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I Become A ShadeSeoul have never been in a rush. Despite the overwhelming praise that met the Montreal trio's first two online releases - "Stay With Us" and "White Morning" - and despite the industry chatter that surrounded their first live performance at Pop Montreal 2013, kindergarten classmates Nigel Ward and Julian Flavin, and art school transplant Dexter Garcia remained resolute in fine tuning the dozen songs that would become their official debut: I Become A Shade.
"We're just very intent on trying to get our musical ideas to exist as the definitive versions of themselves," says Ward. "Granted, each idea has limits, but its a question of discovering the borders of an idea and then putting its essence on display - so much of that has to do with the slow sculptural nature of studio work. Playing around in a studio invites elements of chance, collage, and trial-and-error into the process, which feels essential to having a song really reveal itself to you. Its a process of organizing our intuitions into cohesive moments and seeing where it takes us."
Where their intuitions took them is a very special place indeed. From the lush ache and bouyance of "Stay With Us" to the sculpted synths and angular sincerity of "The Line," I Become A Shade is the sort of record whose every detail, whether panoramic or microscopic, is on glorious, deliberate display. A work separated into three distinct suites, the record is equal parts gauzy dream-pop, reverberant R&B, and speculative ambient - a world where sentences are often left unfinished and meaning rears its head in the intervals. The propulsive "Real June" and "Silencer" both hurtle through space like rain-drenched athletes, while "I Negate" and "White Morning" shimmer with a hushed honesty, growing and pirouetting with dreamy eventuality into a thick focus.
Set for release on Grand Jury in the US and Last Gang in Canada, every element of Shade is a testament to Seoul's painstaking attention to detail, whether in the stark black & white art that accompanies the album, or the serene videos the band set to its music.
"We do all our own art stuff and collaborate as closely as possible with video people," says Flavin. "We engineer and mix our recordings too, so it's very hands on."
And in Seoul all hands are created equal. "It's rare that a song doesn't change hands quite a few times prior to us finishing it," says Garcia. "And most of this elaboration on an idea is done rotating through a computer and reacting to each other's contributions in relation to the direction things are going in." Take lead single "The Line" as an example. "Nigel added a soft vocal that pillowed up above the angularity of the synths," Garcia continues, "And you get a really nice contrast between the two, where the core feeling of the song is revealed by its being expressed in two hauntingly different ways."
And that's what I Become A Shade is meant to be - an examination of poles - a debut that rains with the melancholy of sidelong glances and rented rooms, while frequently transcending its own desperateness in moments of breathless self-discovery. While one might think something labored over for so long would come with a prescribed understanding, Seoul would rather fans meet and interpret the record at their own personal junctures. "We're interested in presenting different versions of the self, the endless shift from self-loathing and loneliness to vibrancy and connectedness and back," says Flavin. "All states are valid, and we've tried to collect and display the beauty and necessity of both spectrums of experience - how it can feel both awful and cathartic to liquify into your surrounding and disappear."
All the while, the rain continues to fall.1. I Become a Shade
2. The Line
3. Haunt / A Light
4. Real June
6. White Morning
7. Stay With Us
8. Thought You Were
9. I Negate
10. Carrying Home Food In Winter
12. Galway$17.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Open BookFred Hersch has long been acclaimed as an exploratory artist, an outspoken activist, an influential educator and a uniquely revelatory and lyrical pianist. As one of the most expressive voices in modern jazz, Hersch has never been shy about letting listeners glimpse his most intimate thoughts and emotions. In September, however, Hersch's fans will be treated to even deeper, more revealing insights into the story of the renowned pianist when he publishes his much-anticipated memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz. As a companion piece, Hersch decided to present an equally direct and vulnerable glimpse into his private musical thoughts with his 11th solo release, Open Book.
The seven pieces on Open Book (set for release via Palmetto Records) offer some of the finest, most unguardedly emotional solo music that Hersch has created in a career unique for its profound poignancy and passion. Recorded in a South Korean concert hall on a superb Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano, the album captures the vital essence of the revelatory adventurousness and intense beauty that have made Hersch one of the most important solo artists in jazz. With more than 40 albums to his credit as a leader or co-leader, Hersch remarkably continues to discover new areas of inspiration and depths of feeling.
For the last two and a half decades I've been pretty open about who I am, what I like and what I'm dealing with at times, Hersch says. But I've always got to dig deeper, and I thought this might be a chance to make an album that's a window into the kinds of things that I play at home or don't play in public all that much.
The album arrives during a momentous month for Hersch. On September 12, the esteemed publishers Crown Archetype (Penguin Random House) will release Good Things Happen Slowly, Hersch's bravely confessional memoir. The book covers the pianist's meteoric rise in jazz from his sideman days alongside masters like Art Farmer and Joe Henderson to his gradual recognition as one of the most individualistic and innovative artists of his generation, a ten-time Grammy Award nominee and winner of countless accolades including being named a 2016 Doris Duke Artist as well as the same year's Jazz Journalists Association Pianist of the Year. But it also frankly reveals his story as the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz musician, tracing his path through hedonistic post-Stonewall New York City to the dramatic two-month medically induced coma in 2007 from which he emerged to make some of the most stunning and captivating music of his career.
Later that month Hersch will reprise his ambitious Leaves of Grass full-evening piece at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room, the first time the song cycle has been performed in New York City since 2005. Vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry will reprise their roles from the original project, which sets the verse of American bard Walt Whitman. The legendary poet's timeless ode to the miracle of nature and openhearted love of all beings seems especially vital in our present socio-political moment.
The centerpiece of Open Book, and the spark that ignited the album, is the nearly 20-minute improvisation Through the Forest. Unique in Hersch's extensive discography, the stream-of-consciousness gem is a miniature masterpiece of narrative development, a compelling journey through an abstract, glimmering landscape, revealing that in his early 60s Hersch continues to take creative risks and daunting inventive leaps.
The creation of Through the Forest was as unplanned and spontaneous as the music itself. In Seoul for a pair of solo concerts during a break in a tour of Asia with his esteemed trio, Hersch overslept during an after-breakfast nap and rushed to take the stage at JCC Art Center Concert Hall for his afternoon performance. The titular forest is, in part, a jetlag and coffee-fueled dreamscape through which Hersch wanders, applying his vivid powers of observation to unusual terrain. I was a little groggy, my defenses were down, and rather than fight it I just gave in to it, Hersch recalls. I'd never really done anything of that length in public where I had no agenda and was able to stay in that zone for such an extended period of time. I realized it was something special, something different that might be the core of an album.
Through the Forest became the leaping-off point for an album intended to be singularly divulgent and reflective. A few months later, Hersch returned to the same hall and recorded the remainder of Open Book alone in the empty venue (with the exception of Benny Golson's classic Whisper Not, taken from a concert during that return engagement).
The album opens with the stark musings of The Orb, taken from Hersch's autobiographical music-theater piece My Coma Dreams. A love letter to Hersch's longtime partner, AIDS activist Scott Morgan, The Orb is the final dream depicted in the show, and in this solo rendition becomes a nakedly heartfelt outpouring of raw but tender emotion. The mood then takes a turn for the playful and swinging on Whisper Not, a longtime staple of Hersch's repertoire that here becomes a vibrant, virtuoso marathon of thematic exploration.
The piece also serves as an ideal mirror to the album's other composition from the pen of a jazz icon, Thelonious Monk's Eronel. Hersch has long been recognized as one of the premier interpreters of the Monk songbook, but despite including one of the iconic composer's pieces in every one of his sets for most of his career, Hersch had never tackled this particular tune, co-written by pianist Sadik Hakim. Monk's original stride-inflected lines come in for a dizzying array of variations in Hersch's endlessly imaginative take.
The music of Brazil has also been a constant in Hersch's career, in particular the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the subject of one of the pianist's earlier solo efforts, 2009's Fred Hersch Plays Jobim. Picture in Black and White is a new addition to that repertoire, majestically transformed from a bossa nova feel to a crystalline hybrid with Chopin's last nocturne. On the other side of Through the Forest in the album's symmetrical structure comes Hersch's own classical-flavored Plainsong, a spare, lyrical piece composed in the bucolic setting of the MacDowell Colony, the inspirational artists' retreat in rural New Hampshire.
Open Book ends on a meaningful ellipsis, Billy Joel's moving And So It Goes. In title alone it's an apt conclusion, suggesting an embrace of life as lived and hinting at its open-ended continuation. The full lyrics, which Hersch has performed in duo settings with singers including frequent collaborator Kate McGarry, remain unspoken here but obviously deeply felt in every note. I connect with the sentiment of the words, Hersch says, and it felt like a good benediction to the whole album.1. The Orb
2. Whisper Not
4. Through The Forest
7. And So It Goes$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
RecessRecess was conceived and recorded in Los Angeles, Seattle, Seoul, London, Stockholm, San Francisco & Brooklyn with guests like Ragga Twins, Chance The Rapper, Diplo, Passion Pit vocalist Michael Angelakos, OWSLA stars Kill The Noise, Alvin Risk & up-comers Milo & Otis to name just a handful. The record sees Skrillex delivering on his promise as a fully-fledged musician, taking the listener by the wrist for a celestial reconciliation with innocence, escape, passion, and love while pulling from every imaginable influence within and outside of electronic music.1. All Is Fair In Love And Brostep
4. Try It Out
5. Coast Is Clear
6. Dirty Vibe
7. Ragga Bomb
8. Doompy Poomp
9. Fuck That
10. Ease My Mind
11. Fire Away$19.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Freddie Mercury: Messenger Of The Gods - The Singles (Box Set)Box Set Features 13 x 7" Singles On Colored Vinyl
Includes Booklet Featuring Previously Unpublished Photos
Freddie Mercury was a man of many talents and many different sides. The songs he wrote for and with Queen filled stadiums around the globe and have rightly gone down in history, but he also embarked on a solo career that took him from the clubs of Munich and New York to the great opera houses of the world.
He was the ultimate showman, but he kept his private life away from the prying eyes of the media; a larger than life rock star who loved disco, classical music and ballet. He was a restless spirit, a true chameleon who reveled in his own contradictions.
All the different sides of this iconic musician can be found on Freddie Mercury: Messenger Of The Gods - The Singles. Fittingly released on Mercury Records for the world outside North America, and on Hollywood Records in North America, this box set brings together all 13 of Freddie's solo singles on individually coloured vinyl.
From his debut solo single I Can Hear Music, released under the name Larry Lurex, through the dance floor-influenced solo anthems of the 80s and up to his collaborations with legendary Spanish opera singer Montserrat CaballÉ including the timeless Barcelona, this is a journey through the career of a unique talent.
Born Farrokh Bulsara on the East African island of Zanzibar on September 5, 1946, the rechristened Freddie Mercury was already a star in his own mind by the time he formed Queen with Brian May and Roger Taylor in 1970. Where his band mates had studied astrophysics, dentistry and electronics at college, Freddie majored in stardom.
His first solo single actually emerged a week before Queen's own debut 7". Released in 1973 and credited to Larry Lurex in a nod to the fashionably flamboyant noms de rock of the glam era, the Beach Boys cover I Can Hear Music and its B-side, Goin' Back, were recorded as a favour towards a musical project by Trident Studios' house engineer Robin Geoffrey Cable, in 1972.
As Queen's career rocketed towards the heavens, Freddie poured his energies into the band. It would be more than a decade before he released his second solo single, the pulsating, electronic Love Kills. Originally released in 1984, Love Kills was a collaboration with famed Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder for the soundtrack to Moroder's update of the groundbreaking 1927 silent movie Metropolis. A Top 10 UK hit, it found Freddie moving away from Queen's traditional sound, paving the way for what he would do next.
Released in 1985, Freddie's debut solo album, Mr Bad Guy, fully explored the music he had fallen in love with in the dance clubs of Munich and New York. The four hit singles released from that album - I Was Born To Love You, Made In Heaven, Living On My Own and Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow, all of which are included in the Messenger Of The Gods box set - crackled with playfully hedonistic energy, but they also hid a more serious side to Freddie. Here was a man who craved the good times but wanted something deeper as well.
Within two years, he had abandoned the sound of the clubs for the music of the opera house - though not before releasing both the epic single Time, the theme to the lavish stage musical of the same name produced by Dave Clark, and his outrageous (and strangely revealing) Top 5 cover of The Platters' 1965 hit, The Great Pretender.
In 1987, he dived headlong into the world of opera and classical music with the towering single, Barcelona. A duet with legendary Spanish soprano Montserrat CaballÉ, an idol of Freddie's, it came about after the opera star asked him to write a song about her home town.
Barcelona remains one of the most momentous hit singles not just of Freddie's career but in pop history. Not only did it lead to an album of collaborations between these two huge talents, but the title track was also chosen as the official anthem of the 1992 Olympics. That song, together with the two other singles taken from the album, The Golden Boy and How Can I Go On, are all included as part of Messenger Of The Gods with their original B-sides.
In October 1988 Freddie and Montserrat were invited by the King and Queen of Spain to perform Barcelona on the steps of Barcelona's National Palace of Montjuic at the open air La Nit festival which was staged to mark the arrival of the Olympic Flag from Seoul.
But sadly, Freddie would not live to see the fruits of his collaboration with Montserrat CaballÉ showcased at the Barcelona Olympics. He passed away on November 24, 1991, just seven months before the Games took place. The grand opening ceremony was a fitting tribute to a man who thrived on spectacle.
Messenger Of The Gods is completed by two posthumous singles, In My Defence and Living On My Own (No More Brothers Radio Mix), the latter of which became Freddie's first solo number 1 and was the biggest selling European single of the year in 1993.
Had he lived, it is anyone's guess where this most restless and protean of singer's muses would have taken him. But Messenger Of The Gods - The Singles is a towering legacy, a collection of songs which will never lose their stature of classics and will live on forever.Disc 1 - Blue Colored Vinyl
(a) I Can Hear Music - Larry Lurex (1973)
(b) Goin' Back - Larry Lurex
Disc 2 - Orange Colored Vinyl
(a) Love Kills (1984)
Disc 3 - Yellow Colored Vinyl
(a) I Was Born To Love You (1985)
(b) Stop All The Fighting
Disc 4 - Red Colored Vinyl
(a) Made In Heaven [Single Remix] (1985)
(b) She Blows Hot And Cold
Disc 5 - White Colored Vinyl
(a) Living On My Own [Single Edit] (1985)
(b) My Love Is Dangerous
Disc 6 - Red Colored Vinyl
(a) Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow (1985)
(b) Let's Turn It On
Disc 7 - Cyan Colored Vinyl
(a) Time (1986)
(b) Time [Instrumental]
Disc 8 - Orange Colored Vinyl
(a) The Great Pretender (1987)
(b) Exercises In Free Love [Freddie's Vocal]
Disc 9 - Clear Colored Vinyl
(a) Barcelona [Single Version] (1987)
(b) Exercises In Free Love [Montserrat's Vocal]
Disc 10 - Gold Colored Vinyl
(a) The Golden Boy [Single Edit] (1988)
(b) The Fallen Priest [B-Side Edit]
Disc 11 - Green Colored Vinyl
(a) How Can I Go On [Single Version] (1989)
(b) Overture Piccante
Disc 12 - Neon Pink Colored Vinyl
(a) In My Defence (1992)
(b) Love Kills [Wolf Euro Mix]
Disc 13 - Yellow Colored Vinyl
(a) Living On My Own [No More Brothers Radio Mix] (1993)
(b) Living On My Own [Julian Raymond Album Mix]$139.997 Inch Colored Vinyl Box Set - 13 Singles Sealed Buy Now