In a recent stateside appearance that I attended, Brainfeeder representative Lapalux unloaded a surprising array of jagged, percussive tracks that both surprised the crowd and reinforced his position as an innovator. The development wasn’t all that out of the blue as he had unloaded Tessela’s breakbeat laden “Hackney Parrot” at another performance several months before, but for most the crowd, the jungle-derived selection was a far cry from the beatific harmonies on his debut album Nostalchic. Last night though, Lapalux uploaded a vowel-less remix of Young Thug’s breakout “Danny Glover”, drawing 808 Mafia’s misanthropic melody into something far more affecting and bereft of melodrama. It’s a heartstring tugging rendition, representing his erudite focus on what makes R&B and hip hop dominant forms of American culture.
When I heard my first Lapalux track, he had just signed to Brainfeeder as their first UK artist. His style was being called “post-dubstep”, which suggests that he heard dubstep, and thought “I should make music too”. The story doesn’t quite go like that. Stuart Howard was a student of sound before dubstep and ‘beat scene’ were even ideas. You can hear it in his 2008 Forest EP, his first release. It’s a world of texture, waves of emotion, and frenetic disorientation that was informed by an intense study and absorbtion of sound aesthetics, with music production being more a means to an end and this pure expression being the end in itself. He creates his boundary crushing sound through a century-spanning sonic palette, always focused on the character of his sound sources and how they work together. With each release leading up to March 25th’s highly anticipated debut LP “Nostalchic”, his fusion of R&B melodic and harmonic motifs with neck-breaking beats and meticulously nuanced textural movement has fully taken shape, as has his mastery over the most dense yet lucid sound-world in modern electronic music. Lapalux doesn’t use these influences because they’re chic, he does so because his life’s work is to reconcile all these sounds into something beautiful.
I had the great honor of catching up with the man himself in February to talk about what it means to be releasing his first full length album, working with vocalists, and his creative process.
Continued after the jump…
Lapalux and Kerry Leatham just need to stop. I don’t know if I can handle the immense loneliness and beauty the producer and singer bring to the table when they collaborate. A lot of fuss has been made about race and R&B in recent days and if the genre is inherently black or not. Not being a part of the greater R&B community, I can’t really speak on the greater race/class/historical issues in play here, but it has to be said that much of the innovation within the genre has come from outside its traditional barriers. Immensely popular artists like The Weeknd and Jeremih sound like nothing that came before them and work with producers like Zodiac, Shlohmo and Mike Will who offer sound palates that are pretty much antithetical to what traditional R&B stands for. Even further out are guys like Holy Other and Tom Krell who have reduced R&B to an icicle of its former self. Lapalux’s best work comes out when he’s working with vocalists, specifically Leatham, and “Without You” is his most emotive, touching track to date. The version in the wholly unsettling video below is the radio edit, but you can buy the full length version, which also includes “Guuurl”, from iTunes,
Lapalux’s debut album comes out next month on Brainfeeder, but that isn’t going to stop the Essex-based producer from releasing excellent free jam after excellent free jam. The latest comes in the form of “Forlorn”, a Busdriver assisted rappity rap track that sees the Los Angeles-based MC go double-time over some fittingly astral production. Stream “Forlorn” below and grab it from Lapalux’s Bandcamp for free.99.
Maybe I’m ignorant, but I didn’t recognize the sample (or clearly derived song name) after listening to Lapalux’s brand new smasher “BETHR”. After scouring the interwebs for a a little while, I was only to come up with “Lapalux samples classic vocals”. Of course, a quick lyric search would lead to me Zimbabwean Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”, but something about the fact that many of the biggest blogs in this whole darn blogosphere neglected to mention that fact. It seems like a random event when the general blog group think decides to enlighten their readers on what elements a producer actually utilizes to develop a track. Even one as obvious as this. Anyways, all gripes aside, Lapalux’s debut LP is dropping next month on Brainfeeder (look out for an interview on the horizon!) and “BETHR” (no word on whether or not it will appear on the album) is just sublime. Rozalla’s vocals are played up for maximum emotiveness and Lapalux just does the damn thang. Not much to say about this one, you just have to let it ride out.
Every once in a while, I come to the conclusion that too many producers are sampling mid-90’s to mid-2000’s R&B and that the trend will die out and become passé at some point. The pool of quality songs from that era isn’t that big after all and at a certain point Ginuwine and Aaliyah can get a little old. That’s usually the point when I lay down in bed, listen to Jacques Greene for an hour straight and forget my silly inhibitions and theories. More recently, Lapalux has taken Greene’s place as de facto sexy solitary music. Whether working with Mario’s immortal “Let Me Love You” or enlisting the always wonderful Kerry Leatham, the Essex-based producer has nearly perfected his vocal + chunky synths formula, which will surely be apparent on his upcoming debut LP for Brainfeeder. That’s right LP! After releasing the Some Other Time and When You’re Gone extended players through the Los Angeles imprint last year, Lapalux has gotten the green light for Nostalchic, due in March of this year! This year! For now, you can sample the death defyingly beautiful “Guuurl“. Like most Lapalux tracks, the vocals seem to teeter on the edge of the mix, neither completely enveloped nor entirely separate. I haven’t placed the sample quite yet, but maybe one of you can (;. Stream below and long live the R&B sample!
I can’t pretend to have known Austin Peralta or to be profound enough to properly eulogize him, but what I can do is recognize the enormous outpouring of love for a young man and transcendent musician who has tragically passed away. It’s easy to portray false love/appreciation through a computer screen, but I truly believe in the genuine nature of the hundreds of tributes that have popped up across the web. I remember seeing Austin at Low End Theory earlier this year and remarking on the ingenuity of his (quite literally) mind melting solos, but leaving halfway through the set nonetheless. Whether it was a lack of patience or just pure laziness, I can’t remember, but Austin’s passing has enlarged a feeling of deep personal regret. On a larger scale, Austin’s passing, like his music, is a remark on the ephemeral nature of life itself. So please, listen to this recording from Austin’s release party in Eagle Rock last year and recognize the incandescence that was Austin Peralta.
Hit the jump for the rest of the sounds…
For fans of experimental beat music, Stuart Howard AKA Lapalux represents a constantly rising bar. Since his production techniques are so huge and his style and artistic choices so personal and unpredictable, he’s the kind of producer people just have to watch to see what he does next, rather than judge in reference to a fleeting trend. An early and enduring fascination with analog tape manipulation is a large factor in the fresh but rooted sound he has harnessed. In his new EP, Some Other Time, Lapalux further expands and saturates (literally and figuratively) his world of sound and takes it in a refreshing direction. A lot of this new work feels even more inspired by the intersection of R&B with both the past and future of electronic music.
I’ll save your valuable time by listing here all the onomatopoeia and sonic descriptors I would have used in the rest of this article if it was much longer: “Buzz, pop, crackle, skitter, skip, lush, collisions, collapse, jittery, measured, fluid, swirling, whirling, winding, spindly, windy, vivid, brittle, jagged.”
So now that that’s out of the way I can talk about some of my favorite moments.
Unlike many Lapalux jams, the opening song, “Quartz”, remains innocent and free without descending into madness. Instead, meandering vocals and airy resonances create a pensive, soothing atmosphere, suggesting a place that would be nice to get lost in.
Throughout the EP, many will recognize the quality of certain sounds. Maybe a bass we’ve heard in dubstep, out-of-context foley sounds like those we’ve heard on other Brainfeeder releases , noise and rummaging textures we’ve heard in computer music for years, strings we’ve heard in symphonies, but they’ve never been used to make us cringe the way that I did at the 1 minute mark of “Strangling You With the Cord”. It’s a song that is as homicidal as its name suggests. Whatever/ whoever is being strangled here is to be permanently scarred and will probably never again make the mistake that provoked this song. It’s that cringe of distress or terror or torment that activated the neurons that awaken memories of when I’ve cringed like that before, thus transferring directly to me the emotion that created the song in the first place, without lyrics as a vehicle. I’d argue that Lapalux is at his best at these moments.
One similarity to his past releases is that sounds seem to brace themselves in anticipation for their turn to dive in on our ears in one crushing blow after another. We hear this same tendency epitomized in “Time Spike Jamz” of of Many Faces Out Of Focus, but really all across his catalogue. To avoid completely losing track of all these sounds, Lapalux has always masterfully woven some sort of hook into every track, whether through vocals or chord progressions. What has progressed about his style on Some Other Time is the level of control and attention to detail which allows the tracks to be even more transportive and immersive.
“Forgetting and Learning Again” with Kerry Leatham is the standout track and the one I want to hear again and again. It is larger than life, and has a staggering amount of soul. It has the most pleasurable sounds on this EP, going effortlessly between between decadent bass and keys, and sounds that various creatures from Alice and Wonderland might make if you stepped on them or they were scurrying away from you in a magical forest. The towering force of the beat combined with the emotion of the vocal really penetrates. In the final minute of the song, we’re treated to a distant anticipation, and an absolutely arresting final statement by Lapalux and Leatham, the latter of which is on track to “have another” and is probably “having another” right now as I write this. Much like whatever Leatham is having another of, this EP is intoxicating from beginning to end.
Brainfeeder’s UK representative Lapalux will release his second EP, titled Some Other Time, via the the seminal LA imprint on October 16. In “Forgetting And Learning Again”, featuring lush vocals from Kerry Leatham, the Essex native has given us our first taste of the EP. In typical fashion, the track balances Leatham’s vocals with swirling synths and slightly off-kilter percussion for a slightly off-kilter, yet highly manageable sound. Grab the track for free at Lapalux’s Bandcamp and stream below.
Lapalux has really come into his own as a producer since he joined Brainfeeder and his next EP for the seminal LA label, Some Other Time, is set for release on October 16. To hold us over until then, the Essex native let loose “The Hours”, beautiful number driven by vox chops and some of the best side-chain compression from someone not named Flying Lotus. If “The Hours” is just a placeholder in between EP’s, we are in for quite a treat when Some Other Time comes around. Stream below and head over to Lapalux’s Bandcamp for a free download.