White Crate — July 16, 2021
Lo-fi rock from April Magazine, house music perfection from rental vhs and RITCHRD, an experimental reflection from Cheryl E. Leonard, and classic Latin jazz by Cal Tjader
In Oakland, music is in the water. Or at least the beer.
Every night this week, I made my way to one of my favorite local haunts in West Oakland, Ghost Town Brewing, and a couple times couldn’t help but ordering a pint of “Dyspnea,” a collaboration with local black metal artist Labored Breath, whose album of the same name was released on Sentient Ruin Laboratories in April. It tastes great, and thankfully didn’t make me short of breath.
In another part of West Oakland, Xavier Dphrepaulezz of Fantastic Negrito (who has been busy this year winning Grammies and opening a new independent record label and community space called Storefront Records) performed and interviewed with Oaklandside as part of their three-day celebration Live-ish.
Finally, the same publication just shared that “the Oakland City Council will vote on a resolution to make August 25 Digital Underground Day in honor of the legendary hip-hop group’s leader Gregory Jacobs, better known by his stage name Shock G.” Jacobs passed away this past April, so it’s no surprise that more people are looking to honor the influential rapper and producer. I’m down. Doowutchyalike.
THAT NEW NEW
“Everyone around us is doing one specific thing, so we’re going to also do that thing, sort of, just differently and simpler and a lot slower.” Sunday Music for an Overpass, the dreamy new lo-fi album from SF alternative rock quartet April Magazine, is out today on Paisley Shirt Records. It topped Bandcamp’s weekly roundup of essential releases, so you can read more here.
Santa Cruz MC and singer-songwriter Amplified released poppy track “Demons”, featuring SF rapper Blimes.
Oakland DJ and producer Bored Lord released Changeling, a three-track EP mixing acid, breaks, and techno: “they switched me out when i was born / these songs are for them.”
Bay Area artists Chuck Johnson (whose album The Cinder Grove was included in NPR Music's 26 Favorite Albums of 2021 [So Far])—and suryummy will be featured in the upcoming Summer Batch by Oakland ambient and drone label Constellation Tatsu. The three releases will be by Paperbark (Minneapolis), suryummy (SF), and Arian Shafiee (NY), with the last artist collaborating with Claire Rousay, Chuck Johnson, and others.
Marinero’s Mexican-American bandleader Jess Sylvester, who recently relocated to Los Angeles, released “Last Chance”, an outtake from their new album HELLA LOVE. About the new single, Sylvester says: “I tried going for a Jorge or Carlos Santana thing while delving into a heavier topic lyrically. My mom even told me that she would have bought a 45 of this track and listened to it on repeat in the seventies.”
SF producers rental vhs and RITCHRD have teamed up again on “DAYDREAMING”, the first release to be pressed on vinyl by NO BIAS. The original by rental vhs is a slow burning groovy house snack, while the remix by RITCHRD turns up the heat and hype.
Just a couple weeks after “Lockheed Martin”, Berkeley rapper Rexx Life Raj returns with the single “Alpharetta”, produced by !llmind. Earlier this year, the Brooklyn producer collaborated with West Oakland-raised rapper Guapdad 4000 on his full-length album 1176.
“Ring My Bell”, the first single from Sonny & the Sunsets’ upcoming album New Day With New Possibilities (out July 30), was featured on Bandcamp’s New & Notable: “[They] take a stripped down, lonesome cowboy approach to 60s guitar pop on their latest.”
From Nursery to Misery, a little-known DIY experimental band from the UK active in the late 80s and early 90s, is getting another compilation from Dark Entries Records: Tree Spirits (out August 20) will be the follow-up to the career-spanning compilation Pixies in the Woods released in 2017.
Originally released last year, grindcore metal album Red Amarcord by Edenic Past is getting reissued on vinyl by Oakland’s Sentient Ruin Laboratories.
Stumbling into the Age of Loneliness
I carry cloudy glass bottles to the edge of the Pacific.
After 100 years in dirt beneath San Francisco
they breathe fresh ocean air,
fill with the energy of breaking waves.
Microphones inside, ear to conch, I hear shadows:
scurrying, wing flaps, chirps and chatters, whimpers and bellows.
So many creatures, once emerged from the sea, now gone.
How many vessels would the disappeared fill?
What is the weight of a lost species?
I make an offering of listening
to help me carry all these ghosts we made.
Such is the poem that accompanies Schism, a two-track, 34-minute composition by SF-based artist Cheryl E. Leonard. A composer, performer, field recordist, and instrument builder, Leonard in 2019 released Watershed, one of my favorite experimental works of 2019, interweaving field recordings with sounds performed on natural materials, glass, and metal as a reflection on our relationship to water in California.
On this new album, released on Slovak experimental music label mappa, the artist is still concerned with place, but asks a new question in response to a year of COVID, where many of us have been even more attached to our digital devices: “What does it mean when our mediating technologies have both the power to connect us to and distance us from the ecosystems we are part of?”
I spied my friend listening to a 2021 album called Suite for San Francisco by Cal Tjader, and I wondered where he’d found this chill new Latin jazz. As it turns out, it wasn’t new. I just happened to be completely clueless that Tjader had been a widely known and celebrated vibraphonist active from the 1940s until his death in 1982. Though born in St. Louis, he grew up in San Mateo and performed around the Bay, at one point meeting Dave Brubeck at SF State and, through him, Paul Desmond. They even recorded an album together.
Apparently the album my friend had been listening to is a repackaging of the 1958 album displayed above, San Francisco Moods. The quintet of bass, drums, guitar, piano, and vibraphone recorded in SF and, with track titles like “Sigmund Stern Groove,” “Coit Tower,” and “Union Square” (not to mention a blurry cable car behind the risqué ankle shot on the album cover), they make sure you don’t too soon forget it. But city-by-the-bay nostalgia aside, it’s fantastic, soothing jazz and worth a listen. As far as vibraphonist jazz albums named after San Francisco, it can only be second to Bobby Hutcherson’s 1971 collaboration with Harold Land.
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!