New Music! Friday Roll Out: Madlib, Divide and Dissolve, The Notwist, The Body

Maybe this week isn’t the week for reviews. Constant mood shifts brought on because of my surroundings leave me frazzled and thinking I’m not giving a clear and thorough assessment of what’s in front of me. Well, I’m hoping that with time, that will change. I work with someone who just lost his wife. We’ve all heard the stories about deaths, and I’ve had my own fair share within my family, but I’m left numb at this point. Regardless of what we hear and see, I’ve still noticed that people in general remain selfish AF. Enough, I complain much too often.

This week I’ve been keeping busy though, with home projects as I listen to music that I wouldn’t turn on normally. There are kids in my household after all and their musical selections don’t really gel with my own. But I’m forced to listen and dissect it at times. But this past weekend I found myself listening to I’ve Seen All I Need To See (Thrill Jockey), the new album by Portland, Oregon’s The Body, and I don’t think I’ve felt this dirty in such a long time. What is it about the group that I find so enthralling? Could it be the no-fucks-given attitude we can all feel even from hundreds of miles away? Is it fear? Do they have the capability to smell it reeking from my skin? Whatever it is, The Body has always teetered into dangerously loud and abrasive territory and here it isn’t much different. If I had to choose, it would be “Tied Up and Locked In” which is frightening. At deafening levels, the band does contort interesting melodies that conform to its bidding. We need to bury this, along with all the evil that lurks in the darkness. Who am I kidding? 10 minutes later I’m just going to go ahead and dig that right back up again.

One of our favorite beat miners just dropped his latest offering, Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion) but Madlib isn’t your standard sound manipulator. For this release, he collaborated with the like-minded Kieran Hebden, who also works under the Four Tet moniker. He apparently arranged and mastered the album and you can feel the effect of both artists; Madlib’s soulfulness and Hebden’s roughness throughout. This truly is a meeting of the minds, an existential joining of musical souls. “One For Quartabé / Right Now” showcases the art of insanity within Madlib’s music which Hebden fully comprehends. Its bassline is hypnotic while the film samples are fitting. But it’s “Hang Out (Phone Off)” that’s remarkable in every way. The deep bottom end is raptured on the surface while other instruments around the beat accentuate it. This is both magic and skill.  

Since before the turn of the century, there have been bands that have easily made a musical career by rendering music on an independent level throughout 2000 and beyond. For some it seemed easier to do so, already appealing to their fanbase, but others seemed to drift in and out of consciousness as if climbing out of a dream on occasion. You’ll see where I’m going with this.

After 7 years, The Notwist returns with a new album Vertigo Days (Morr Music), and an extended hiatus might be what the problem is. The group has been sporadic throughout the years, usually somewhere between 4 to 6 years in between some releases. Music listeners are a finicky bunch but it really would be a shame if The Notwist were to fall through the cracks with this new album which explores a plethora of sounds and textures. While no 2 songs are alike, Vertigo Days remains cohesive and the band’s identity remains fully intact. The lonely & stark “Into The Stars” revolves around an acoustic guitar, harmonies, and keyboard washes and plinks, as well as electronic percussion. The song bleeds directly into “Exit Strategy To Myself” and feels more like a song directed through standard band interplay, along with keyboards setting the tone. But it’s Marcus Acher’s vocals, which he fills with harmonies at times while still purging the melody into the track. And then there are the pop songs…oh the pop songs.

The album is far from disjointed, as the group cleverly finds a way to weave all of the songs with one another. “Where To Find Me,” possibly one of the greatest pop songs written in the last few years or so is simple in approach with a repetitive bassline accentuated by drums, but it refrains from being repetitious or derivative. Keyboard washes here are well worth its weight in melody. The band may have shifted into a more electronic mined arena from its earliest and most humble beginnings, the German band has continued to utilize a band-oriented structure and its perfect. Even “San Soleil,” with its acoustic guitar rummaging around it, with keyboards placed carefully around it bank on its sugary sweetness that doesn’t leave a toothache. It instead gives us all an endearing look and feel into the band. But it’s the more frantically paced “Al Sur,” with Juana Molina handling vocals that truly grabs attention. The added percussion is non-stop, the low-end theory here is captivating, and Molina, well, her melodies astound.

Vertigo Days shouldn’t be dismissed, which is what I almost skipped past. I’m fortunate I didn’t. My only complaint is what I voiced earlier; now if the band can actually find time to create music on a more frequent basis, there’d probably be no stopping The Notwist. Not to say anything is stopping them now outside of the obvious but you get it. Now run out and get this, you’ll thank me for it.

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We all walked a fine line in 2020, cautiously watching our words in respect to gender, utilizing the correct pronouns, and treating everyone with equality… but that’s always been my way. I’ve said it before, I don’t care if you’re black, white, straight, gay, purple, green, or even plaid, if you’re making great music, you’re going to receive the respect on your name from me. (Note: someone once remarked that I knew damn well no one is purple. But someone came to my defense and mentioned Prince.)

With just about every release, I’ve championed Divide And Dissolve, the New Zealand/American outfit consisting of Takiaya Reed on saxophone, guitar, live effects, and Sylvie Nehill on drums, live effects, who happen to be Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and Māori respectively. The duo points out that information, we only share it but it’s the music we’re here for right? Before we get to that though, I also need to point out Divide And Dissolve are always vocal about gender and racial equality. Many are on the #DD bandwagon when we say “Destroy White Supremacy.” The two have just released a new album, the sonically diverse Gas Lit (Invada Records) and here, while they stir up the cacophony in full, they do something a little… different. The opener “Oblique” shoots directly from the hip with Takiava’s hypnotic sax play, lulling listeners into a stupor as if she were a pied piper. All this before an explosive dynamic shift that throws you down a pit, a bottomless & cavernous drop that’s seemingly never-ending. Guitars and drums clash against one another as the saxophone continually wails in the background. As drums and guitar come to an eventual halt, the sax picks up the next set of fools captured by Divide And Dissolves siren song.

It doesn’t end there, far from it because it’s only the beginning. The band plays with rhythmic repetition and is sonically explosive. The consistent and constant tone of guitars on “Prove It,” along with the thunderous and powerful drumming proves to be drug inducing without the use of pharmaceuticals. This is on repeat… again, and again, and again. Minori-Sanchiz-Fung shares a spoken word delivery on the heady “Did You Have Something To Do With It” as the band lowers its voluminous sound, giving only a fittingly ethereal backdrop. On the band’s “Denial,” the members move much like they did on the opener, but with what sound like haunting strings surrounding dead souls right before the explosive dynamic change, and end much like the way it began: creepily.

There’s much to be said regarding Divide And Dissolve’s Gas Lit and the band’s cacophonous sound. The ladies intrigue with their willingness to challenge a male-dominated genre, and they do with compositions that could put many of them to shame. But this isn’t about gender, it’s about the band’s badassery and abilities. They have it all.

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