Sam Ribakoff can peel paint with a Casio.
Vegyn – “Blue Verb” and “Cowboy All Stars”
Vegyn is like the Wes Anderson of electronic music. A boy wonder who started making James Blake influenced spacey post-dubstep sounds on his own label, PLZ Make it Ruins, and somehow hooked up with Frank Ocean and helped produce one of the best Young Thug guest verses ever recorded onto a FLAC file (the remix of Frank’s “Slide on Me.”) You want to hate on Vegyn: his youth, the incomprehensibility of his connections, and the breadth of his discography. But take a listen to just about any Vegyn track and his craftsmanship and playful experimentation is too charming to hate on. On the two tracks released this month, “Blue Verb,” and “Cowboy All Stars,” Vegyn takes pinchy drums and modular bloops (no beeps here) that should have been left with Autechre 25 years ago, and somehow crafts instrumental ambient pop music, stacking layers of those modular synths over speed up 8-bit footwork drums, and the textures of found bird songs, what sounds like ghostly clips from old cartoons, and snatches of Three Six Mafia acapellas. It’s the kind of music that Rubin should have dropped at the end of Rushmore.
Theo Parrish – “What You Gonna Ask For (Theo Mix)”
Theo Parrish is the master of the buildup. In his best tracks Parrish often builds the base of his compositions with a looped loan piano laying down chords that set the tone and musical themes for the track. In the past, that piano has usually been a deep Rhodes piano further treated with effects, but on “What You Gonna Ask For” the piano is an untreated live acoustic piano. And he lays down chords that seemingly traverse the history of black music in America — from stride jazz piano, to soul, to vamping house piano. That piano is soon accompanied by claps, a tambourine, a Rhodes playing counterpoint, and progressively more synths, a shy bass line, and a shaker; if you hear a shaker on a Theo Parris track, you know it’s going to be a fucking jam.
Towards the two minute mark, the buildup reaches its climax as drums, synths, bass, a roving saxophone, and multi-tracked group vocal chants come in at once, and reader, it is glorious. For the rest of the track, Parrish alternatively brings elements up or completely out of the mix, and lets the sax, synths, and pianos improvise on the groove. In the beginning it feels like being let into the coolest after hours studio jam, but by the end of the nine-plus minute track Parrish lets us know we’re just voyeurs by ending the track in the middle of the groove. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be let in to Parrish’s world for a couple minutes every so often.
Kush Jones – “I Was That Dude in ’96”
For a couple of years, Kush Jones has been planting a flag for footwork/juke music in New York City with DJ Swisha and the Half Moon crew and L.A.’s Juke Bounce Werk collective. With “I Was That Dude in 96,” Jones side steps a little bit and plugs directly into the still beating heart of late 80’s and 90’s New York house music. A footwork-inspired, slightly more insistent bass drum propels the track with lots of synth horn and brass sounds, downbeat claps, and flickering 808 clave sounds. It’s music for a hot summer night on the Christopher Street pier.
Zeroh – 0 Emissions
This graph will be about Zeroh’s great new collection of music, but I feel like it would be a shanda to talk about 0 Emissions without talking about Ras G’s passing in late July. Ras was the soul of the L.A. beat scene. The quiet, all knowing monk, whose SpaceBase explored the outer regions of electronic music, where hip hop melded into dub, free jazz, experimental music, and later on house music, that reached deep into history and far into the edges of the multiverse. 0 Emissions, a collection of a series of releases L.A./Long Beach producer and rapper Zeroh put out in 2016 takes inspiration not just from Ras G’s music, but from his ethos of pushing electronic music further and further out of genre boundaries and into a cosmic mesh of beautiful bass and noise.
Tracks on here move from electro-punk rants about rush hour traffic in L.A. to luscious sample based beats, to wavy carnivorous tracks with assists from L.A. rap legends Versis, Jonwayne, and Busdriver. Ras G’s might have left his earthly body, but his spirit lives on through the music of Zeroh, and the music of many others in L.A. and around the universe, now, and undoubtedly into the future.
Channel Tres – Black Moses
As I’ve written before, Channel Tres is the 1TakeJay of house music. A master of shit talking with an effortless flow, and a sense of humor tied to supreme confidence. If you’ve heard any Channel Tres song, you know what’s happening on Black Moses, straight glorious monotone shit talking over midnight minded deep Detroit house grooves. The BPM dips a little bit, and the bass drum moves up in the mix a tad during the absolutely fine JPEGMAFIA verse on the title track, and a siren G-Funk moog line shows up on “Sexy Black Timberlake,” but other than that, Black Moses sees Channel Tres honing his craft as a producer of a very particular sound, and planting a flag for house music, along with AshTreJinkins, in his hometown of Compton, CA.
Maria Usbeck – Envejeciendo
Envejeciendo is a spanglish deep house pop album about growing old. Doesn’t that sound fun? Originally from Ecuador, Usbeck’s last album, 2016’s Amparo was a heartfelt indie pop exploration of identity through acoustic instruments mimicking the clarity and simplicity of electronic music, but on Envejeciendo Usbeck dives straight into deep house bass lines, spacey ambient chords, and stuttering reverb heavy drum machine snare hits that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vincent Floyd track. The focus on the album is definitely Usbeck’s songwriting, but the slowed down deep house instrumentation envelops almost all of the songs on the record in a hazy sunset light that mirrors the records themes. It’s balearic music to play at your end of summer party, and at your local old folks home.