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Newness for your ears: Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears, Phraim

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Cover artwork for Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears

Phraim is one of the very few artists who can (and do) drag me out of my blog hiatus when they release a new project. If you have been following this site, or my radio show, you already know that the Chicago resident is one of my favourite producers. Therefore, when I discovered recently that he was planning on releasing his fourth full-length album today, I was quite excited. After the incredible Silver LinedKasbah Moments, and Scars To Prove It, the talented producer now presents the beautifully named Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears. In case you are not familiar with him, check out previous blog posts about Phraim, including a very interesting audio interview we did. Now, one thing I love about him is that while you can always recognize his touch, all of his projects are quite different. Some things are recurrent, like the witty wordplay in track titles, the cinematic dimension, or the influence of travel, but the overall themes and sonorities are always unique.

With this brand-new offering, Phraim seems to have opted for much more concise musical treats, as most of the tracks are under 3 minutes, often closer to 2 minutes. On the one hand, this makes greedy me a bit frustrated, as I would love to listen to those tracks for a much longer period of time and discover how they could evolve. However, it is also a way to keep the listener on their toes, as atmospheres and ambiances change regularly.
When it comes to the title, I have to admit I looked up “ruby tears” because I had a feeling it could be a famous saying or something like that. When I discovered it was actually a flower, I was both intrigued as to what that was supposed to mean in the context of the title and mischievous in my decision to stick to my own interpretation. Yes, when I saw the title for the first time, and discovered the gorgeous cover artwork for the album, I decided it was a reference to a beautiful lady crying precious tears. Whatever the case may be, both the title and the picture hint at music dedicated to love and a muse. The “Midnight Kisses” part of the title only reinforces the sentiment, and I was therefore ready for a beautiful journey through emotions and feelings even before I hit the play button. If this album sounds slightly less cohesive than its predecessors, I could still feel a specific direction and imagine how and why the music was created through the lens of love and relationships. In addition to this theme, the wordplay in the title of the tracks, as well as the various sonorities, makes the idea of travel quite obvious. Then again, love is a journey, so that fits perfectly.
In terms of actual music and sounds, Phraim makes a clear departure from his latest project, Scars To Prove It, which was much more electronic than others, and comes back to very melodic tracks. From the samples to the notes played by the producer, there is much to please your ears in Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears. Speaking of the differences and evolution from previous projects, the artist himself says that the album is  “indeed a senior release of sorts”. Confirming my first impression, he adds that “while it combines heart from past production, something about the formula of MKFRT is clearly different. Evolved, but grounded. Keen.” The feeling I get is that both the man and the artist have indeed grown, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold and hear.
As the project ends on “Hopeful Headaches”, I am equally optimistic about music and love after listening to the whole album. That’s probably why I had to start all over again, and again. Without a doubt, Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears will join Phraim’s previous three projects at the very top of the list of the albums I listen to the most. It should be on yours too.

Now that you know more about Midnite Kisses For Ruby Tears, you can listen to the album and purchase it on Phraim’s Bandcamp. Enjoy the journey, support, and spread the word!

Find out more about Phraim on Bandcamp & Twitter

Tribute: Avenging Wind

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Picture of Avenging Wind

Avenging Wind aka Fathom 9 was one of the very few artists who have my unconditional support. From the day I discovered his album Untitled (Pulse Beta), when GQ Tha Teacha put me on his music (thank you so much!), to his very last release, I always bought all his projects, often before I listened to them, because I knew they would be amazing. He never disappointed. I can’t pretend we were as close lately as we used to be, back in some kind of golden age for Twitter and this blog, but we still communicated every now and then and I could always count on him to share my podcasts, whether or not I played his music. He would also send me “exclusives” and that’s something I greatly appreciated. Contrary to certain bloggers who are interested in exposure, views and hype, I find it way more interesting to connect with artists on a personal level. This is why Avenging Wind’s passing hurts so much. We may not have been lifelong friends, but I have a deep appreciation for him and I do feel like I lost a friend yesterday. While I didn’t know much about his personal life, his music allowed me to relate to him and know at least a few sides of his numerous personalities. A very talented producer, MC, poet, all around amazing artist, fellow Gemini, man of contradictions, he put his heart and soul into his music. From smooth, dreamy soundscapes to hard-hitting beats with jazzy samples and militant rhymes over martial instrumentals, his music was eclectic but always beautiful and powerful. An incredible wordsmith, he was extremely candid when expressing his thoughts and feelings, which is obviously admirable and inspiring. His poetry is very relatable to me, whether he talks about life and inspiration in general, physical desire and relationships, or music and social issues. It is quite rare to find an artist whose work is reflecting your own ideas and for that I am eternally grateful.
He has been on my mind heavily since I learnt the news and I can’t quite believe he’s actually gone. I was still hoping I could finally meet him one day, see him on stage, and work on a project with him. I guess it was not meant to be, in this lifetime at least. This is yet another reminder for me, after my uncle’s passing this summer, that life is indeed fragile and you never know what tomorrow may bring. One day you’re here, the next you’re gone. What will people remember about you? I know Avenging Wind wanted to make sure his contribution to the world would be a lasting one, and his artistic legacy is indeed a beautiful imprint he left on the world. While his body is no longer here on Earth, his soul lives on, and his words and music should be read and heard for many years to come. I will make it my mission to ensure as many people as possible know about this wonderful human being and beautiful soul who left us way too soon. Today is a very sad day, but I am also grateful to have known Avenging Wind and what is important now is to celebrate his life and art, and remember the beautiful memories he created through his music.

If you are not familiar with Avenging Wind aka Fathom 9, I urge you to listen to his music, to have a better understanding of just how important and powerful it is. I am glad we finally got to do an interview last year, after talking about it for months (years?), as it was a way to learn more about him and his album Dump Truck Blues: Battle Cry of The Wanderlust. Now, let me share a few of my favourites with you.

Find out more on his Bandcamp page for Fathom 9 and Avenging Wind, on Soundcloud: Fathom 9 and Avenging Wind, and on YouTube

Newness for your ears: Scars To Prove It, Phraim

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Cover artwork for Scars To Prove It

Whenever I have been away from this blog for months and do not really plan on updating it, I can always count on a few artists to release a project so amazing, beautiful and powerful that I won’t have a choice but to come back here and share it with you. Phraim is one of those artists. Last time I told you about him, he had just released his sophomore album, the enchanting Kasbah Moments. Today, the Chicago-based producer offers us a third full-length album, the wonderful Scars To Prove It, and I am very happy to tell you about it now. Just before I go into more details, I just wanted to highlight the power of this project (and great music in general), as it helped me snap out of my PTDS (Post Travel Depression Syndrome) and the gloomy mood I have been in since I came back from my amazing trip to New York City and spent days under grim London skies.
Besides the inspiring power of the album, what I always appreciate about Phraim is his tendency to craft detailed, multi-layered concept albums. After his debut release Silver Lined, created after and inspired by the passing of his grandmother (something that was easy for me to relate to), and the beautiful musical journey to the Middle East that was Kasbah Moments, the producer now delves into darker territories with Scars To Prove It, as the project is centred around “invasion” and the physical or mental scars left by difficult experiences and life trials. Once again, this is something I can definitely relate to. I am actually struggling with a few of those scars at the moment and it’s always a great thing to know that other people go through similar predicaments (even though the triggers and weapons creating the scars are not the same at all), but decide to use music as an outlet for their pain. As always I may read too much into this, but that’s just how I do. There is also an obvious reference to war and armed conflict, which could very well be taken literally, considering the current state of the world. This is something that has become quite difficult to ignore nowadays, and I appreciate the duality (or multiplicity, actually) of the album, since it can be interpreted in different ways.
The music itself is a delightful addition of a myriad of details, one of Phraim’s trademarks, which was already mentioned when I told you about Kasbah Moments. As was the case when listening to that previous album, I found myself imagining the “musical architect”, who clearly deserves the nickname, spending hours and hours on each track, making sure they sound as perfect as he wanted them to sound, and adding tiny details that make them whole. While the overall atmosphere on Scars To Prove It is more electronic than the producer’s previous endeavours, I am not one to complain. Variety is the spice of life and I really appreciate when artists provide their listeners with something new with each project. What’s the point of creating a different piece of music otherwise?
Finally, something that Phraim prides himself on, and that is quite obvious here, once again, is the cinematic quality of the project. Try listening to it at full volume while closing your eyes and tell me you don’t visualise specific scenes in your head… Whether it is cruising in a car in the streets of the Windy City at night trying to fight your demons, walking along your nearest lake/river/ocean and indulging into a quiet session of introspection, or simply reminiscing on days long gone, the project is sure to create snapshots in your mind and will most likely become the soundtrack for special moments, real or imagined. Listening to the album as I type, I have to admit quite a few thoughts and emotions go through my mind and heart, and I am truly grateful for music’s ability to take me to different places and times. Traveling without moving indeed…
I guess I’ll stop my rambling for now, but not before I urge you to give the album a listen and to add it to your collection. Also, if you are a film director, please get in touch with Phraim. I would love to see what a creative mind could do with such a beautiful and inspiring soundtrack.

Now that you know a bit more about Scars To Prove It, go listen and buy the album on Phraim’s Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy the journey!

Find out more about Phraim on Twitter

Interview: Phraim (audio)

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Picture of Phraim

Last time I told you about Phraim, when I introduced you to his amazing album entitled Kasbah Moments, I promised you an interview with the talented Chicago-based producer would be coming soon. Well, it looks like soon was a bit longer than expected, but I am really happy and excited to present this interview now. While listening to a project created by an artist is usually a good way to get familiar with them, I always find it quite interesting to actually meet them or at least communicate with them, to understand their universe better. I was fortunate enough to meet Phraim on my first trip to Chicago, among many other talented artists, and I already told you how much I loved Silver Lined and Kasbah Moments, so it is of course a pleasure for me to finally feature the man himself on this blog. In this very interesting interview, the producer-MC-photographer-writer-etc. tells us more about how he got started with music, what other artistic activities he would like to explore, the creation and concept of Kasbah Moments, and much more. As was the case with my audio interview with Phoenix James, I included several tracks in between questions, so that you can discover what beautiful music Phraim can create. I need to thank him for taking some time to answer my questions and I really hope you will enjoy this interview and the music as much as I do. Without further delay, here is Phraim, in his own words…

Discover the interview after the jump… More

Newness for your ears: Kasbah Moments, Phraim

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Cover artwork for Kasbah Moments

I know, I know… I haven’t blogged in forever and many of you probably wonder what’s going on with me. Well, I won’t go into details, as this is not a personal blog, but I apologise to all the artists I should/could have written about in the past months. I may or may not catch up on all the posts I was planning on writing, but tonight something special happened. So special that I feel compelled to write again! It’s as if inspiration was coming from a very distant place and possessed me entirely a few minutes ago. This fire I feel burning inside at the moment makes it impossible for me to do anything but type these words and experience a wonderful moment of pure musical ecstasy. In case you are not familiar with my tendency to get carried away at times, you may think I’m slightly crazy, but if you know me and read most of my previous posts, you already have an idea of how totally subjective and irrational I can be when it comes to music I love. So… after quite a lengthy introduction, it is now time I tell you what mesmerised me tonight, what incredible thing took over me and encouraged me to update the blog again. More

Video interview: Greg Spero

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Picture of Greg Spero

I first told you about Chicago jazz pianist Greg Spero with a “spotlight” after I came back from my trip to the Windy City and I am very happy to have met him again, this time in London. It was a great pleasure for me to finally see him on stage and to attend the wonderful event that was the Buddy Rich 25th Anniversary Memorial Concert at the Palladium. The quality of the music was incredible and both the band and the special guests blew me away. After such an amazing event, it was also very nice to get to spend some time with Greg and to record this interview, where he tells us more about the actual concert (including some interesting insider revelations), as well as his upcoming shows in England and Germany, among other things. He is not only a very talented musician, but also a very enthusiastic individual, whose energy and positivity are contagious. Without further delay, let me introduce you to Greg Spero…

Discover the interview after the jump… More

Album review: One EP, Tensei

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Cover artwork for One EP

Tensei, the duo of Chicago producers Simple X and Midas Wells, is getting more and more exposure lately and recently signed to Plug Research, after being featured of an EP created by the label with their excellent remix of Bilal’s Robots. Despite the fact that they have worked on many remixes and may be largely known for those, they shine as bright when it comes to creating their own tracks and this lovely EP is only a confirmation of their talent. Presented as an introduction to their work and a prelude to an upcoming full-length album, One will rejoice fans and probably enrol many more among appreciators of instrumental music and open-minded music lovers. There are many reasons to love this EP and I will now share a few with you.

Whether you are familiar with Tensei’s music or not, this EP will serve as some kind of appetizer, a snippet of what they are capable of and of just how eclectic their music can get. With all the different moods, atmospheres and influences, from trip hop to soul, hip-hop, latin and afrobeat, electro, rock or jazz (just to name a few…), Simple X and Midas Wells offer a very comprehensive and encompassing project that allows the listeners to appreciate all the different things that inspire the producers and colour their music. Such a lively and rich palette could look a bit too overwhelming, but it works quite well and you can get a different picture with every track, as you would get a new story with every chapter in a collection of short stories. You can go from a spaced out electro track to a very chilled, soulful one, followed by another one that will be smooth and reggae/dub influenced but never get an impression of inappropriateness, as all those atmospheres you explore are just One after all. More

Newness for your ears: Shine, Innosphere

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Cover artwork for Innosphere's Shine

This is one of those times when the “newness for you ears” label is not really appropriate, as the album has been out for 2 years, but I guess as long as it’s new to my/your ears, it works. I first heard of Chicago-based duo Innosphere about a year ago, thanks to Chaka B and I shared the remix of their track Gotta be me featuring Thaione Davis on my podcast, but I have to admit I didn’t really dig deeper at the time. I was meant to at some point though, which happened thanks to my trip to Chicago, during which I saw Innosphere open for Sy Smith and Mark de Clive-Lowe at The Shrine. The whole night was quite incredible but I have to say the duo (accompanied by another musician whose name I can’t find, unfortunately) blew me away. The combination of Kenny Keys’ magic on the keyboard and Nina Rae’s enchanting voice, with the depth of the lyrics made it quite an experience. I honestly wanted more than a few songs and I hope I will see the duo live again soon.

After a few weeks of catching up and trying to get back on tracks, I finally did what I was supposed to do since I came back and purchased their debut album, Shine. I am now listening as I type and it is as good as I was expecting and more. All the ingredients I found at The Shrine are here (except for the “live” magic) and it is definitely an album I will listen to regularly. On top of the beautiful musical canvas, which blends their hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk and R&B influences, the strongest points of this album are Nina Rae’s incredible voice and the messages they are spreading. This album contains feel-good, inspiring, uplifting music that sounds perfect for a chilled Sunday at home but will most probably be appreciated at different times and in different situations. There is a “throwback” element here as the duo makes me think of some 90s pillars of the “neo-soul” movement, but also a more modern touch that make them respect their legacy while adding their own twist.

To give you an idea of what their set at The Shrine was like, here is a video where they perform Me N U, a beautiful and sensual song that is among my favourites on the album. 

You can also get the remix of Gotta be me featuring Thaione Davis on their Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below.

Now that you are hooked, all you need to do is head to CD Baby and purchase Shine. You’ll thank me later!

Find out more about Innosphere on Facebook

Spotlight: Greg Spero

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Picture of Greg Spero

I’ve meant to post this for the longest and I apologise for the delays, but my return back to reality after my holidays in Chicago was not the smoothest and I just start being back to my old productive (sometimes…) self. I told you in previous posts that I had more treats from the Windy City to share with you, so here’s one of them, with an introduction to jazz pianist Greg Spero.
I met him by chance thanks to Simple X (Herma Puma, Tensei), along with other artists (including Yaw & Khari Lemuel) and I am sure glad I did! He has worked with Simple X and Midas Wells (aka Tensei) before, hence the connection, but his list of achievements and collaborations is quite impressive. This is why I am doing a spotlight today, there is definitely a lot to say about the Chicago-based musician.

I would say I discovered his musical world in reverse chronological order, starting with his upcoming album Acoustic, that I was lucky enough to get as a preview. I obviously can’t share much about this now, except that it is an excellent album that immediately turned me into a fan of Greg Spero’s work. I will most definitely tell you more about it once it’s out and I recommend you keep an eye/ear out for it. He has also worked with Tensei, as mentioned earlier, so I did listen to his music previously, without even knowing it.

Continue reading after the jump More

Video interview: Yaw & Khari Lemuel

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Picture of The Ones

I was telling you yesterday about those Chicago treats I have in store for you and this is the first one I want to share with you. I had the huge pleasure of meeting Yaw and Khari Lemuel thanks to Herma Puma and Tensei producer Chris Kramer during a lovely night of music, deep conversations and laughter. This is clearly one of my best memories from this trip to Chicago and I feel blessed to have been able to experience it. This is one of the reasons why I am talking about this need for real communication in the video blog. There is only so much you can do through a computer screen and I believe the net should serve more as a way to connect than really communicate. Anyway, I’m grateful for this moment and for this incredible interview. It is the first time I asked so few questions and got so lengthy, deep and interesting answers. Yaw & Khari Lemuel form the group The Ones and they are making beautiful, deep, spiritual and positive music that should touch your heart and soul. It is a great pleasure for me to introduce them to you and I strongly encourage you to get familiar and support them. Here we go…

Now that you are familiar with Yaw & Khari Lemuel, it is time to discover their incredible music, with two live performances/previews of songs from their upcoming album. First of all, the magnificent By&By, the first song I heard from them and which enchanted me immediately.

Then, the equally beautiful Land of light is another deeply touching song that you will probably want to listen to on repeat, as is my case. Enjoy and spread the word!

EDIT: The Ones have finally launched their Kickstarter campaign and I strongly encourage you to support them and spread the word about their project. Watch the video below and head over to the project’s page HERE. Thanks for them!

Find out more about The Ones on their website

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