Al Gore Was Right

Why is it so hot in Southern California right now? The entire summer, we managed to keep it under 90, and now that summer’s over, someone’s gone and struck up a 109 degree heat wave. I mean look at me; I’m supposed to be writing about music, yet here I am, almost crying over this abominable heat. Though why I chose a coffee shop, of all places to go when its hot, I’m not even sure myself.

Anyway, I’d normally be listening to music right now, but I’ve noticed that without my headphones, I’m almost able to hear the sound of dripping water in a far-off place. Perhaps it’s something to do with the coffee pots (which would be frustrating due to the fact that hot water is less than refreshing), but I’m quite happy pretending that somewhere nearby, someone (or some piece of equipment or flooring) is feeling perfectly refreshed. That’s right, it’s so hot, I’d rather listen to things that sound refreshing than actual music. Whew!

Seeing as this is a music blog, though, I’m assuming you likely didn’t come here for nothing. It is my responsibility to provide music relevant to the times, and encouraging everyone to simply snuggle up with a running faucet seems a tad unprofessional. In that case, have a listen to Mount Kimbie.

Mount Kimbie

In my experience, there are generally only two kinds of electronic musc: Those that find their base in electronics and synths, and those that rely more heavily on the recorded organic sounds of the world around us. Prior to today, artists like Flying Lotus, Eskmo, and Amon Tobin may have worn the royal crowns for the latter, but today, those crowns are stripped away by the UK’s Mount Kimbie, who are (pardon the mega-generic colloquialism) redfining music as we know it. Not only are they crafting into beats things that most of us probably didn’t even realize could be musical before, but they’re also (and here’s the real beauty of these guys on a day like today) the most likely to include the lovely sound of flowing water. God it’s hot out.

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Serged (Original Mix)

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Mount Kimbie – Ode to Bear

Crossing the Chasm

These days, especially in Los Angeles, the music industry is pretty damn far from just an industry founded upon music. No sir, what with the logistics behind relentless promoters offering every incentive besides music to go to their events (alcohol, fame, photo booths) and with major/minor labels being owned by “groups” and “corps” that somehow also function as labels in their own right (See Warner Bros.), it all too frequently happens such that our “music industry” isn’t a music industry at all. It, like almost every other industry in the world, is a “who you know” industry, and with connections fueling the nightlife, there’s almost never a guarantee to good music. I’ve seen the names of terrible musicians in lights on more than one occasion, and it’s frustrating. Shouldn’t the people playing shows in the city be the ones who’s music got them to where they are? Shouldn’t music be fresh and interesting? Shouldn’t talent breed success?

Though it doesn’t always, I’m proud to say that today marks a brilliant win for all those truly talented musicians out there. LA’s very own Cosmic Kids, a duo comprised of one part Dan Terndrup (of Royal Rumble esteem), one part Ron Poznansky, and a whole lot of cosmic dust, have just completed their first single, and it alone stands as proof that genuinely indisputable talent for music can still prevail. Where many have tried and failed to separate the song from the sequencer, Cosmic Kids have succeeded, reaching one hand backward into the realm of nostalgia, and the other forward to help create a real, organic style of music that manages to be relevant, classic, and entirely new, all at the same time.

Consider this the Cosmic Kids Premier: Check out the video above. While it could be the first you’ve heard of them, it’s likely that it shant be the last.

Hooked? We knew you would be. If you’ve got a craving for some more liquid soul, and about an hour and a half to kill, take a gander at Cosmic Kid’s Mix #1 below, or on the Uh Oh Disco Podcast. Guaranteed to please.

Mix #1 by cosmickids

Electro Ergo Sum

Heraclitus once wrote that you cannot stand in the same river twice. Something like that, at least; his ancient Greek writings are incomplete and don’t translate perfectly. Change, the philosopher explained, is a fundamental part of our universe, our lives and ourselves. Everything is in a constant state of flux. This idea is important to how we understand the relationship between music, experience and consciousness.

Music is, on a very literal level, a collection of sounds. It can be described by wavelengths, periods, amplitudes and frequencies. Well, duh; that’s the definition of sound—an oscillating wave that propagates through a medium. But for humans (and maybe other animals, depending on who you ask), music is more than just a bunch of equations from physics class. When a person listens to music, he or she feels something (assuming the music is within the frequencies our ears can detect). The act of listening is a means to an end; sound affects emotion. I’ll spare everyone a half-assed attempt at armchair neuroscience, but it’s an important distinction: a man doesn’t “listen” to music so much as he “experiences” the effects of auditory stimulations. When he says “I really like this song,” he means “this song makes me feel a certain way that I find pleasurable.” But can that experience be repeated or relived? Nope. Never. It sucks, but it’s true. A person can never experience the same song twice.

The first argument is literal and mathematically provable: auditory stimuli change. A persons might hear different things on each listen. Hearing a song through headphones is different than listening to that song with speakers. A live performance is different than a recording. A cover isn’t an original. The medium, performer and quality of a song change constantly. Think of your favorite song. Now turn the bass all the way down, like you’re using the speakers from a laptop. Is it still your favorite song? What if you’re only listening to the left channel? What if you’re listening to a really compressed MP3, the kind that gets that ugly leaf-crunching overlay if you turn the volume really loud? The vinyl/MP3/CD/casette versions of any particular song are pretty similar, but they’re still technically different.

It’s a rather weak argument—most people listen to the same MP3 over and over. Besides, even if the 128kpbs version of Hey Jude is different than the 160kpbs version, most people wouldn’t be able to tell. Since the human ear isn’t perfect, the difference between two versions is often indistinguishable. The second argument is that there’s no consistent “level of listening.” Listen to your favorite song but focus on the baseline. Then do it again, but now focus on the drums. The experience is different. Now put that same song on in the background while you’re organizing your closet. Are you still “listening” to it? Sorta. But there’s a big difference between passive and active listening; the “level of listening” affects the experience. Have you ever watched a movie while using your laptop, then suddenly realized about half-way through the film that you have no idea who the bad guys are after? Same idea.

But music isn’t the whole story. Argument three: the listener’s surroundings affect the experience, and surroundings always change. Blasting your favorite bass-laden Rusko song at a party with forty friends is different than blasting it at your grandma’s bridge club (though the latter sounds like a funnier YouTube video). In fact, hearing the song at tonight’s party will be a different experience than hearing it at last week’s party, even if the same people are attending and the same drinks are being served. There’s only one first-time-at-a-party experience. Context always matters—the time, the place, the people. But the most important argument involves the listener himself.

A listener never experiences the same song twice because the listener is always changing. Think about your own “self.” You’re not the same person you were five years ago. Certainly not physically; you’ve got a few more wrinkles in your skin, maybe you changed your haircut, gained/lost weight. Not intellectually; you know more—or less—than before. Not ideologically; you’ve probably changed your mind about something. You’re a different person sober than drunk; you act one way when you’re happy, another way when you’re sad; you do things when tired that you’d never do wide awake. That’s Heraclitus’s contribution to ontology: what philosophers call the “self” is actually a collection of infinitely many “selves.” You’re the same person you always were, but you’re always a different person. (Read that last sentence over a few times.) Consciousness is a series of infinitely many consciousnesses. Hence, the listener’s music-induced experience has less to do with the quality of the MP3 and the particular listening environment than with, well, him. And since he keeps changing, his experience keeps changing, too.

This last idea explains why the same song—even literally the same set of noises in the same context—can trigger two completely different experiences; why Bob Dylan sometimes makes me feel happy and sometimes makes me feel sad; why music I used to love became music I was apathetic about (or secretly still enjoy in a self-deprecating, what-was-I-thinking? sort of way); why music makes me nostalgic for specific stages of life, friends or cities; why I listen to the same songs over and over without getting bored.

Most importantly, the constantly-changing-self idea explains why people both look for and create new music when there’s already so much in the world. It’s not a search for sound, per se; it’s a search for emotion, a pseudo-existential I-want-to-feel-alive-and-music-lets-me-do-that quest for feeling. When I look for new music, I’m really just looking for new experiences—experiences that last between two and ten minutes and are, by their very nature, ephemeral (which, in a sense, almost makes them more special). It’s frustrating. It sometimes seems pointless. And takes up way too much time. But it’s worth it.

Because when I hear the right song at the right time with the right people, I feel alive and special and inspired, like everything’s going to be fine and every choice I’ve made has been the right one and every person I love also loves me. And I think to myself, “I’m lucky.”

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Dance Area – AA 24/7 (Diplo Remix)

Onra on the Rise

How do you build an album? Well first you start with the basic “album” template. Guidelines include:

  • A track count totaling 12, three-minute songs
  • An opening track that’s better than most of the other tracks on the album
  • A track that really doesn’t take itself seriously. One where you can reasonably assume the artist/band members were struggling not to laugh while recording/producing it
  • A track that’s a little too short
  • A track that should have been left off and would have been, had the first guideline not existed

If an artist puts together an series of recordings that follow the above layout, it’s guaranteed to, well, be an album. But that’s about it. And the unfortunate truth is that most people who put out albums stop here. Ever wonder why when you go to a record store, neither you nor any of your friends have heard of 95% of everything on the shelves? Well now you know. Making an album is the easy part. Making it yours is where things tend to get a little more difficult.

There are a billion approaches to what comes next. Some people like to add longevity to the listening experience by designing “concept albums” that tell a continued story throughout, using the music to convey the emotion. Others make full length pieces in which all the tracks combine to form one master piece. But even those tactics have become a bit overplayed. After all, who the hell wants to hear even two consecutive Top 40 tracks, much less a full 12 track album?


France’s Onra has taken a fresh approach to adding flavor to his (gasp) 32 track epic, Chinoiseries. Instead of sitting down in a studio, he travelled to Vietnam (where his grandparents live and are from) to get in touch with his heritage, and returned to France with over 30 pieces of dusty vinyl, off which he built his entire album. It’s got a theme, it’s masterfully produced, and best of all the culture clash that fuels it allows him to present to us a lost sound that we would otherwise likely never have uncovered in a way that is still, somehow, astounding easy to approach.

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Onra – Introduction

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Onra – War

And a little something off his latest release. Different approach. Same genius.

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Onra – Long Distance ft. Oliver Daysoul