Tag Archives: mp3

Larry Levan, Disco-Gospel and a (Possible) White Lie

7 Dec
Stand on the Word and Larry Levan

The “Stand on the Word” single and Larry Levan

Yesterday, NPR ran a story on the late Larry Levan, the legendary DJ from New York’s Paradise Garage and all-around golden boy of the ’70s and ’80s dance scene. The piece closed with Levan’s remix of “The Pressure” by Sounds of Blackness, which appears in the recently released box set by Ministry of Sound, the London nightclub/record label. The beginning of Levan’s dance mix is an anxious mashup of gospel vocals and pulsing beat, and it’s easy to imagine the track emerging from the club scene of a pre-Giuliani, vibrant but scary New York.

The story and the track got me thinking about the night I discovered Levan at a tavern uptown, several blocks north of the old Paradise Garage. Sometime during the spring of ’08, some friends and I wandered into a random, comfy bar that served cheap, tall, gin and tonics. The evening’s soundtrack was being curated by the bartender’s iPod, a mostly forgettable mix of low-key dance and pop, the kind of upbeat melodic murmur that easily fades into the background while you’re laughing at someone’s outrageous subway story.

All of the sudden, the sound of high-pitched piano started trickling out of the speakers. Hi-hat came in quickly behind it, steadying the soulful piano intro with an easy yet infectious beat. Organ fluttered gently under that, barely audible, but playing its part. Then the choir came in, layering gospel oohs over bass drum.

And then the party started. Bass guitar strutted, disco beat bounced, and the choir swelled, singing “That’s how the good Lord works!” with glorious, churchified exuberance.

I was feeling it, and had long checked out of whatever conversation was happening around me. This song was a combination of the gospel music that had dominated my Pentecostal childhood and the disco sound that I secretly discovered and fell in love with later in life. This song was me, past and present.

Once the track ended, I waved the bartender over and asked him what it was.

“‘Stand on the Word,'” he said. “The Larry Levan Mix.”

I wrote it down and Googled it as soon as I got home. I found out that the choir featured in the mix was called the Celestial Choir, and a commenter on YouTube claimed they were based at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights back in 1982, when the original recording of “Stand on the Word” was made. Further details of the history of the track are hazy. Some say that Levan wasn’t even involved with the mix or the recording, and that his name was only slapped on the record after the fact in an effort to boost sales and give the song some cachet. If that’s true, then the plan seems to have worked. To this day, the celebrated Levan name is still associated with this mix.

But I hope it’s not true. I hope that Levan mixed this one sweaty night at the Paradise Lounge and everyone on the dance floor caught the holy ghost.

Listen: Celestial Choir, “Stand on the Word” (Larry Levan Mix)


Throwback: “No One But The Lord” by Dannie Belles

12 Jul
Dannie Belles Making the Most of Today album cover

Making the Most of Today by Dannie Belles

As some of you may know, over the weekend MF DOOM and Ghostface Killah, who collaborate as the duo DOOM/Starks, set the hearts of hip-hop fans all aflutter with a little read cassette tape featuring a remix of the track “Victory Laps,” which will be released on iTunes July 26. Don’t know what the original sounds like since it’s not out yet, but the Madvillainz remix features the same sample used in one of my favorite Blackalicious tracks, “A to G.” I did some digging, and thanks to the wonder that is the internet I found that the descending piano chords and fetching guitar twang that inspired MF Doom and Blackalicious came from a rare funky recording of “No One but the Lord” by the ’70s gospel outfit Dannie Belles, featuring the late gospel songstress Danniebelle Hall. Dannie Belles’ version is so smooth and supercool that you almost forget it’s a gospel song. (Not that gospel can’t be cool! Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and the 1982 Celestial Choir can attest to that.)

Listen to the track below (originally appeared on the album Making the Most of Today).

So Fresh, So Clean: New Music from Radiohead, Jean Grae and Washed Out

21 Jun

I don’t know what it is — maybe it’s the summer solstice, maybe it was just a good week in music — but I was feeling a lot of new tracks this past week. As a matter of fact, there was so much new stuff out there that I liked that I had a hard time narrowing down my list for today’s post. But I did, and I now present to you this week’s roundup of musical hotness.

Radiohead, “Staircase” (Live From the Basement)

Yesterday evening Radiohead released a video of a live performance of the brand new song “Staircase” on YouTube. The performance is an excerpt from the band’s live session for the British TV program From the Basement, which is the creation of “sixth Radiohead member” Nigel Godrich. This tribal, trance-inducing track features drummer Clive Deamer playing alongside Radiohead percussionist Phil Selway (yep, double drummers). The session will air July 1.

Jean Grae, “Casebasket”

Here’s why lady MC Jean Grae deserves the utmost respect: on this new joint she shouts out Tampax, marzipan, scrabble and the “Rudy Huxtuble dance” all while spittin’ the hot fiya over relentless snare and bass. Basically, she’s the truth. You can download the track (from the forthcoming mixtape Cookies or Comas, out Thursday) via RCRD LBL.

P.S. 50 points to those who know which Cosby Show episode inspired the Rudy Huxtable dance.

Washed Out, “Amor Fati”

It’s only fitting that chillwave darling Washed Out would release a proper debut full-length during the warm months, what with mastermind Ernest Greene’s proclivity to lo-fi, summer-fantasy-inducing synth pop. This hazy cut comes from Washed Out’s upcoming album Within and Without, out July 12 on Sub Pop. Makes me reminisce about 11-year-old me swaying to Depeche Mode in my sunny peach bedroom. Download the track via Pitchfork.

Portishead and ATP, ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror London Mixtape

Honorably mention to Portishead this week for the mixtape they curated with All Tomorrow’s Parties to promote the upcoming London I’ll Be Your Mirror event, which will feature all of the folks on the mix. High points include the moody opening featuring Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Portishead, the Books’ “A Cold Freezin’ Night,” Doom’s “Gazzillion Ear” (love the Hadron Collider shout out!), Foot Village’s “Lovers With Iraqis,” and the wind down with Caribou and Beach House.

Got a new song (released or posted in the last week) you’re excited about? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

So Fresh, So Clean: New Music from Flying Lotus, Tinariwen, Kanye West, Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda

14 Jun

Update, 6/16/11, 10am: Turns out the new Kanye West song I talk about near the end of this post was a fake. Oh well. Lyrics are still solid.

Hooray for Tuesday! Normally I wouldn’t say hooray for any day of the week except Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but today I woke up with a lot more get-up-and-go than I did yesterday, and I was pleased to find lots of new music alerts blowing up my Twitter feed. I was inspired to start a new weekly series of posts highlighting some of the best, newest music out there. So here’s a roundup of the latest tracks that I’m currently digging.

Flying Lotus, “Stereolab – GalactagonFINAL2rMX”

FlyLo posted this previously unreleased Stereolab remix on SoundCloud late last night. It’s a deft combination of spacey pulse and lo-fi shuffle. You can hear more brand new FlyLo remixes on his SoundCloud page. (Highly suggest you check out the Massive Attack and Mr. Oizo remixes.)

Tinariwen feat. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, “Tenere Taqhim Tossam”

Yesterday the Malian Tuareg group Tinariwen posted a new video on YouTube for the song “Tenere Taqhim Tossam,” which features Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio (!). Loving how Adebimpe’s voice seamlessly meshes with Tinariwen’s desert blues. The song comes from Tinariwen’s upcoming album Tassili, due out August 30 on Anti-.

Kanye West, “Mama’s Boyfriend”

This bouncy new Kanye joint popped up on the Consequence of Sound blog yesterday. Anybody who grew up with a single parent with an active dating life will be able to relate to this track. Download it here (via the G.O.O.D. Music Blog).

Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda, “Águas de Março [ft. Fernanda Takai + Moreno Veloso]

“Águas de Março” is one of my favorite songs of all time, so imagine my delight when I found a cover of the tune on a recent post on NPR Music‘s Alt.Latino blog. Electronic artists Atom™ and Toshiyuki Yasuda team up with vocalists Fernanda Takai and Moreno Veloso to create a deferential yet inventive interpretation of the original classic. The track appears on the forthcoming two-disc compilation Red Hot + Rio 2 to be released by the HIV charity Red Hot Organization. Listen to it hereRed Hot + Rio 2 drops June 28.

What brand new stuff (released or posted in the last week) have you been listening to?

You Should Dig: Thundercat

9 Jun

In “You Should Dig” posts, I’ll highlight music, films, art, etc. that I’m super excited about. And when I say super excited, I mean YouTube-video-of-a-cheerleader-going-crazy excited. This is an official gush alert. You’ve been warned.


Thundercat, aka Stephen Bruner, on left. Photo credit: dublabrat on Flickr

There’s nothing like finding new music. There’s nothing like trolling your favorite websites and blogs, clicking the play button on some random mp3 by some random artist you’ve never heard of, and having your mind blown by the sudden realization that you just happened upon a song that was made for you. This is exactly what happened to me a few days ago when I was checking out “The Playlist” section on Pitchfork and stumbled upon the track “For Love I Come” by Los Angeles bassist Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat. It’s a cover of the George Duke joint “For Love (I Come Your Friend),” but this version reworks the upbeat, funky, soul-jazz amalgam of the original Duke piece into a sparer, atmospheric lullaby. Thundercat, much like Duke, sings in a warm falsetto as keyboards, bass and reverb unfold all around. Then, the fragmented dreaminess suddenly culminates in a bop explosion at the song’s end.

My first thought/reaction: An emphatic “YAS” after unintentionally holding my breath for a good chunk of the song.

My second thought/reaction: “Oh we bloggin’ about this.”

The Golden Age of Apocalypse album cover

The Golden Age of Apocalypse cover

The track comes from Thundercat’s upcoming album The Golden Age of Apocalypse, due out August 30 on Brainfeeder. It’s a solo work from a man who’s best known for his collaborations with other folks, including Snoop, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus (who’s producing Golden Age) and the hardcore band Suicidal Tendencies, of which he’s a member (really!). I love that this guy has had such a diverse career. It makes me that much more excited to hear his album.

The other things that have me pumped for Thundercat’s solo effort? 1.) A second ill track posted today on Pitchfork called “Daylight,” and 2.) word that Badu and pop duo J*Davey are guesting on the record. So I’m going to need to find a mad scientist with a DeLorean who can transport me to August 30 asap, because I don’t think I can wait. If you’ve got a hookup and some plutonium, tweet me.

Download “For Love I Come” and “Daylight” via Pitchfork.

Serengeti: “Ha-Ha”

19 May


I love quirky hip-hop, but sometimes I think some eccentric emcees get too caught up in kookiness and don’t concentrate enough on just making a good track. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for offbeat rhymes (and I have little interest in the tired posturing and lack of imagination in a lot of mainstream rap), I just still want to be able to bob my head to a song. Chicago rapper Serengeti seems to get this. “Ha-Ha,” one of the tracks from his forthcoming album Family and Friends (out July 19th on Anticon), is a lo-fi jam that mashes a CocoRosie-esque hook and a thumping, laid-back beat with lyrics about a rapper’s metamorphoses after meeting a paint mixer at a hardware store. It’s charmingly strange with a healthy dose of street lurch.

Download Serengeti’s “Ha-Ha” via RCRD LBL.

Theophilus London announces new album details, schools me on social networking in the process

12 May

So this is interesting…today uber-hip, alt. rapper Theophilus London announced that his new joint Timez Are Weird These Days would be out 7/19 on Warner Brothers, and he’s offereing up a free download of the new single “Last Name London” in exchange for a tweet. As in, you tweet about the track and get a special code to download the song, your friends see your tweet and do the same, and so on until everyone and your play cousin is singing and chair dancing to the new TL jam. I had NO idea this was happening in the world. Pretty innovative.

Anyway, if you want to check out the new song, click on the link above and tweet about it asap, as the offer is good for today only. I’m off to sign up for a Twitter account.

Quick question for those of you who are cooler than me: do you regularly tweet for tracks? Would you sign up for Twitter just to get a free track?