Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Easy Way To Write Your Bio

"I started making music in 2002..." 
"I grew up in South London..." 
"I'm best known for working with so and so..."

It's really hard to write your artist bio, and sometimes it's even harder to find someone who can write it for you. Sitting there staring at a blank screen can even make you question whether you've actually done anything worth writing about, which doesn't exactly inspire you to start.

Last week I came across a really simple way of attacking the bio problem when helping a friend, and that was to stop thinking about it as a biography.

At the top of the page, start with "Once Upon A Time", and begin with how your parents met. Imagine you're writing the story of your family, with you as the lead character. It should be easy to read for almost anyone over the age of 12, and it should make sense without boring them. Try to write quickly and in a continuous flow (I turn off the internet and write in all caps, then change to the correct case at the end). Read it back to yourself aloud, though you may want to pick another voice - I made up a cheesy African American 70s award show host called Bill.

Once you have finished your story, go back and edit. Get rid of "Once Upon A Time" of course, and then delete anything that is irrelevant or boring - you should be able to get the whole thing down to three or four paragraphs. A good bio should make people feel they almost know you and want to ask you questions - if you give every single detail what is there to ask? The hardest thing is knowing what to leave out, so keep imagining someone reading it who has never heard of you and comes from another country (that should also help you remove overly presumptuous statements - "in 2004 she worked with all of Kiddlington's greats - The Badlights, Emma Hope & co..." Huh?)

Try to avoid the usual pitfalls; don't start every paragraph with your name, keep lists of people you've worked with or places you've been as short as possible, don't fixate on boring technical details, and don't write in the first person "then I did this, then I did that". Most importantly, don't tell yourself you can't do it before you start.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Video & Download: Ana Tijoux "Elefant"


Ana Tijoux - Elefant from Jon Casey on Vimeo.

Aside from her immaculate taste in beats (Rock Co.Kane Flow by Jake Uno if you can't quite remember), Ana Tijoux in her own right is pretty heavy. Chile's first ever Grammy nominated artist, this is a slightly random chunk of a busy day in the very hectic sounding life chopped together by Caseytography to make a music video.

Though it's hard for a plebeian such as myself who can only speak one and a bit languagues to fully get behind anyone who's not rapping in English (who knows, she could be rapping about socks and yoghurt), I'm really enjoying her recent mixtape "Elefant" featuring beats by M-Phazes, Waajeed, Kev Brown, Oddisee & more, grab it here.  

Thanks to The Fader

Video: MED "Classic" ft Talib Kweli


MED - "CLASSIC" feat Talib Kweli produced by Karriem Riggins for Stones Throw Records from Theo Jemison on Vimeo.

You don't always have to reinvent the wheel...


Directed by The Qualities of Light, cinematography by Rich Hama, Theo Jemison, August Thurmer, & Grace Oh

Video: James Blake Live @ SXSW



I know some people get a little precious when something that sounds like it fits neatly in to a subculture suddenly hits the mainstream, but the rise of James Blake just seems both timely and natural.

Mix: Gilles Peterson Worldwide Vol.4 No.6 - DJ Nuts from Brasil

Image Source

This is just incredible. Part of me wishes it was one continuous mix like some of these, but the way Gilles interviews can feel like you're eavesdropping on the kind of conversation you would so rarely get the chance to hear - a chat between ultimate nerd friends who after all these years only fall more deeply in love with what they're doing. 

Grab/listen to the mix here

Preview: Valentina "Weights" EP

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I readily admit I'm a sucker for a woman who can get epic behind a piano. And guitar. So far from what I can see there are two Valentinas, there's the almost angelically pure and understated recorded version and then there's the powerfully commanding live version. I'm still trying to work out which I like best when both are pretty exciting. Really looking forward to her EP "Weights", set for release on 18th April and available for pre-order on Rough Trade now.

Thanks to Coby for the link.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Video: Jamie Woon "Lady Luck" Video



Love Woony. Not sure about the tash, might have been more fitting in Cambodia. Also loving the Hudmo resmack below.




Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Video: dÉbruit's Live Band



I think dÉbruit may be psychic. This afternoon my friend emailed to enquire whether we'd be going to see dÉbruit's live band at XOYO or to see Taste of Sonar at the Roundhouse this Saturday. We ummed and ahhhed and came to the conclusion - dunno. An hour later D sent over this video of his live band. Decision made.

Catch: Wagon Christ, dÉbruit (live), Ceephax (live), Infesticons live) & Young Montana @ XOYO Sat 19th March



Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Video: Oddisee ft. Toine of DTMD - Different Now



I don't normally hop on something I know will be on every other blog in the planet in the next 10 minutes for the sake of it, but I've been waiting for it to come out for ages. This is actually Oddisee's first ever proper video, shot by the lovely and talented young Zack Schamberg, and I love the fact that it captures what it really is like to hang out with Amir and Antoine - there's definitely an brotherly vibe, and they're both great guys. A refreshing change from seeing MCs often considered "underground" hanging about by a car with little of import to say for themselves.  

Free MP3: Oddisee feat Toine "Different Now"
Buy the Album: MMG "Helpless Dreamer" (iTunes)

Stop Rehearsing In A Vacuum.

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When talking to a friend the other day he was embarrassed that his clothes smelled of the rehearsal room he'd been in all afternoon because it was a "closed space", and it struck me how solitary and insular music rehearsals can be. Of course this makes sense sonically, but none of the other performing arts are rehearsed in this way and it got me thinking.

Before you reach a certain level, some things are almost inevitable. The soundsystem at the venue itself might (will) be crap. The sound guy probably won't care about your carefully constructed set. You might not even get a soundcheck and have to beg just for a line check. Your set may be cut short. You won't be the only act on the bill and the rest might be terrible. Most people in the crowd won't know your songs or be able to hear your lyrics. The crowd might talk (yell) all the way through your heartfelt acappella. It sounds quite bleak, but in reality, sometimes it can be - I unofficially manage a number of artists who are paying dues, and sometimes they get off stage and feel like crying.

The problem is, to the audience not much of that stuff really matters. Most people cannot tell if the mix or sound system is terrible. They're not expecting to be able to hear all of your lyrics - the only thing they may fully understand is what you say between songs. They just want to be entertained. Something I often feel at gigs is that musicians forget the obvious difference between being in the studio and being on stage - we can see you. It sounds glib, almost patronizing, but I say it because I come from the opposite end of the performance spectrum as a former dancer, where rehearsal is always either carried out in front of a mirror or an audience, we crave constant feedback and the soundsystem is probably the last thing on our minds. The idea of stepping on stage without that public preparation would terrify me.

Don't wait until after your gig to ask people for feedback, no one wants you to feel bad about something that has already happened and can't be changed. Ask some trusted and honest friends to come to your rehearsals, (not the day before your show, weeks before and regularly) so that they can give you some honest feedback about how your performance makes them feel. If possible, get their children to come along, that way you'll really know if you can hold people's attention! Ask yourself honestly if your show (not set, show) will make people leave raving about you to their friends no matter how crap the venue and circumstances, because that's what makes it worthwhile, not the rubbish fee. Think about what you will do in worst case (but probably not that uncommon) scenarios. Once you step on that stage your every movement is a performance and we want you to commit to it and deliver it to us with very ounce of emotion you had when you wrote it and more, (but this time also on a visual level that has to scale), no matter what happens.

I still talk about how they cut the power on Angie Stone at a festival ten years ago after just one song, but we all stayed in the tent in the dark with lighters, singing with her and clapping our way through her set. Or when Slum Village backflipped off the speakers. Or how Lissie's drummer can sing and play guitar all at the same time. When Matthew Herbert and Eska made the whole Barbican sob. James Brown holding his dancer over his head and being able to do the splits in his 60s. I could go on and on. I imagine you all have amazing gig stories too, but I doubt many of them started "the sound in this venue was amazing..."

Monday, 14 March 2011

Download: Daedelus ft Bilal "Overwhelmed"

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If you haven't already you may want to kiss goodbye the smooth and sensual Bilal of yesteryear with his balladeering and flamboyant harmonizing. He has been firmly replaced by proggy, experimental and at times even slightly abrasive yet still wondrous Bilal for now (who I suspect was there all along but was banished to the "inaccessible" broom cupboard).

Video: Lykke Li - I Know Places (Live on the Moon)



Lykke Li is the kind of singer I feel myself willing to get through the song - it doesn't sound easy and natural, sometimes it's almost reluctant, but I love that it's so intense and sincere. Her album Wounded Rhymes is out on iTunes now and it's rather good. 

Stream: Owiny Sigoma Band Album Preview

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

   Owiny Sigoma Band // Album Teaser by Brownswood

I could be really snotty about all of the African inspired projects which seem to be growing in popularity at the moment - sometimes the language used describing Africa as "untapped" musically can sting in ears sensitive to the post-colonial exploitation of the continents' resources. The beauty of music of course is that it's not a resource that can be mined or drilled until it runs out, and the respectful and earnest admiration for this particular fuel make Owiny Sigoma Band an exemplary exporter. Not to mention badass musicians in their own right

In 2009 a close-knit London-based collective of musicians travelled to Kenya to collaborate with local musicians in Nairobi. There they met Joseph Nyamungu – a phenomenal nyatiti player/teacher whose scope of knowledge of traditional Luo music is unparalleled – and Charles Owoko, a drummer specialising in traditional Luo rhythms. A series of inspiring jam sessions concluded with time in a downtown Nairobi studio where the sound developed into something unique, fresh and full of verve.

 The album comes out on 18th April 2011 on Brownswood Recordings.
 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Video: Helado Negro at the Knitting Factory


Helado Negro- Live at The Knitting Factory 2009 - Venceremos from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

I'm such a fan of Helado Negro, and on my stalky travels I came across this lovely live video, sadly it sounds like they couldn't get a live feed but I love the edit by William "Zoe" FitzGerald AKA Fatblood. It was filmed at the Knitting Factory on New York in 2009 but it has such a timeless quality to it.

Stream: We Are King "The Story" EP

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   KING-The Story EP by weareKINGworldwide

I really wasn't too sure about this group at first. There was something a little bit saccharine about it, whilst the lyrics and production felt a little underdeveloped in places (getting a bit sick of space references). After several listens though I'm really enjoying the overall sound - the harmonies and understated vocal performances are really growing on me.

For more info & to buy the EP head to www.weareking.com

DJ TKO Interview/ Preview: KarlMarx Project - Mists



Isaac Aesili is a beautiful human being. My first impression of the man was his glowing and infectious smile, a shiny and immaculate afro, and the energy to dance all night which he certainly maintained as he sweated it out on the dance floor of the Ponsonby Social Club. Speaking to him, he is soft spoken and incredibly humble for one so gifted.
The trumpet player and percussionist of OpenSouls and the Recloose band has just finished a new instrumental project with his brother Mark under the moniker of the Karlmarx project. While Isaac is based in Auckland, producing, sessioning and playing live, his brother is a musician and a sound engineer based in their hometown of Christchurch (my thoughts go out to the victims of the earthquake...). The collection of tracks called the Mists EP are to be released by Melting Pot Music; good news as most New Zealand music doesn't see release outside of the country.
They call it "a soundtrack for a science fiction movie that was never made," and it's no surprise then that Isaac cites Vangelis, Animal Collective, Enya, Dam Funk, Aphex Twin, Depeche Mode as the project's influences. Emotional and mystical, yet danceable, many of the tracks maintain a strong melody although being instrumental.

Isaac shared some thoughts with PMOI about his new project:

What was the motivation behind The Mists EP?

The Mists EP is a reflection of my interest in instrumental hip hop, electronic funk and techno music in contrast to the more vocal based soul and r&b sound of my solo album Eye See. They are cousins but Eye See has more organic textures whereas The Mists EP is relatively minimal and electronic in its timbre.

How was the working dynamic with your brother?

It was so easy to work with my brother, we knew so much intuitively about each others background and character, we respect and are intrigued by our differences and it was surprising to know how much music we both have appreciation of. Being in different cities meant it was mostly an internet production with us working separately on tracks as well as collaborating on each others ideas.

Auckland is a unique intimate music scene, revolving round Opensouls so it seems, where everyone is guesting on each other's projects. How do you see your music in relation to that?
For the last 7 years Opensouls has been pivotal to Auckland's soulful hip hop and funk scene but we have just broken up. Being a member of Opensouls has blessed me with great friendships and fellow collaborators such as Julien Dyne. As a musician able to work in multiple roles from session musician to composer and producer i have been lucky enough to be exposed to the amazing work of these local artists and this has definitely inspired me and helped me to find the direction of my own music.

I hear you might be touring Europe soon?

Yes I'll be in Europe for at least 3 months based in Hamburg from June to september touring to promote Karlmarx and my solo album.

So more music will be coming your way soon in the form of a full album and hopefully a session in Europe over the Summer.
Check out their tracks here.

My personal favourite is "Osc" which you can hear below.

Video: Jack White's The Third Man Rolling Record Store



The most exciting truck I came across at SXSW last year held red velvet cupcakes. Damn it.

Via Pitchfork

Video: Taylor McFerrin & Austin Peralta Live [by Theo Jemison & Grace Oh]


Taylor McFerrin and Austin Peralta Live 03.03.11 from Theo Jemison on Vimeo.


Taylor McFerrin Live Solo Preformance 03.03.11 from Theo Jemison on Vimeo.

I believe I may have mentioned that Theo Jemison is a serious dude. Brainfeeder seem to be in overdrive at the moment, you can check out Taylor McFerrin's newish single Place in My Heart ft Ryat here, but check out the rest of the site for news on Beeple, MatthewDavid, Strangeloop & co.

Video: LaTonya Givens [The Making Of Act II]



Dear Mr Electronica,

If you can help to make proper singers who can actually sing popular again we will love you forever.

Thanks,
PMOI

If you are now an addict of that voice, check out LaTonya Givens' earlier work as Tone Trezure, produced by Mr Porter.



Sunday, 6 March 2011

This week...



It was good to see Lupe Fiasco talking about an artistic project he's actually excited about over at The Revivalist, instead of his new album Lasers which was met with horrible reviews and which this week in the Guardian he likened it to "painting poodles".



Love Arctic Monkeys long time, and whilst at that level you can't really stick up a Youtube video with a static image to get a recently written song out there, you can do something not far off a Just Ain't Gonna Work Out



I wasn't that much of a fan of this track on We're New Here, tis a little bit 90s rave, but this video, directed by Jamie James Medina and AG Rojas somehow gives it an entirely different feel.

   

I've been listening to 11 rather lush new minutes from Gang Gang Dance. They're playing on 9th April at Village Underground in east London.

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I've also been listening to this for a while now but it's still on repeat - gorgeous cover of the beautiful instrumental by Savath y Savalas - Folk Song For Cello, from the stupidly talented Szjerdene.


Caribou - Jamelia from Video Marsh on Vimeo.

Much as it pains me to post anything with the word "Jamelia" in it, I cannot find a trace of cheap weave or tuneless warbling in this video so I think it's safe.

   Pinnacles by Four Tet

New Fourtet. Plastic People. 25th March. Followed by...

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That was my week, how was yours?

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