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Nyege Nyege 2020 (online festival review by Paul S.)

Kampala, Uganda's Nyege Nyege collective hosts an annual festival showcasing experimental and electronic music from throughout Africa and the diaspora, as well as other innovative sounds and artists from around the world. This year, the entire festival was streamed online for free, including tons of live performances, club DJ sets, and exclusive audio-visual presentations. I spent basically the whole weekend watching as much as I could, and I didn't see nearly everything. Most of it can be found archived on the Nyege Nyege website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also, the collective runs the labels Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala, and everything they release is a must-listen. 

Anyway, about this year's festival. The opening ceremony featured DJ Kampire and friends rowing out to a small island in the middle of the Nile and throwing an Afro-house party. Another early highlight was a fantastic set by Turkana inside the Nyege Nyege studios which had been turned into a club for the festival. On the more experimental tip, Dis Fig's hair-raising set was closer to death industrial than her bootleg club edits or her recent ambient dub album with The Bug. Duma's brief video is somewhere between metal, industrial, and gabber, and it ends up turning into a sort of mini zombie rave. A few videos showcased traditional Ugandan musicians and dancers, including Kadodi Group and Basokakwavula Group, and these are enlightening documents. I'm surprised there wasn't more singeli this year, other than this one show with Makaveli and MC Anti Virus, which really takes off near the end. There was a huge spotlight on the gqom scene originating from Durban, South Africa, with videos of genre pioneers DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Phelimuncasi, and others. Lisbon's trailblazing Príncipe Discos label was represented by RS Produções, who shot their set in an abandoned pool, and Blacksea Não Maya. There was also an excellent Egyptian showcase with artists such as ZULI, Gahallah, and 3PHAZ.

One of my favorite showcases was the Never Normal Dance Show hosted by the label's owner, the wonderful Suzi Analogue. Starting with a brief set from Detroit's own Waajeed, the showcase's subsequent performers touch on hip-hop, jungle, footwork, R&B, and much more. X.nte and Elevation both absolutely crush, but for me the highlight has to be the lengthy set from No Eyes, which rivals any basement noise/breakcore set I saw when I was in college. Just unbelievable. And of course Suzi does an amazing set as well, including a ferocious version of her recent tune "PPL PWR".

A few other must-mentions include the absolutely mindblowing animated epic from Indonesia's Gabber Modus Operandi. And Slikback... how do I even describe what he does? He's just astounding and this is just an hour of fire. And the always charming DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess recorded a set in her apartment, demonstrating her innovative mixing techniques using multiple turntables and reel-to-reels, but also incorporating video footage of her past visits to the festival, serving as a sort of travelogue. 

I know I linked to a lot of content here and you're not going to have time to watch and listen to everything, but there's a lot worth exploring if you're interested. I'm missing festivals and traveling in general, but attending Nyege Nyege in the future would be a dream come true.

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

The Necks: Three (album review by Christa V.)

The Necks are an Australian avant-garde jazz trio well-loved by their cult following. This album consists of exactly three tracks, each a little over 20minutes long. All of them sound like organized chaos in that the majority of the music consists of things rattling in a very rhythmic fashion to create the beat.The first track is a great example of this, but also has a piano melody floating on top of the chaos. The second is the most sparse of the three and features more shimmery percussion and ethereal tones. Finally the last track closes with more jangling similar to the opening, but the piano takes a more percussive role while those ethereal tones become the melody. Well worth a listen! 

Priscila Flores reviews Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo

Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)

 

After releasing a brief EP in April, Colombian American artist Kali Uchis welcomes the end of 2020 with the release of her second studio album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), translating to Without Fear (of Love and Other Demons). Unlike her previous projects dominated by tracks in English, Uchis sings her second album almost entirely in Spanish with most songs elegantly combining the two languages. After a few listens, I’ve found this to be the Spanglish album of my bilingual dreams.

 

From the start, Uchis establishes her second full-length album as an introspective journey filled with vocals dripping of rich Colombian coffee. Sin Miedo opens up with “la luna enamorada”, a passionate rendition of a popular Cuban song in the 1960s that introduces the album by absorbing the listener into the night sky as it rains pink stars. Like this introductory track, Sin Miedo explores Uchis’s experiences and perceptions of love through an honest lens. 

 

Uchis confidently recognizes her value as an individual, not as determined by her romantic endeavors. Through the energetic, hip-hop influenced song “¡aquí yo mando!”, Uchis exudes this newfound confidence while establishing her dominance in any relationship. This track also features rapper Rico Nasty whose assertive vocals mirror the dominant attitudes these women demonstrate. Within the sensual track “aguardiente y limón”, Uchis holds onto this confidence with the recognition that her displays of passion are irresistible and her partners are lucky to indulge in her sweetness. 

As Sin Miedo progresses, the influence of new age reggaeton becomes increasingly prevalent. Uchis uniquely combines this popular genre with her soulful style in “no eres tu(soy yo)”. The songs “te pongo mal(préndelo)” and “la luz(Fin)” more closely resemble the typical reggaeton sound, ending the album on a dance-worthy high note. 

 

The listening experience of this album almost felt like Uchis took the plot of a telenovela and transcribed it in the form of a soundtrack. Yet, it also makes me feel like I’m floating in a sea of cosmic glitter. 

 

Top 5 tracks: 

la luna enamorada

aquardiente y limón

¡aquí yo mando!

quiero sentirme bien

telepatía

 

~Priscila Flores~

 

Cesspool Presents, Grief Barbie: You Could Have Lived With Us

Album review by Victoria A.

Cesspool is an institution in the NYC experimental scene, churning out danceable smears of sound at parties and clubs for 10 years. They base their sound in artifice, taking instruments and the human voice and reprogramming them to the effect of running something through google translate 100 times until unrecognizable. The "they" of Cesspool became a "she" after the sudden and tragic death of one of the members. Out of that horror came Grief Barbie. It is a raw, devastating, and still weirdly danceable exploration of grief, friendship, guilt, queerness, and sisterhood that elevates experimental music to emotional heights rarely achieved. If you like electro, noise, or just albums by sad girls about death, it is worth a listen.

Benjamin Boone with the Ghana Jazz Collective: Joy

Album review by Christa V.

Benjamin Boone is a saxophonist and a composer who recorded this album while living in Ghana for a year on a Fulbright scholarship. Tracks 1, 3, 5, and 6are all his original compositions. The entire record is incredibly energetic and full of life, definitely makes you want to get up and dance! I particularly loved“Maiden Voyage” for the great bass line underneath the sustained notes in the melody, and “The 233 Jazz Bar” for its funk influences. Track 6 features anexcellent female vocalist, and the song sounds more like a pop song than jazz which is an interesting touch of variety in a very jazzy record. And the finalsong, “Joy,” has a beautiful melody, very happy and dance-y, a perfect way to close it out!  Favorite tracks: 2, 3, 5, 7

Boy Pablo album review

Nicholas Munoz, better known as Boy Pablo, has returned to the scene with his new album Wachito Rico. Munoz has risen to indie prominence in the past couple of years, largely thanks to his 2017 EP ‘Roy Pablo’ and 2018 EP, ‘Soy Pablo’, which featured several singles that took off, namely “Dance, Baby!”, “Feeling Lonely”, and “Everytime”. Past Boy Pablo projects prominently feature drowned out guitar riffs, heavy use of synths, and easily digestible lyrics on the topics of teenage life, romance, and maturing. This work is certainly listenable, but not even his most popular songs have excited me or stuck with me in the slightest, as is the case with the majority of the bedroom pop scene that continues to establish itself. Wachito Rico is no different: completely listenable, but it doesn’t stick even after multiple listens. 

 

Wachito Rico suffers tremendously from a monotonous and criminally non-offensive sound that makes this 40 minute listen feel like 2 hours. If there were an algorithm that could create the most average indie/bedroom pop tracks based on current trends, many of them would fit perfectly on this album. “I hope she loves me back” starts the record on a dark path of bland instrumentation and meaningless lyrics, the most painful of which have to be the opening words: “Staring at her, can't help it. Thinking 'bout her 'cause oh, my God she's beautiful. I can't believe she's mine, yeah.”; I had a feeling I would probably be in for a long one. The remaining 40 minutes are largely consumed by one indistinguishable song after another that are so average that they put you to sleep. Tracks like “leave me alone!”, “rest up”, and “come home” fulfil the basic requirements of radio friendly bedroom pop and don’t contribute a shred of artistry or creativity beyond that. 

 

It may seem that I am being too harsh on this record because, well, the music isn’t bad. The reason why I view this so negatively is because albums like this annoy me more than albums that I find objectively bad. I appreciate music that introduces me to something new, whether I like it or not. Wachito Rico is an annoying listen, I was constantly looking for Munoz to do something new, but it rarely happens. 

Thankfully, there are fleeting moments of brilliance on this thing, which will keep me interested in where Munoz goes from here. “Hey Girl” is an extremely solid pop song, super catchy. “Alelula” is an interlude which features better singing and more emotion than every song on the album except “te vas // don’t go”, which is the artistic and emotional summit of the album. There is no denying Boy Pablo has talent, but he needs to find some source of inspiration outside of making cookie cutter indie tracks if he wants to establish himself as a new wave artist with some serious traction. 

 

Fav Songs: hey girl, te vas // don’t go, aleluya 

Rating: 3.9/10 

Michael Barnes

Will Butler: Generations (review by Christa V.)

Will Butler is probably best known for his work as a member of Arcade Fire, but he has also been making solo albums since 2015. Generations is Butler's thirdsolo album. While all of them represent the variety of music he can produce, Generations is particularly hard to pin down. The song "Bethlehem" could befrom an 80s punk band, while "Close My Eyes" is all folk, and "Surrender" showcases gospel influences. Another theme of this album is creating catchy,upbeat songs about very dark themes. "Promised" captures this the best where the lyrics are about being betrayed by a lover, yet somehow it is just so fun andcatchy. The fact that Butler can sustain this balance primarily with his vocals speaks to his talent. "Not Gonna Die" is similar where it sounds like a ballad atthe beginning, but then hits its stride as a gospel chorus number. But the lyrics are also all about death. Other songs with great contrast are "Outta Here" and"Hide it Away."  Favorite tracks: 2, 5, 8

Aly Lathrow Reviews 'Evening Grooves'

Evening Grooves was a virtual concert hosted by student organization Empty Mug Records. It featured 6 different acts, 3 openers and 3 headliners. Of course, because it was hosted on Friday the 13th, something had to go wrong. 

 

The first 5 acts went well, the stream quality was great and the sound was impeccable. Ferris Hill stated off strong with a soulful solo song. Next was Dreamboyshey with a…. interesting… hip hop inspired song. He was laying on the ground for a good part of the set and the audio was mixed a little weirdly. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th sets were all great with a range of brass and acoustic jams featuring SMTD students Madelyn&Logan, Kektus, and Moodswing. The final act, Sabbatical Bob, had some pretty big tech issues. The audio was never stable for their full 20 minute set. You win some ya lose some I guess. There were a good amount of views and the club made $135 to distribute to the artists. Overall a success!

 

Written by Aly Latherow

 

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