I tend to tell people my tastes lean toward simplicity in music, though I suspect what I really favor is intricacy and lushness masquerading as simplicity. "195lbs" by Nightmares on Wax is a perfect example. Just as mirrors make a room look larger – one of the most basic principles of design – so too do the echoes broaden the space of this song, texturing the otherwise basic loop that gallops all the way to the end of the track. Trails of reggae guitar skip and refract through the mix, careening off the hypnotic vocals once they finally slip in. This is the way to handle simplicity – letting it ride its course into a subtle trance.
"Only Hope" isn't so much a complete song as it is a cross-section of an endless serenade, locked somewhere up in a sealed attic. The first warped, metallic seconds open the track as if we're blessed with a rare discovery, like finding that space in your own home you never knew existed, with the drums and thin padwork spilling out onto your head like a dustbeam. From there it's a soft trance: stark but surging, with the implication of rich history behind it. The vocal harmonies become organs themselves, slipping off into the swirling atmosphere - and then you close the trapdoor shut again, though above it you know Populous will continue playing, perhaps for years to come.
I knew I dug this on first listen, but I'll be damned if I could tell you why. So, with no prior exposure to Koushik, I turned to Wikipedia for a quick-and-dirty briefing. And lo & behold! This is a man who collaborated with Four Tet, Madvillain & Caribou, all of whom have served the valorous duty of wearing a hole through my speakers at some point in the past. Okay, so he runs with good company, but I'm really no closer to being able to tell you why I dig this song. What I hear: an effortless beat, invigorating vocals, sketches of soul & funk in the horns and guitar. An authentic retro feel and traces of hip hop. But that's really just a skeleton of a description - spin this for yourself, & you'll see why people say he's in league with DJ Shadow, RJD2, & the giants listed above.
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Fingertips Explores the Archives: Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues
A brother-sister band known for idiosyncratic experimentation here delivers a delightful piece of almost classic-sounding pop (copping the keyboard and/or bass riff from the Four Tops strikes me as a neat touch). The fact that the Furnaces have revealed the capacity to spin out something this traditionally appealing changes everything, to me. It's just like knowing Picasso could draw beautifully when he wanted to; that he could and chose not to makes all the difference. In any case, everything else I've heard from the Fiery Furnaces (which I may go back and listen to again) has struck me as almost perversely odd (music critics like to call this "challenging"). But here they are, chugging to a keyboard-filled Motowny groove sounding both at home and still (if you listen closely) satisfyingly edgy.