Noise Pop 2013 : Two Nights!
Toro Y Moi
Sinkane, Dog Bite, DRMS
628 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA, 94117
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
Toro Y Moi
Opening to the scream of F1’s speeding around a racetrack, and maintaining that intensity with booming guitar riffs and psychedelic effects throughout, the forthcoming album from Toro Y Moi is definitely making a statement. Or maybe a few statements. But Chaz Bundick, the frontman and songwriter, is leaving it up to you to figure out what they are. While it is obvious that each song is crafted around a personally meaningful experience, Chaz seems to purposefully leave the lyrics just vague enough to let each listener mold it into something unique. Chaz presents you with a few themes: love, beauty, nature; and gently lets go of your hand so you can wander off on your own.
A feeling of searching for something threads its way through every song on the album, which is aptly named What For? It feels contradictory in a very human way, like Chaz is swinging between waiting for something and not being able to wait anymore. But the swinging isn’t panicked or frustrated, it’s just a situation that he’s reflecting on. The songs are heavy with nostalgia, too, for simpler times, better music, more fulfilling relationships. Chaz references Weezer to warn you that “there is no one to destroy your sweater” and, in another song, recalls Big Star to declare that “rock and roll is here to stay.” It feels like he misses everything (even things he wasn’t around for yet), but is somehow excited for what comes next.
What For? is a glimpse into the life of a guy trying to figure out what it all means. The music is influenced by bands like Big Star, Talking Heads, Tim Maia, Todd Rundgren, but it doesn’t quite sound like any of them in particular. And it isn’t trying to. It has that special something that Chaz imbues in every Toro Y Moi album, his personal filter on the world he experiences. So whatever message you take from the album, don’t forget that it’s good. As Chaz himself so candidly believes, “Good is good. Good finds its own audience.”
Melodically beat-driven and meditatively lyrical, Sinkane’s Mean Love rolls like an emotional, existential history of the artist. Ahmed Gallab has created an altogether unique compound of sound, stylistically nostalgic and ultramodern at the same time. From Gallab’s childhood in Sudan there is a Pan-African influence of popular Sudanese music and haqibah, as well as distinct horn and synth arrangements more common to East Africa. After fleeing Sudan when his father– a journalist and politician – was exiled following a military coup in 1989, Ahmed was faced with a stark contrast when he moved to the predominantly white, Mormon center of Provo, Utah. While this and a subsequent move to Ohio caused a further sense of alienation in a young Gallab, it was also part of the inspiration for the path he walks as an artist. This background merges with the lessons learned from Ahmed‘s stints with obsessive craftsmen such as Caribou, Yeasayer and Of Montreal, and especially the monumental task he underwent as musical director of ‘ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor.’ Gallab excavated and arranged a treasure trove of lost classics from the West African synth-pioneer to put together a now legendary series of performances. Alongside his band-mates in Sinkane (jaytram on drums, Ish Montgomery on bass, Jonny Lam on guitar), he also brought on guests Damon Albarn, David Byrne, The Lijadu Sisters, Money Mark and members of Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, and Blood Orange.
The experiences from this on-going endeavor contribute to the collective feel of the record. It is Gallab’s uncanny ability to embrace and assemble a huge history as pure and generous modern-musical expressions. The funky, infectious brasslines of “New Name,” as well as the Equatorial “Young Trouble” are prime examples of the incredible aptitude of Sinkane’s songwriting. Employing the architecture of pop, and a forward-thinking approach to its classic instrumentation, the vibes of Sinkane’s deep-groove past remain intact, in full force. We could lay down a bunch of extra buzzwords to this collection, of course; there are doses of West African funk slow-burners, a noir blaxploitation cool, and a more afro-centric Curtis Mayfield is present, specifically in album standout “Hold Tight.” In the end, these songs GIVE, and its up to you to take what you want.
You can detect a surprising country soul rising in the title track, “Mean Love”, and also in the hauntingly beautiful slide guitar work of “Galley Boys.” Both tunes are reminiscent of a time when soul heavyweights such as James Carr and Solomon Burke recorded juke joint anthems. The title track sits proudly on the same mantelpiece as an updated version of those classics, a tearjerker that will grip the imaginative heart of modern concertgoers and collectors of dusty soul on vinyl.
It takes a disciplined mind as well as an artistic heart to curate so many influences and disseminate them wisely. Despite studying strategic communications and Arabic, and being raised in an academic and political household, Gallab professes that his aim is “to create truly universal music,” rather than issue any political statements. However, there are undeniable political aspects to his songs: The very name of the band is after a misheard pronunciation of Joseph Cinqué, a West African who led a revolt against slave traders after being captured in 1839. This longing and verve for his African origins emanates from the album in a particularly poignant sequence of songs. When “Son” undulates with the mantra, “I will not forget where I came from” and segues into the Sudanese Pop melody of “Omdurman,” (Gallab’s hometown in Sudan) it is the romantic recapturing of a lost childhood memory, and a jolt to the listener’s solar plexus. Says lyricist Greg Lofaro,“I think, to a lot of secular folks, the most compelling argument for heaven is the thought of seeing loved ones. In this case, the melody informed the content very specifically and I knew I wanted to speak graciously, not bitterly, about that. Ahmed typically names sketches for what they’re inspired by or remind him of. Often, that’s something Sudanese (“Warm Spell” had been called “Kurdufan” for awhile). So, it was fitting and we kept the title Omdurman.” This song also has a live quality – when you hear in on record, it precipitates the image of a live hymn, a promise that begs for an audience call and response, “Where, if I should settle down, will I finally settle?”
Mean Love is an album with an open door invitation, and gets deeper with every listen. You hear it right away in the blistering opening track, “How We Be.” An instant classic, sounding like a lost gem of soul funk, a sweetness of voice alongside honey bass lines, the tune grips you and makes you wish for a dance floor, while enticing you to stay for the whole journey of the album.
Paul Gilroy, the path-breaking scholar and historian of the music of the Black Atlantic diaspora, once wrote that a primary characteristic of black cross-Atlantic creativity is a “desire to transcend both the structures of the nation state and constraints of ethnicity and national particularity.” Nothing could be more precise about the cross-disciplined, multifaceted second album by Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab, aka Sinkane: Mean Love.
"Dog Bite is the brainchild of Atlanta's 22 year old Phil Jones, a project of sun-baked anthems caught the ears of London's Young Turks Records (The XX, Wavves, Gang Gang Dance, Holy Fuck). For the past two years Dog Bite has been releasing a steady stream of creepy psychedelic/folk pop songs, gaining praise from taste-maker media outlets like Pitckfork and Fader.
Now, Jones has enlisted some of Atlanta's finest to transform Dog Bite into a real rock n' roll force: Will Fussell of Mood Rings, Stephen Lusce of Red Sea, Woody Shortridge of Balkans, and Cameron Gardner of Washed Out. Finally, Dog Bite will be a fully realized live sound.
Dog Bite combines all your hopes and dreams, fuses them with grapes and butterflies, and then lays them out on a tray with sliced oranges.
Imagine Billie Holiday’s voice atop an ambient swirl of keyboard and vibraphone, and you have Oakland-based outfit DRMS (pronounced Dreams). With one album under their belt and an experimental Suite due out Fall of 2013, the group is evolving from its initial Noir Pop sound to explore the darker, weirder corners of themselves. Band leader and keyboardist Rob Shelton provides the skeleton for the songs, while vocalist Emily Ritz, vibraphonist Mark Clifford, and drummer Ross McIntire pack on the flesh.
"Killer lyrics with the insinuating pulse of vibraphones." - San Francisco Chronicle, Andrew Gilbert "Of the vast wasteland that the Internet’s become, you can still find a few undiscovered gems if you look hard enough — and Dreams (DRMS) is a perfect example…”- MTV Hive, Mike Ayers
"The voice of Billie Holiday blended with a drop of folk and an electro-infused ka-pow of Afro-pop. It's the stuff of dreams, isn't it? Sort of. Dreams (DRMS), besides being the mind's subconscious porthole, is a new East Bay indie supergroup." - Music Editor, Emily Savage, of San Francisco Bay Guardian
"The biggest surprise of the evening was the newly-formed DRMS... a dynamic tidal wave. The display of musicianship by the band was peerless. Brazilian jazz and pure rock experimentation worked side by side, but the result was something that sounded very new..."- SF Weekly, Casey Burchby
"...bewitching brand of indie pop-rock. Ritz's entrancing voice leads the way through the tantalizing, trippy journeys each song provides... Within moments of turning on this album, it will turn you on. You'll be utterly caught up in its unique spell." - Paul Freeman, San Jose Mercury News