White Crate — August 20, 2021

New albums from Deafheaven, Shannon & the Clams, and Zelma Stone; plus Questlove shines a light on the innovative Sly and the Family Stone

I danced. And it wasn’t even my own party!

About a month after experiencing my first COVID symptoms, I finally feel great. Actually, I already felt pretty great last weekend. On Sunday, responding to a spontaneous invitation from a friend, I said “yes” and joined her at 7th West for a party hosted by Burner crew Disco Donutz. While there was little in the way of actual disco or donuts, we contented ourselves with otter pops, cotton candy, smiling faces, dazzlingly iridescent outfits, and nonstop ass-shaking bass.

Listening to the music and enjoying a round of IPA, we met another partygoer named Oliver Goss, who was the second older guy at the party to voice his approval of my DJ-Kicks (!K7) t-shirt. Turns out he’s been making music in the Bay for decades—the UK garage mix he recently made for his girlfriend is just more proof of all our talent under the radar. He insisted we stay for his favorite local DJ, and we were glad we did: Haute Mess closed the party with an ebullient set that set the dance floor on fire.

Almost makes up for that Maya Jane Coles show I missed…

Peace,
ronny


THAT NEW NEW

Deafheaven, the SF post-metal band that first rose to fame in 2013 with the critically acclaimed album Sunbather, released their fifth full-length album Infinite Granite. With less noise and screaming than previous releases—and more sparkly guitars—the band sounds much more like 90s alternative rock this time around.

Following his full-length album Swimming with a Pisces released in March, C5 teamed up with fellow Oakland MC Stunnaman02 on the new single “Don’t Hold Yo Breath.”

Oakland artist demahjiae released *guiding light, a short collection of 18 mostly instrumental hip hop tracks, only one of which is over two minutes long. Definitely one to check out for fans of Knxwledge, Kenny Segal, and other quality beatmakers. (h/t ovrkast)

La Cuneta Son Machin, the popular Nicaraguan group that fuses their country’s folk music with rock, cumbia, and other styles, collaborated with SF-based, Nicaraguan-American artist Deuce Eclipse on the new political single “La Argolla.”

On the heels of their self-titled LP in June, SF lofi pop duo Flowertown just released Time Trials on Paisley Shirt Records. Sounding like early Beatles songwriting played in slow motion through cheap analog equipment, it’s somehow very comforting.

Nashville-based, London-born pedal steel player and guitarist Spencer Cullum appears on “California Guard Rail Scraper” as the latest collaborator in Funkwrench Blues’ “Need to Know Badass Blues Instrumentals Series.”

Following a successful fundraiser to help with promo and post-production costs, Haitian-American composer and sound artist Joel St. Julien announced that his next album EMPATHY—influenced by Tim Hecker, Actress, William Basinski, and Chihei Hatakeyama—will be released by Oakland label Land and Sea on October 8.

“San Diego native Mae Powell was studying broadcasting and audio production at San Francisco State University when she first began writing her own songs,” according to Allmusic. Today the SF-based artist released her debut album Both Ways Brighter, a chill indie pop rocker that suits the end of summer.

After covering the bluegrass standard “Long Journey Home” in July, Oakland country singer Miko Marks and San Jose’s Resurrectors have returned with a cover of “Whiskey River”, a country classic written by Johnny Bush and Paul Stroud in 1972 but made famous by Willie Nelson. Want to see her live? She has a show coming up at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley.

Oakland garage rock band Shannon & the Clams released Year of the Spider on Nashville’s Easy Eye Sound. Like 2018’s Onion, the new album was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, meaning this garage sound is less lofi, more dialed in and polished. But the band’s catchy songwriting and gleeful spirit remains.

“The theme of moving forward and accepting change is very present throughout this record, and it was exciting exploring these ideas with a fuller sound and more dramatic dynamics.” Zelma Stone, the SF-based indie pop project of Chloe Zelma Studebaker, released her third EP The Best.

Alameda’s Bad Time Records released “Do We Need a Sign?”, the first single from Make Yourself at Home, the upcoming album by Brazilian ska punk band Abraskadabra.


REST IN PEACE

We just lost another local legend in alternative West Coast hip hop.

Baba Zumbi (aka Stephen Gaines), the Oakland MC and producer who founded Zion I, died last Friday at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in the East Bay. Aged 49, Zumbi was recovering from COVID-19, which he’d reportedly contracted at his last performance in Nevada City, but it’s still unclear whether his death is due to the virus (he was unvaccinated and had asthma) or something related to a physical altercation at the hospital involving nurses and security officers.

Tributes have been pouring in from fans and artists from the Bay Area and beyond. Personally, I didn’t know who Zion I was until they played a small music festival on my college campus over a decade ago. I may have already been floating in the clouds when they took the stage, but their show took me even higher. For weeks and months afterward, I listened to their debut album Mind Over Matter—and have loved it ever since. Mixing conscious lyricism, downtempo turntablism, and even drum and bass rhythms, it stands apart from the mainstream sounds of hip hop in 2000.

After the deaths of Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab in July and Shock G of Digital Underground in April, this is tough news for the Bay’s hip hop community.


CLASSICS

I finally got around to watching Questlove’s new documentary Summer of Soul, and, wow, it’s as excellent as everyone says. Covering the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free concerts held in New York during the summer of 1969, the film smartly stitches together attendee memories of the event, contemporary news footage, and video recordings of the performances. So much more unique than its occasional marketing nickname “the Black Woodstock” lets on, the festival not only featured some of the greatest artists of the past century, but it also brought together the Black community at a time of intense political and social upheaval in the U.S.

Alongside stars Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone as well as a host of blues, soul, and rock & roll artists from the South and east coast, San Francisco is represented in a big way by Sly and the Family Stone. At the time, most people in the audience probably would’ve been familiar with the band thanks to their Billboard hits “Dance to the Music” (1968), “Everyday People” (1968), and “Stand!” (1969). But watching the performance over 50 years later, one can’t help noticing something else: They were so far ahead of their time.

First of all, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience line-up that performed at Woodstock that same summer, it was a mixed-race group fronted by a Black man with a white guy on drums. This alone would’ve made it difficult or impossible for them to perform in parts of the U.S., especially the South. Second, it was also a mixed-gender group, another rarity for the time. Far from being just a pretty backup singer, Cynthia Robinson’s switching between singing and playing trumpet seems straight experimental. Finally, the music can’t be placed, wavering between funk, soul, jazz, R&B, and rock all at once. Overall, the vibe feels more like the coming 70s and 80s, not the 50s and 60s already left behind. Prince, Talking Heads, Public Enemy, Erykah Badu—it’s clear Sly and the Family Stone influenced so many artists either directly or indirectly.

As far as Bay representation, Latin jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader also performed at the festival, though his performance isn’t covered extensively in the film. It’s also worth noting that, because the NYPD refused to provide security the day of Sly’s performance, the Oakland-based Black Panther Party did it instead. Highly recommended film, and I sincerely hope the full set of recordings get released soon!


SHUFFLE ON

If you ever want to press play on the growing list of artists covered on White Crate, follow this Spotify playlist. Shuffle and crossfade recommended!