Tag Archives: the verge

The Verge: Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of Bounce

Let’s not mince words: the dance music of every American urban center is defined by its ghetto. In the way that DC has go-go, Baltimore has club music, and Miami has (or had) booty bass, New Orleans has bounce music. Bounce fits nicely into the rubrics of these other regional sounds. Like Bmore club, bounce uses simplistic sampling, with songs built around the “Triggerman” and “Brown Beat” breaks, rather than those from “Think” and “Sing Sing.” Instead of remixing popular hits and samples, bounce focuses on the MC, whose call-and-response lyrics are chopped up like Chicago footwork vocals. And like Miami bass, bounce has gritty 808 drums and an obsession with booty. The result? Frenetic, unapologetic party music.

Bounce has had some crossover success, in the beats of Cash Money Records and Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied,” and while these milestones are notable, artists that have labored in the bounce scene are finally getting their due.

Big Freedia is dubbed the Queen Diva of Bounce, thanks to her relentless energy and matchless personality. Born Freddie Ross, Freedia’s sexual identity gets her grouped into the LGBT-driven “sissy bounce” subgenre; for what it’s worth, Freedia disputes the distinction between “straight” and “sissy” bounce music. Still, bounce is unique in its open acceptance of oft-marginalized people: all that matters is the music.

And as far as the music is concerned, it’s probably best just to watch Big Freedia and the dance insanity that bounce inspires. Don’t overthink it. Take it in, download Scion A/V Presents: Big Freedia (below), and experience bounce the way it’s meant to be: live. Big Freedia plays DC9 tonight with Javelin and Ed the Metaphysical.

The Verge: Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob

This will teach me to plant the flag early on an intriguing artist. Here’s someone I’ve been trying to write about for a while, but couldn’t fully wrap my head around. Now she’s starting to catch some Internet buzz, so I might as well give my (belated) two cents.

I first heard of Kreayshawn late last year, when I came across her video for “Bumpin Bumpin.” Who was this ghetto fabulous white girl from Oakland?

Kreayshawn is a multimedia artist, very much in the style of 2011: she raps, DJs, directs and edits music videos, and even makes NSFW pixel art. In LA by way of East Oakland, Kreayshawn is part of the swagged out, post-hyphy based movement spearheaded by Lil B and the Pack. She has even directed and edited some of Lil B’s most viral video hits, including “Like a Martian.”

On Kittys X Choppas, Kreayshawn won’t blow anyone away with her lyricisim or flow. But in the based world (or that of Odd Future, for that matter), that’s not the point. This is about stripping it down to the irreverent essence of hip hop. This is grimy party rap about drug-induced insanity (“High,” a freestyle over Salem’s “Whenusleep”) and unapologetic violence (“They Wanna Kill Me,” “Killin Hoes”).

In comparison, associate V-Nasty makes Kreayshawn look tame. While “Free Earl” has become an esoteric battle cry, “Free V-Nasty” is far more concrete: V-Nasty was recently released from Alameda County Santa Rita Jail. As expected, she’s raw, violent and lives up to her name on her Don’t Bite Just Taste mixtape. She’s also a freestyler in the vein of Lil B, dropping ad-libs and punchlines with reckless abandon.

Rounding out the White Girl Mob with Kreayshawn and V-Nasty is DJ Lil Debbie, another based artist with a diversified portfolio. Check out the crew’s latest release, the video for Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” (and watch for a cameo by Odd Future’s Left Brain). On “Gucci Gucci,” she’s actually made strides as a rapper; I can’t get over the hilarious simplicity of “Bitch you ain’t no Barbie / I see you work at Arby’s / Number two, supersized / Hurry up I’m starving.”

Odd Future and Lil B are re-writing the book on hip hop. Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob might get their own chapter.

Download: Kreayshawn – Kittys x Choppas
Download: V-Nasty – Don’t Bite Just Taste

The Verge: Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross

Photo courtesy Jim Newberry

Despite the laborious name, Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross is the work of just one man: 24-year-old Chicago producer Dexter Tortoriello. Last year, Tortoriello garnered praise for his work as half of Houses (with partner Megan Messina). Houses’ quickly assembled All Night is ambient electronic music (chillwave, if you must): a very de rigueur mix of programmed drums, atmospheric synths and dreamy vocals.

As Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross, Tortoriello cuts through the gauzy haze of Houses with a scalpel. The instrumentation has the same starting point, but with dramatically different results. Rather than nostalgia, the tone here is paranoia; the music is more immediate, if a little uneasy.

Dawn Golden’s Blow EP opens with “On the Floor.” What starts as melodic and light turns unnerving (a shift captured by the creepy video), with pounding drums and white noise that is somewhere between static and screaming. Before the listener can decipher it, the song powers down – a 90 second introduction of things to come.

The standout track is “Blacks.” The song is driven by pneumatic, industrial percussion, which is juxtaposed by Tortoriello’s airy vocals and accents of precise strings.

Throughout the EP, programmed drums appear as skittering attacks, as on “Blacks.” On “Blow,” they make the song more ‘nightmare’ than ‘dream.’ On “White Sun,” the drums progressively consume more and more of the song’s oxygen, which has a piano melody on reminiscent of that on “Something I Can Never Have” (blame it on heavy doses of Nine Inch Nails in my diet, but it has the same melancholy feel).

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/White-Sun.mp3″ text=”Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross – White Sun” dl=0]

The instrumental “Lamont” sounds like a Houses song, but with the optimism of a Postal Service offering. The EP closes with “Black Sun,” a collage of piano, live drums, and natural ambiance that gives way to horns. Blow is only 19 minutes, but the songs have an addictive quality that demand repeat listenings. Houses introduced Dexter Tortoriello to the music world, but Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross better realizes his potential.

The Verge: Yuck

I haven’t bestowed “Verge” status on a proper rock band in quite a while, but here goes. Yuck is a London-based indie rock band, but their sound has more in common with US college radio from the 90s than with anything going on in the UK. Because of this, they’re often described as revivalists, which is partially true. As I’ve written about before, 90s revivalism is in full effect, from dance music to hip-hop to noise rock. Twentysomethings cranking out songs in the style of Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, and Smashing Pumpkins was an inevitability.

Yuck’s self-titled debut is full of such songs. Heavy on humbucker riffs and loud-quiet-loud dynamics, Yuck plays like a time capsule from 1993. What sets it apart from so many “saviors of rock” albums is the band’s ability to write and execute hooks, consistently rather than sporadically. The album kicks off with one, the air guitar anthem “Get Away,” which is accompanied by a bug-eyed, fantasy tour video.

The catchy, sing-a-long vibe continues throughout the album, which is littered with rollicking, fuzzed-out jams like “The Wall” and “Georgia,” the latter of which features dual vocals from lead singer Danny Blumberg and his sister Ilana.

True to their indie rock roots, Yuck does “brooding” well, taking a break from rocking to strum some melancholy melodies. “Shook Down” rides the “baby, I want you back” motif acoustically before kicking into a Pumpkins-esque groove under “You can be my destiny / You can mean that much to me.” While I’m making comparisons to grunge bands, “Sunday” reminds me of Hole’s “Doll Parts,” with it’s lilting chorus. In this vein, “Suicide Policeman” is a bit of twee pop with a surprisingly positive sentiment.

Forgive the infantile band name; it’s still better than their last project, one-time hype band Cajun Dance Party. Yuck has been in heavy rotation for me since its February release for a reason: I love the 90s. It was a great time for rock music (for a while, at least), and anyone who can capture that lightening in a bottle is worth a listen.

Apparently, the word is out already: Yuck opens for Tame Impala at a sold-out show this Friday at the Black Cat.

The Verge: Grimes

Increasingly, there is a strand of darkly chilling music that turns the notion of pop music on its head. Practitioners include Bat for Lashes, Esben and the Witch, and Zola Jesus: artists who combine ostensibly pop melodies with darkly experimental touches. From the shoegazey to the baroque, this “nightmare pop” (as Esben and the Witch call it) is haunting and evocative.

The newest addition to this cast is Grimes, the stage name of Montreal’s Claire Boucher. Without any musical instruction, or even a passing knowledge until the age of 18, Grimes crafts twisted little pop songs from a patchwork of influences: dance, folk, and industrial music, among others. Tying everything together is her child-like, strangely beautiful singing voice.

“Vanessa,” the lead single off of Darkbloom (a split with fellow Montrealer d’Eon), has caught the attention across the blogosphere. A strong percussive current runs through the song for an entirely different type of witch house. The kaleidoscopic video is just as lush as the song.

While this may be the first time we’re hearing (and seeing) Grimes, the newcomer has been relatively productive during the last year, releasing a mixtape (Geidi Primes, available below) and an album (Halfaxa, on Arbutus). Geidi Primes is a bedroom-pop sound collage that revels in dichotomies: natural and artificial, East and West, old and new, comforting and abrasive. The sinewy “Rosa” could be a Smith’s tune, and strings collide on the sweeping “Sardaukar Levenbrech.”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/rosa.mp3″ text=”Grimes – Rosa” dl=0]

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/sardaukar.mp3″ text=”Grimes – Sardaukar Levenbrech” dl=0]

Halfaxa has a more sinister undercurrent than Geidi Primes, mixing out-of-tune interludes with fuller-formed darkwave songs. Synths and electronic instruments are sharper, while the low end resembles the woozy bass of drag. The greatest contrast on Halfaxa is between Boucher’s dreamy, breathy vocals and the unrelenting instrumentation. “Sagrad” starts as a gently-strummed ballad before layers of vocals, harp, and a synth pop beat join the proceedings. Drag influences are heavy on the appropriately-titled “My Sister Says the Saddest Things.”

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/sagrad.mp3″ text=”Grimes – Sagrad” dl=0]

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/sister.mp3″ text=”Grimes – My Sister Says the Saddest Things” dl=0]

Add Grimes to the list of female artists ready and able to challenge the notion of women in pop music as party time sex dolls. Not everyone wants to be Madonna: plenty of people want to be Siouxsie Sioux.

Download: Grimes – Geidi Primes

The Verge: oOoOO

From the sonic graveyard of crosses and triangles that is drag/witch house comes oOoOO. Pronounced “oh,” oOoOO is Christopher Dexter Greenspan, a San Francisco-based producer and pioneer of the nascent sound. Over two EPs, he has staked his claim as the most accessible artist in the intentionally-underground scene.

In January 2010, oOoOO released No Summer4U as a limited-run CD-R on Disaro Records. The disc spun familiar dance pop into macabre soundscapes. Formerly sugary tunes like Nocera’s “Summertime” and Space Cowboy’s “My Egyptian Lover” are transformed into the skittering, synth-heavy “No Summer4U” and “EGYPTYNLVR,” respectively. His remix of “Poker Face” chops and screws the Gaga hit into a detuned funhouse track.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PCKRFCRMX.mp3″ text=”oOoOO – PCKRFCRMX” dl=0]

His first proper EP, a self-titled 12″ on Tri Angle Records, built on the sounds he established on No Summer4U. Throughout the EP, oOoOO’s songs have faster tempos and more structure than those of his contemporaries, without betraying their gloomy nature. Even under waves of static and a fog of uneasiness, melody is still king. The juked percussion of “mumbai” (which also appears on the CD-R) is a highlight.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/mumbai.mp3″ text=”oOoOO – mumbai” dl=0]

The drag/witch house scene has been percolating for a few years now, and the cream is rising to the top. oOoOO recently did a podcast for FACT Magazine, previewing a new track and moving into unusual but understandable territory (ie Cat Power). Similarly, don’t miss his remix of Marina and the Diamonds’ “Obsessions.” For fans of both pop music and the darkness of drag, oOoOO is the man for all seasons.

Download: FACT Mix 227 – oOoOO

The Verge: Katy B & Jamie Woon

Since its founding in 1991, the BRIT School has quickly become London’s answer to Juilliard (it’s also the kind of public-private partnership I wish we had more of in the United States, but I’ll leave that to other blogs). The BRIT School has schooled a Who’s Who of UK pop stars, including Adele, Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap, and Leona Lewis. Two more alumni are poised for big things, thanks to symbiotic relationships with electronic music producers.

Fans of UK funky and dubstep are already familiar with Katy B. The 21-year-old chanteuse has appeared on tracks by Geeneus (“As I”) and Magnetic Man (“Perfect Stranger,” “Crossover”). Her hook singing has given a soulful edge to genres known more for their beats than their songwriting. Case in point: she flipped Benga‘s surging “Man on a Mission” into “Katy on a Mission,” a grooving dubstep sing-along. (The Roska remix gets funky, as he is wont to do).

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/katy_on_a_mission_roska_remix.mp3″ text=”Katy B – Katy on a Mission (Roska remix)” dl=0]

On a Mission, her debut album, will be released on April 4 on Rinse and Columbia Records. Avoiding the mistakes of artists before her, the album is loaded with her early hits: just because the blogosphere and the club have heard these songs for a year doesn’t mean the public at large has. Lead single “Lights On” features Ms. Dynamite and is pure UK funky. “Broken Record” is the most mainstream dance track Katy B has released (although her British pronunciation of “record” could prevent this one from breaking through).

While the UK has no shortage of female singer-songwriters (Katy B included), the last decade has also produced a handful of male soul singers, like Jamie Lidell and Jay Sean. To confuse matters, the next in that lineage is another Jamie.

Musical success runs deep in Jamie Woon‘s pedigree. He comes from a long line of professional musicians which includes his mother, Celtic folk singer Mae McKenna. But even with his family and his school, his greatest marker for success might be his connection to dubstep pioneer Burial.

Woon’s 2007 single “Wayfaring Stranger” was practically a cappella, with a minimalism that would make James Blake blush. On the remix, Burial added his signature clacking percussion and submersed bass. The pairing of Woon’s soulful vocals and Burial’s downtempo grooves was a natural fit and led to their next team-up, last year’s break-out single “Night Air.”

The next single off Woon’s debut album Mirrorwriting (out a week after Katy B’s offering, on April 11) is pure rhythm and bass, recalling Babyface productions as much as Timbaland ones. “Blue Truth” takes that formula and inflects it with dubstep. The song isn’t on the album, but Woon offered it as a free download.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Jamie Woon – Blue Truth.mp3″ text=”Jamie Woon – Blue Truth” dl=1]

Not all graduates of the BRIT School strike gold, regardless of talent. Usually it takes an equally talented producer to put them over the edge: every Winehouse needs her Ronson. Luckily, Katy B and Jamie Woon both have superb patrons behind the boards.