Unknown Mortal Orchestra continue their transition into the best funk band from another dimension with Multi-Love. The title track sounds like Stevie Wonder on a space-rock kick, as frontman Ruban Nielson raspily sings of polyamorous affairs over proggy movements and danceable beats. “Like Acid Rain’s” disintegrated R&B dazzles and melts in your ears. “The World Is Crowded’s” lockstep groove accompanies lush soul vocals singing quizzical lyrics, asking “did she blow my brains out?” like a robot waking up from a one-night stand. And “Ur Life in One Night” takes the psychedelic-leaning funk and soul of the ’70s and making it sound truly interstellar, as though Curtis Mayfield and Funkadelic records were transmitted via satellite to an alien galaxy, and this was the responding message. But however proudly UMO wave their freak flag, Multi-Love is still rooted in reality. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” begins on a film-noir opening, with cinematic horns, booty-shaking jungle drums and 007 riffs growing into curious melodies that curl into an earworm chorus on perhaps their best song yet. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s particular universe is perplexing only until you get your footing; then you’ll never want to leave. It’s one of the best things we’ve heard all year.
N.W.A are routinely credited with creating the genre known as gangsta rap, which is a fair summation since it was these West Coast rappers who inspired a whole new unstoppable generation of hardcore gangsta rap recording artists. However, these LA rappers are predated by fellow LA-based artist Ice-T who in turn was predated by the true O.G. (Original Gangsta) -- Philadeplhia's Schoolly D who in 1985 unleashed the original gangsta rap record. Entitled "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" and released on his own small indie label, Schoolly D Records, the record with cutting by DJ Code Money was an ode to the Philly street gang that the rapper (born Jesse B. Weaver, Jr.) was associated with. The initials P.S.K. stood for the Park Side Killas gang and their song dedication was brimming with references to gangsta activity: guns, violence, sex, and drug use, with usage of the N word ("sucka ass nigga tryna sound like me"), which was something uncommon though not totally unheard of in rap records up to that point.
Although originally considered a regional rap record with likely little appeal beyond its immediate hood, the distinctly hardcore rap record struck a nerve with music fans well beyond Philadelphia. The NJ-born, LA-based Ice-T adapted its style for his single, "6 In The Mornin" (later entitled "6 'N the Mornin'), released a year later in 1986. It was also included on his 1987 debut album Rhyme Pays.
The 12th annual Berkeley World Music Festival returns to Telegraph Avenue on Saturday, June 13th from Noon – 9pm. The Bay Area’s finest artists present a dazzling array of continuous music in Telegraph Avenue cafes and shops, and on the Amoeba Music-sponsored People’s Park stage from 1-6pm. This FREE Festival celebrates global unity, bringing together cultures as far-reaching as Middle Eastern Jewish, Arabic, Roma, Colombian, Asian, and African.
The all-star concert at People’s Park opens with Soji & the Afrobeat Band. Soji Odukogbe attracted acclaim originally as lead guitarist for the great Fela Kuti. Next up is The Georges Lammam Ensemble, led by a violin virtuoso presenting an all-Arabic show with exotic dancers. The final act is the Oakland-based Candelaria, who fuses Afro-Colombian, cumbia, and reggae into a spectacular new form that moves the South American cumbia phenomenon onto the world stage. People’s Park festivities also include a colorful crafts fair and an exhibition performance by the All Nations Singers at 12:30pm, which includes Native American social dancing that the audience can participate in.
A musical feast will be served throughout the day at various Telegraph Avenue venues. Safra opens the Festival at the Cafe Mediterraneum at noon with spirited music and songs of the Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jews). Jesse Autumn & Shelley Phillips offer a Celtic and Scandinavian concert with woodwinds & double strung harps at Musical Offerings. Tres Meminas play Bossa Nova & Brazilian Jazz, transforming Remy’s Mexican Restaurant into an Iberian music hall. Moe’s Books provides a backdrop for Ultra World Duo’s bamboo flutes and Chinese zither. KPFA host Stephen Kent, the world’s premiere exponent of the didjeridu, performs trance music at the YWCA gym on Bancroft. Pakistani legend Riffat Sultana shares songs from Qawwali Sufi to Punjabi pop at Cafe Milano. Rumen Shopov & Edessa (Romani Balkan music) is the Festival finale at “The Village” (2556 Telegraph Avenue) led by multi-instrumentalist Shopov, one of the greatest living players of Bulgarian and Turkish tapan drumming.
Last night's episode of the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley had me cracking up and nodding my head in agreement when one of its lead characters offered a funny, succinctly accurate summation of Sade's musical output. Entitled "Adult Content," the episode was the seventh in the ongoing second season of the sitcom created by Mike Judge and Alec Berg about the challenges of the fictional South Bay start up Pied Piper. The episode contained a scene in which T. J. Miller's hilarious character Erlich Bachman (pictured above) imparts some sage advice on setting the perfect sex-inducing mood for a date to his nervous, lesser experienced roommate/co-worker Dinesh Chugtai (played by Kumail Nanjiani). The best music to play is Sade, he tells him. But he quickly clarifies not just anything from the British Nigerian singer's three-plus-decades-long career that has spawned a string of releases including six official studio albums.
"Early Sade, before her arrangements became too baroque," he further advises Dinesh. Later in the episode, Sade's "Sweetest Taboo" (off her second album, 1985's Promise) is heard playing. Look for Sade's music, including her debut album, Diamond Life, at Amoeba where you will also find Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season on both DVD and Blu-Ray. See trailer below along with video for Sade's "Sweetest Taboo." Meanwhile Silicon Valley, which was recently nominated for an Emmy and renewed for a third season, airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO.
For this edition of One Album Wonders we take a listen to Sonic Boom, who released one album, Spectrum, in 1989.
Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, an English musician born in Rugby in 1965. In 1982, whilst at Rugby Art College, he co-founded The Spacemen (later Spacemen 3) with Jason Pierce. After releasing two albums -- 1986's Sound Of Confusion and 1987's The Perfect Prescription -- Kember signed a deal with Silvertone Records for a solo album. On the resulting album, Spectrum, Kember's professed influences such as Suicide, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and early electronic music were all on display.