Way back in 2012, West Coast beat maven Devonwho released the two part Perfect Strangers tape, a didactic mixture of club influences and psychedelia-tinged hip hop production. Feeling that Perfect Strangers deserved an official release, Portland label Dropping Gems has taken it upon themselves to re-release the tape on cassette and to draw from their wide net of Pacific Northwest-based producers to include six ( ! ) brand new remixes. Devon has worked with Dropping Gems in the past through his cerebral Wires For Salu nom de plume and Perfect Strangers represents the fullest manifestation (to date) of both artist and label’s collective vision. The cassette/digital re-release is set for an August 13 drop, but you can pre-order both here. To celebrate the re-release, we have been gifted the opportunity to premiere a remix of “ghostpt2” from Seattle-based producer Denley. Whereas Devon’s music generally inhabits a rather subdued context, Denley blasts “ghostpt2” into space, giving it the sort of bombastic sheen we’ve come to expect from producers like S-Type, or even DJ Toomp. It’s a departure from the original’s intention, but Denley’s triumphant synth work gives the remix enough legs to operate as a truly large reinvention. Stream/download below the remix below and be sure to pre-order the cassette!
Somehow we (inexcusably) forgot to post this absolute Gem last week, but better late than never I guess. Philip Grass is a new member of Portland’s Dropping Gems posse and has contributed the delectable first entry into the label’s third comprehensive compilation, Gem Drops 3, which happens to be the first entry to be released on vinyl. “Onit” falls somewhere between Madlib’s Quasimoto and the more aggressive side of the Low End Theory sphere and is a more overtly genre-bending offering than we’ve come to expect from DG. It’s easy to get caught up in the stuttering, heavy synth work in “Onit”, but the heavily distorted vocal sample, faltering FX and cracking drums are the real driving force here. Gem Drops 3 is out April 16 and also feature DJAO, City Mouth and M. Constant.
Photo by Patti Miller
Last week, Natasha Kmeto let loose the Dirty Mind Melt EP on Portland label Dropping Gems, an eclectic collection of vocal-driven tunes that balance precariously on the precipice of a number of contemporary electronic music genres. We were lucky enough to catch up with Natasha and get the lowdown on the new EP, her favorite “Ableton performers” and her upcoming Sophomore LP. One might expect such a new, yet highly respected artist to feel some pressure going into only her second official release, but Natasha was/is as cool as ever and is ready to take on the world. Plus this girl loves to dance. Read on below to get the inside scoop on a truly inspirational musician…
Hi Natasha, where are you right now?
I’m just chilling in my apartment in Portland.
So you just finished up a little tour of Colorado and California, how did that go?
It was good. I had four flights in five days so it was a little bit brutal for travel, but I had fun.
Despite your traditional musical upbringing, your music is decidedly experimental, what has influenced you to think outside of the box in that respect?
I’ve always been more inspired as a fan—with all forms of art—with art that’s more progressive and trying to break new ground. I think the idea of doing something that’s trying to be different is just exciting for me.
Hit the jump for the full interview…
Dropping Gems queen bee Natasha Kmeto appears to be listening to a lot of early-aughts Yeezy production. With a new DG EP, Dirty Mind Melt, dropping February 19, Kmeto has let loose the chipmunk vocal championing title track for mass consumption. “Dirty Mind Melt” takes a step back from the cerebral vocal arrangements on Kmeto’s debut The Ache EP, opting for The Blueprint-esque pitch shifting and skittering hip hop percussion. While airier than much of The Ache, the track matches heavenly orchestral sections with futuristic effects like the best of her debut LP. Unlike most string section driven beat work, “Dirty Mind Melt” doesn’t fall into the obnoxiously heavy handed category due to Kmeto’s commendable restraint and an expertly informed grasp on layering. Stream below and be on the look out for Dirty Mind Melt next month.
It has been far too long since we’ve posted a screw tape so sit down with a double cup and indulge with me. You know the deal. Dropping Gems representative Citymouth has jumpstarted a tape series called Any Octave featuring screwed/chopped/slopped/wetted/spyked/psyched tunes that all probably fall under the broad “purple” category. The first tape features Citymouth himself and Seattle’s own DJAO. It’s difficult to pick out what Citymouth plays, but you can peep the individual DJAO screwmixes, including takes on Flying Lotus, Cooly G, Baths and Grimes, over here. If you’re in the Portland area next week, be sure to catch a special late-night screwset from DJAO. Stream and download (name your price) below.
Remember the days when hip hop party tunes were about having a good time, sippin’ on a cold one and maybe snagging yourself a fine Applebaum? When names like Big Daddy Kane, Redman and The Pharcyde rung true? When Dr. Luke was your endocrinologist and David Guetta was another anonymous floppy haired muppet? The times have changed young grasshopper. If you asked the average teenager what party hip hop is, the answers would probably boil down to a collection of MMG, Young Money and G.O.O.D. Music artists with a Chief Keef or two thrown in here or there. It’s easy to be a golden era yearning curmudgeon after spending a night at a (read: any) club and listening to “Niggas In Paris” and “Ass” on repeat.
We recently enlisted Portland’s own Rap Class aka John Kammerle of Dropping Gems to lay down some tracks for our Guest Mix series and while it is firmly nested in old school hip hop and R&B, it remains decidedly fresh. We tend to focus on “future music” here at The Astral Plane, but even we need to indulge in some nostalgic listening every so often. It is called the “golden era” for a reason. Anyways, my words don’t really do the mix justice so I’ll let John take it away:
This mix, is like, all about my go-to songs. When I DJ out, these are the songs that loosen up the crowd. Some of the songs are from records that I think are rare (maybe?), then some chillers + some original remixes and songs from me. I’m proud of this mix because it represents where my initial love of rap music started, and has taken me. From the beginning, this is where I find myself today.
For more Rap Class music, download Greatest Hits (or buy the cassette) here. As always the mix is up for stream and download. Be sure to give the man behind the art and team member Sam Andrus some love.
Over the past nine years, Seattle’s Decibel Festival has established itself as one of the premier purveyors of forward thinking electronic music in the world. While not quite as recognizable as names like Sonar or MUTEK, Decibel’s focus on live performance and technology, both through its panels and showcases, has elevated it to revered status among fans and artists alike. Like any festival, the lineup poses many difficult choices, but because Decibel is held at venues across the city, discerning festival attendees usually have to choose one or two events to hit a night. To possibly aid your decision making process, we’ve chosen the five showcases that we are most excited about. Of course, it’s impossible to predict which showcases will be the biggest hits and there will certainly be more than a few surprises. With legends like Carl Craig, Orbital, DJ Shadow and Erykah Badu’s Cannabinoids project on the bill, as well as a special visit from The Boiler Room, it is sure to be a special five days. And to be honest, you can’t really go wrong with any of the dB showcases. Without further ado, our recommendations…
Beat Prodigies Presented By LFTF Feat. Dabrye, Samo Soundboy, Kid Smpl, Keyboard Kid and Katie Kate (Wednesday September 26 @ Barboza 21+)
Unsurprisingly, the good folks at Live For The Funk have put together one of the most diverse, eccentric showcases of the entire festival. Beat Prodigies is headlined Beat scene legend and Dilla disciple Dabrye who has laid low for the the past half-decade. The Detroit native has only released one EP (as James T. Cotton), but his left-field sampleology still sounds as fresh as ever. Samo Soundboy is the founder of Body High and one of the foremost purveyors of American club music. His latest release, the 5 Dollar Paradise EP, is an exhibition in acid sounds bridging the TR-303 with contemporary club sounds that should light a fire under the Barboza dancers. Contrasting the upbeat hip hop and club sounds of the two headliners, Kid Smpl will bring the Night Bus vibes to the club. Rounding out the lineup are Keyboard Kid and Katie Kid. Expect tempos to swing wildly throughout the showcase and be prepared to vogue.. or whatever you do.
Find our Thursday-Sunday recommendations after the jump…
If you’ve been following us for awhile now you will certainly recognize our gushing love for the Dropping Gems label. We recently did an in-depth interview with label head, Aaron Meola, and DJAO from the collective. You can check out the interview here if you missed it. Besides learning the ins and outs of running a label, we also inquired about DJAO’s production process. Like magic, the Seattle producer just posted a new track to his soundcloud, a remix of Devonwho’s “Strangebrew” off of his most recent effort, Perfect Strangers Vol. 1. DJAO keeps true to the original and capitalizes by adding his own crisply tuned bubbling sounds… then the bassline comes in. The track is topped off with what sounds like a space-age xylophone to add some more lush vibes. Stream the track below off of his Soundcloud and be sure to check out the rest of his tracks on the page.
Catch the original tune below
If you follow major media outlets, electronic dance music is all the rage nowadays. It has all the makings of a major news story: money, fame, drugs and overblown egos. Up here in the Pacific Northwest though, we have our own spirit of electronic music spearheaded by the Dropping Gems collective/label/production company. Made up of 10 artists/groups spread from Portland to Seattle, DG is one of the foremost purveyors in forward thinking electronic music, not just in the Northwest, or on the West Coast, but across the globe. For those of you unacquainted to the DG sound, you can check out (and download) the impeccable Gem Drops and Gem Drops 2 compilations.
We were lucky enough to have a conversation with label head Aaron Meola and Seattle-based DJAO about a wide range of topics. We spoke on DG’s DIY ethos, electronic music as an innovating force, psychedelia and more. We learned that DG is a tight knit community of artists with an admirable, envelope pushing mindset regarding performance, community in music and friendship. Catch the whole interview after the jump. It’s well worth your time to dig into the minds of two of the most interesting figures in music.