“And We Kept It UK”: A Boiler Room Set with Jamie xx

London’s been calling lately for Young Turks producer and The xx beatmaker, Jamie xx. Moments after dropping unexpected single, “All Under One Roof Raving,” that samples from historical UK rave footage in Mark Leckey’s 1999 documentary, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, Jamie xx found himself on—rather than under—a roof airing a live DJ set for Boiler Room tv. Though not exactly a rave in the modern sense, the hour-long set saw the producer mix a variety of British dance classics at his measured 125BPM tempo, described by the YouTube page as “an honorary whip through the nostalgic touchstones of UK club music”.

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Four Tet’s “Our Navigation” for UNICEF

Four Tet Our Navigation UNICEF
UK-based electronic musician Four Tet has teamed up with UNICEF to make a music video for the global effort to “#ENDviolence against children”. Set in Tanzania, the three-minute clip tells the harrowing story of a young girl’s rape at the hands of a seemingly benign adult. The man even gifts the girl a necklace in front of her mother, referencing the statistic that most victims of rape knew their aggressor beforehand.

The video is soundtracked by one of the more melancholic songs on Four Tet’s most recent Beautiful Rewind album, “Our Navigation”. This fits particularly well with the negative-colored shots of a masked tribal dancer that are interspersed throughout the video—her neon outline tracing through the frame in slow shutter-movement to haunting effect.

Hip-hop artist Ambwene Yessayah (also known as A.Y.) and Miss Tanzania Faraja Kotta Nyalandu also feature as the girl’s parents, who portray the outrage but powerlessness that must plague families and friends of rape victims. The two local celebrities are actually the “newly appointed National Ambassadors” for UNICEF in Tanzania according to the description of the video on YouTube, and their presence is hoped to increase awareness of the country’s child abuse problems, particularly amongst youth. Though their acting never entirely convinces, the content remains disturbing: at the climactic point, viewers experience the young girl’s point-of-view as she looks up at her rapist, with the camera shaking turbulently.

The rapist winds up behind bars in this version of events, as the last notes of “Our Navigation” disperse, but the clip is a powerful reminder that there are many more such stories that do not have the same neat endings.

In Search of the Microtone

The edifice of Western music is built upon order. Like a stained glass window, the orchestration can be stunning in its vision and precision, clear lines defining the landscapes of harmony. Composers from Bach to Lennon to Janelle Monae build their empires of sound upon the foundation and rebar we call notes, intervals, scales, modes, and chords. Harmony stems from geometric balance, every Ra Ra Ah Ah Rama you’ve ever heard unfolding like fractals in the audio field. Yet what is often omitted in Western music, that we might find in, say, a classical North-Indian raga, is the idea of tonal fluidity. Precise imprecision. That in between “notes” exist infinitesimal tones offering an expressive power that lies beyond the exactitude of diatonic scales.

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Techniques of the Body: FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs has shared two videos, set to new musical productions, in advance of her debut album, LP1, to be released in August through Young Turks. Both videos revolve around dancers, continuing the artist’s interest in exploring the corporeal. In one, “Tw-ache,” conceived by FKA Twigs and Tom Beard, the music involves throbbing, monosyllabic vocals that play on the repeated “I” she sings in her track “Ache” from 2012. As the percussion propels the track into a light shuffle, the artist herself dances in a leotard. In the first half of the video, dancers are isolated; FKA Twigs leans against a wall or hangs from water pipes, eyes closed, perhaps thinking of someone not present. In the second half, she unites with a male dancer and their mirrored reflections stretch and merge during a poignant musical breakdown. The video ends with a different vocal line than that with which it began—a series of stuttering, more painful monosyllabic utterances—as the dancers return to solitude.

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This Is Just to Say: You Should Know JJ Grey & Mofro

American music has always been susceptible—welcoming, even—to influences of place. From Mississippi's delta blues to Harlem's jazz to Appalachia's bluegrass, the places in which music is written become part of the art itself. Obviously, this is true for most art forms. Faulkner, Van Gogh, Issa—artists continually turn to place for motivation, inspiration, and encouragement.

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The Way Out Is Through: On Nine Inch Nails and Emerging from Depression

Nine Inch Nails Live
Writing a profile for a musician as prolific as Trent Reznor has proven to be difficult. On one hand, there's so much to cover and so much I want to tell a person who wants to get familiar with Nine Inch Nails: that you'll be hard-pressed to find an artist whose full body of work is as consistent in quality and as varied in sound, that you'll find it even more challenging to find an artist who has done those things and maintained a vast fan base. Reznor's influence on modern music is undeniable, and with Nine Inch Nails he has worked to reinvent traditional rock music and inject totally new sounds into the spectrum.

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tUnE-yArDs and Sylvan Esso @ Gothic Theater

I’ve never been to a concert where so many people were smiling.

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  • Point Grey
    A column centered around features by writer Paul Thompson, who's main focus is hip-hop music, news, and the culture.