recorded on an iPad. There are “legit” electronic instruments in the mix — Moogs, Korgs, etc. — as well as accents from traditional instruments, including a beautiful ukulele loop on “Revolving Doors.”