Ghanaian highlife artist Ata Kak was brought to light through ethnomusicologist Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa blog when he posted the unstoppable “Daa Nyinaa.” Shimkovitz bought the Ata Kak tape more than a decade ago and finally found him living in Ghana. Only 50 copies of the original Obaa Sima tape were made, and though the original master DAT had disintegrated, Shimkovitz’s tape was used to reissue Obaa Sima. Details of Shimkovitz’s search for Ata Kak could likely fill a book (in fact, a documentary is being made), but it only serves to give the truly awesome Obaa Sima even more allure, as does the tape hiss from the transfer. Its seven tracks offer nothing but good times, a non-stop party that sounds removed from time, full of delightfully rinky-dink synths, instant-play beats and Ata Kak’s motormouth rap. The slightly off-time nature of the backups on “Agdaya,” the louder than necessary mix of the vocals—all things that could be construed as negative instead feel like happy accidents that make Obaa Sima sound so singular. One track flows into another across Obaa Sima, coming into centerpiece “Daa Nyinaa,” an Afro-house masterpiece of warehouse-party cool. But stick around for the slightly sinister “Yemmpa Aba” and head-bobbing vocal-less closer “Bome Nnwon,” which will have you replaying the entire album once its final handclap echoes into silence. When Ata Kak is on, you won’t want to listen to anything else. If you need me, I’ll be watching this video on repeat:
Amoeba.com has many of the bands playing at Coachella this weekend and next available digitally. Pick up some of the albums below before your drive out to the desert!
Purity Ring make Cocteau Twins-style dream pop by way of Salem’s hard-hitting witchhouse on an album more notable for its smooth blending of related genres than for its actual songwriting, but they’ve got a sweet sound nonetheless.
Cold Showers’ short and sweet debut heralds the arrival of a great new L.A. band, beaming shoegaze guitars over darkwave synths and goth-style vocals. (Read my review of Cold Showers' show here.)
Purity Ring – Shrines
To say Purity Ring’s debut record has been anticipated would be an understatement. Anything signed to the 4AD label generates drool from indie music fans, let alone bands who tease brilliantly formed singles with Cocteau Twins-ish poetic gibberish titles like “Belispeak” and a sound that calls to mind the skewed electro-pop of fellow recent 4AD signee Grimes and the menacing witch house sound of bands like Salem and Unison. Though a newish genre, witch house wants for personality, and it has gotten it in the form of Purity Ring, whose Megan James offers clear, girlishly breathy vocals over Corin Roddick’s paranormal beatwork. Even through murky sounds, the duo knows how to write songs that would sound great even out of context. James sings creepy, culty lyrics that like “Dust off my necklace, familiar…to the culminated piles of bones” in “Ungirthed” — their zombie apocalypse quality may seem over the top, but it gives the song its necessary character and are pretty fun, coolness be damned. Shrines reaches its peak on “Grandloves,” maybe the most convincing combination yet of house beats, hip-hop delivery, courtesy of Young Magic, and shoegaze sonics that help define the nebulous genre Purity Ring occupies. Every time Shrines seems to settle, its brilliant pacing picks it up, like the way “Belispeak’s” horror-movie pop beats cut through the din in the album’s final quarter. It’s a highly successful debut record that promises Purity Ring, and seemingly silly genres like witch house, are nothing to dismiss.
Jeremiah Jae – Raw Money Raps
The latest protégé on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label unleashes an impressive debut of record of psychedelic lo-fi beats and rhymes. Jeremiah Jae’s spaced out delivery over a stuttering, skipping beat on “Guns Go Off” give lyrics like “all these things get lost in time” a scary acceptance more effective than any heavy-handedness would have. The more instrumental tracks call to mind the head-spinning brevity of Madvillain or Flying Lotus at his most hip-hop, while the catchier bits, like the irresistible posturing and druggy synths of “Money and Food,” are strong enough to appeal to fans of more mainstream (but likeminded) acts The-Dream, Drake and Frank Ocean. Raw Money Raps is indeed pretty raw, but it also holds together nicely over its 19 tracks, and points for big things to come from Jeremiah Jae. (Catch him LIVE at Amoeba Hollywood July 29 at 3 p.m.!)
Heavenly Beat – Talent
Apparently Beach Fossils’ skeletal guitar-pop perfection extends to side projects, as well — first we got BF member Zachary Cole Smith’s dreamy Diiv record, now bassist John Peña releases divine guitar pop as Heavenly Beat. Peña’s soft jazz chords and lightly melancholic melodies feel like a perfect cocktail in the dead heat of summer. The “beat” part of Heavenly Beat comes in light electronic drums that feel like Balearic beats without the deep pulse, staying crisp and fizzy on “Messiah” in an otherwise cathedral-like song. The steel drums and female backup vocals of “Presence” up the laid-back, island feel, but the melodies are all Sarah Records-style British mope, with nods to Aztec Camera in its spindly acoustic riffs. Just listening to Talent feels like an exotic vacation in and of itself.
Also out today:
Micachu and the Shapes – Never
The second album from Micachu & the Shapes is even more chaotic and messy than 2009’s Jewellry — and that’s a good thing. Whereas that album still concerned itself with being presentable once in a while, Never is truly unhinged. Even at their catchiest, on a trio of songs at the album’s core, “OK,” “Low Dogg” and “Holiday,” Micachu and her cohorts couch the hooks with electronic squelches, strange time signatures and breaks, bits of found sound and other madness. Still, “Holiday” will have you tapping to its weirdo beat.
Stevie Jackson – (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson
(I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson makes a name for itself quite outside of Belle & Sebastian, coming off like the next in line of a lineage of singer-songwriters who exist on their own terms, from John Cale to Brian Eno to Elvis Costello. Far from just being twee, Jackson rocks out to a new wave beat on “Try Me,” singing “I got pills and I’m lookin’ for thrills/At the same time I want to start a family.” The distinctive, reverb-laden lead guitar he lends Belle & Sebastian is on songs like the lovely display on the Kinks-y “Richie.” And even at his most clearly indebted to Summer of Love-era rock, he creates a varied and thoroughly rewarding listen, notably on the swinging, Mamas & Papas-style “Where Do All the Good Girls Go?”
Doug Benson – Smug Life
Huge pot fan and hilarious comedian Doug Benson releases two different versions of the same jokes on Smug Life, both performed on April 20 (4/20!) at the same club. It plays like a case study in how varied performances of the same material can yield such different results — in one case, you hear a comment yelled from the audience that gets incorporated into the joke in the later performance.