FRANK OCEAN: “AN URGENCY OF FEELING”

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Frank Ocean: Thinkin’ ‘Bout You
Super Rich Kids
Pyramids
From Channel Orange (Def Jam, 2012)

(Editor’s note: This comes from Elias Leight, a new, aspiring music writer out on the East Coast. He wrote asking for advice on forging a path into the world of music criticism. I wanted to give him a shot by testing his craft here. –O.W.

Frank Ocean went from working as a songwriter for Def Jam to singing hooks for Odd Future to anchoring tracks for Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye. […]

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EVERYDAY I’M SHUFFLING: RON FORELLA…MOVES!

Thom Janusz: Memories of Georgia
Crystals
From Ronn Forella…Moves! (Hoctor/Luv N’ Haight, 1970s/2012)

One of the best reasons for seeking out original vinyl copies of old dance-instruction records has to be that they almost always have some kind of handwritten annotation on them, and when you’re far enough down the record-nerd rabbit hole to be buying old dance-instruction records, the realization that the heaviest track on the album—the facemelting breakbeat apocalypse with the acid-pitted wah-wah and the […]

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MY ARETHA

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(Editor’s Note: When James and I originally were batting around ideas for stuff for him to review, he told me I should just try sending him whatever, without him knowing ahead of time, and then having to find a way to review it. It was a challenge of sort, a way for a writer to tackle something they weren’t already planning on writing about. I had recently gotten in a copy of Aretha Frankin’s Knew You Were Waiting, which looks at her ’80s output1 For many fans of Aretha’s earlier, iconic ’60s material, they never seemed to gel that well with her ’80s and I was curious how James might tackle a catalog that I didn’t presume he was inherently a fan of. He did not disappoint. This is a long essay and it’s really more than just a meditation on Her Lady of Soul. I’m privileged to run it. -O.W.)
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  1. I’d call it the “most-maligned” part of her career but that’d actually be her mid/late-’70s disco-era material.

THE SOUL OF DRUM MACHINES: THE PERSONAL SPACE ANTHOLOGY

(Editor’s Note: James Cavicchia last contributed to us in ’09, writing about MJ, and I’m delighted to have him as a regular contributor now, beginning with this review of the new “Personal Space” compilation, curated by Dante Carfagna and released jointly by Chocolate Industries and the Numero Group. I have a review of this same album coming out on NPR in a week or so. –O.W.)

All selections below from Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984.

“Shouldn’t real freedom include freedom from memory?” – Geoffrey O’Brien

Shouldn’t the personal be able to exist outside of the historical? Shouldn’t the individual expression be allowed to be truly the work of the individual? Why should the actualization of a singular vision require so many others? Why should sonic mass and its legitimizing effect upon the occupation of the popular ear be denied the single musician? Why must “full-sounding” music come with the expense of strings, horns, choruses? Why must the black musician in particular be required to ensure that his work leaves at least a breadcrumb trail between it and The Blues, or The Church, or Jazz, or The Cause? Must there always be all these walls to get around, all these people to pay, all these ghosts to answer to?

At the spine of this astounding collection is the ostensibly unburdening effect of affordable studio technology—synthesizers, drum machines, high-quality recording—as manifested in private soul music from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. The irony is that while the empowerment provided by these machines of ahistorical and unindebted process does indeed allow for the expression of a more truly individual sensibility and the creation of a more intimate atmosphere, from this reduced reliance on humans comes also a reduced invocation of them. There is the inescapable sense that without the technology we would never have been able to hear such personal work, but that this same hand of technology has created within the work an alienating distance.

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