Nobody who starts a band could be blamed for thinking they might have to fight their way through something at some point. There are so many problems between where almost any band is and where they'd like to be that even if they don't call themselves I Fight Dragons, nobody could blame them, even if they talked a lot about fighting for what they believe in and for what they're trying to do. The thing is, Brian Mazzaferri actually is in a band called I Fight Dragons, and he never talks about fighting anything or anybody; mostly he talks about building things.
The band came out of nowhere just a few years ago, signed with Atlantic Records, and after two EPs own their own, released their first album, KABOOM!, at the end of 2011. A year later they had left the label, and you could easily think they'd be talking about what they have to fight for, now that they're back on their own again. Not even a little; on the way from headlining a show in Florida to headlining one in New Orleans, Mazzaferri talks about music, the internet, the band, the way they made the album, and a lot of other things, but he never mentions anything about fighting anybody. Mostly he talks about how a great band builds what it wants to be.
Sammy Tenuta came out of a very different scene than the one he's in now; he was the singer and leader in loud, driving rock bands that headlined most of the big venues in the Chicago club scene up through the late nineties. He's moved on, in reality, he's moved back to where most of that music started anyway; his new EP "Stay a Little Longer" is purely acoustic -- one guitar played live, one vocal, all about the songs, just the way that really good solo acoustic and solo vocal records should be. Well, all about the songs and how you play them.
Even after you've listened to Andy Moor's new album Zero Point One a bunch of times, it's still hard to get used to how strong these tracks are. There are eighteen of them, and even if you keep going back to listen to the whole album, track after track through the musical light show of its many different voyages, it still won't matter. Although you may think that on just one more listen they can't all seem so rich or so well put together, it doesn't matter; they still do.
Andy Moor is one of the really respected producer DJs in Electronic Dance Music, and on the Trance Nation side of EDM he's been known for years for the quality of his productions. Still, this is something new. As successful as his hit tracks and remixes have been, Zero Point One is an album, a rich, musical album full of different songs, different textures, and different moods.
There's a major new world taking shape in Trance music, as the producers who built the many faceted sound of Trance out of monstrously melodic tracks, layered through and through with the lush atmospheres that make trance music its own art, have started to make really careful, complete albums. The artist album isn't new in EDM, but because trance has always been such an independent world, huge and global but always its own unique country, it's been a gradual, step-by-step process. It's been a complicated challenge, because trance artists don't fit easily into the world's expectation of what a recording artist is; for the most part they're touring DJs, software-based composers and producers who almost all came up putting out one track at a time, usually with its main purpose being to tear up a dancefloor when somebody played it in a set with a lot of other tracks.
Powerplay FYI's new album "A Normal Life" is out now, it's a full length trip through the musical imaginations of some really accomplished performers and writers. "A Normal Life" is a richly textured concept album; it's a new collection of ten tracks that showcase what great writing sounds like with the energy of a percussion-rich Latin big band, with the flawlessly soulful vocals of two great singers, and with the driving funk of a full horn section and first-call rhythm players.
It wasn't hard at all deciding to do a story about Tritonal --- their single "Everafter" featuring Cristina Soto is at the top of the Beatport trance chart (just like several of their releases last year), they're one of the most active and successful new DJ/producer teams on the scene, and they're playing at Enclave in Chicago this Saturday, June 2. What made it hard was that I've been meaning to get their album "Piercing the Quiet" for a while, so I went to eMusic and bought it as I started to write the article. The trouble with that idea was that the album turns out to be just outstanding, and now I don't have the vaguest idea how to focus this story. Not only that, they've just released an album with extended mixes of the tracks, and it's probably even better, but I'm still loving this one so I'll get to that in a few days.
Kay Wilder and Ernesto vs Bastian's new single "Forgotten Summer" is out at Beatport, and it's a great way to start getting ready for a really good summer. We got the original mix when it came out yesterday, and went back today to get the Julian Wess and Mike Carey Remix. The Wess and Carey Remix is dreamier, with a lot of cool instrumentation woven into the still-driving track. We've been listening to the original at Soundcloud for a couple of weeks, and it's a really strong, straight-up Trance track, bangin' and well arranged.
There are a lot of different worlds in the galaxy of Electronic / Dance Music, and more appearing all the time as DJ/producers find new sounds and new ways to put them together. It's a universe of many voices, but among all of the creative and energetic artists that keep the beat-driven grooves changing all of the time, UK Producer / DJ / Artist Matt Darey has always managed to be one of the most forward-looking, one of the most resilient, and one of the most dependable when it comes to just bringing it.
Powerplay fyi keyboard player, writer, and producer Ruben Agosto is just back from the ASCAP I Create Music Conference in Hollywood, and the new Powerplay album, "A Normal Life" is coming out later this spring. Here's a short intro interview Ruben did at the Heart & Soul studios just after finishing mastering on the album.
PowerPlay FYI features some of the most talented and accomplished performers around; their two vocalists (Pam Fernandez and Peter Frank) are both featured in the tracks used behind the photo collages in the video. "A Normal Life" covers a wide range of soulful, smooth jazz and funk-driven beats. Several of the arrangements are by Tower of Power arranger Dave Eskridge. The whole album is already at PowerPlayFYI.bandcamp.com for full strreaming. Not to mention, check out the photo of Ruben hangin' in Hollywood with Lee Ritenour.
Trance music is melodic, beat-driven music with its own standards and its own stars, which is not surprising, because in many ways, trance music is its own world. Almost all of it is made by DJ/Producers, for the trance-aware to find at places like junodownload.com or beatport.com, and especially for other DJs to find and play for their audiences (and the trance audience is global and immense).
It's a world full of energy and imagination, and there might not be anybody more energetic or imaginative when it comes to making and finding great trance music than the UK based DJ trio Above & Beyond. It's a strangely separate set of realities; if you know trance music, you're wondering why in the world anybody would explain who Above & Beyond is, and if you don't know trance music, you're wondering who in the world Above & Beyond is. Just to give you some idea, one of their recent San Francisco shows sold out in two minutes.
It seems like they tour non-stop, but every week they also put together one of the best podcast radio shows on the web, at trancearoundtheworld.com. All of the weekly shows are archived there (they've done more than four hundred), and there's a link to a free download of each show in the upper left part of the page, or you can get there by clicking here.
Above & Beyond will be in Chicago at the Congress Theater on Saturday, May 12. They're playing with Cosmic Gate and Matt Zo, both of whom regularly show up on Trance Around the World with killer tracks and remixes. We're going.
Robert Poss is a forward-leaning composer because he's such an innovative guitarist --- he's been called a "guitar genius" by Tape Op Magazine, and an "enormously underrated guitar theorist" by producer Steve Albini, who observed, "the way he structures the song around the drone instead of finding a drone to fit into the song I think is wholly unique." Most people first heard of him after he and Susan Stenger founded Band of Susans, whose music Robert Palmer described in Rolling Stone Magazine as "soaring sonic architecture", and since 1995, he has composed extensively for Choreography and Film, continuing to explore the myriad possibilities of a musical universe that few can navigate the way he does.
Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry is Poss' latest release, newly available as a digital download at sites like Amazon. The album is a fourteen track collection of Poss' newest work, most of it originally composed for choreographers Alexandra Beller, Sally Gross and Gerald Casel. Settings opens with three tracks written for Alexandra Beller's "Other Stories", which her company, Alexandra Beller / Dances, is presenting in seven performances this April at New York's Joyce Soho, with Poss performing live.
"One of the things Alexandra and I have in common, one of the many," Poss says, "is that we operate in the realm between 'high art' culture and 'popular culture'. We're not afraid to be brainy and cerebral, but we're also not afraid to get down and dirty." That's only one of the dimensional spectrums that Poss' music, and Poss' approach to Music, explores. A few times through Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry will reveal many more.