We’ve been lucky enough to catch Mumdance and Rabit on separate occasions here in Los Angeles over the last year-plus, but on March 18th the good people at Union and Still III have booked both modern day legends and brought on Letta & Patrick Brian for a b2b session as well as CybersonicLA resident and co-founder Sha Sha Kimbo. We’ve been blessed with a slate of unreal parties so far this year, but booking these two is a real coup and loading up the bill with a collection of local favorites only makes the event even more can’t miss. If you were lucky enough to make it, you’ll remember that Letta and Patrick Brian went b2b for the first time at our Clubfriends party last year and the duo have been tearing it down with dub-heavy sets ever since.
It’s probably fair to say that we don’t need to explicitly espouse the virtues of Mumdance or Rabit, but each have absolutely brought it the last two times out, the former with a blistering set a warehouse rave and the former at Union (then known as Jewel’s Catch One). Few artists tangibly expand and distort the boundaries of the genres and cultures they exist in, but these two absolutely have and continue to manufacture sounds that are uniquely and entirely there own. Enter your favorite Mumdance and/or Rabit tune below to enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to next Friday’s (March 18) show. We’ve got two pairs this time around and I’d love to see some folks out so put your name in and we’ll see you on the floor.
After hosting them at our monthly Clubfriends night at The LASH a few weeks back, we had two of Los Angeles’ finest, Letta and Patrick Brian, representatives of the vaunted Coyote and Terrorhythm clans respectively, suit up for a b2b session on our Radar Radio show. The results are blinding and full of the sort of dubs, edits and madness we’ve come to expect from these two on their own. There aren’t a ton of people anywhere doing it like Letta and PB, especially in the City of Angels, so stay locked and join us on December 28 for our next Radar session. No track list for the second hour, but you can peep what the Astral Plane DJ Team played throughout the first. Stream below and download here.
A little while back, Los Angeles-based Letta sent Tomas at Coyote Records a few demos. The London-based label head became enamored with the works and hit Letta back, starting a process that would eventually become Testimony, his debut album out next week on Coyote. Nominally a grime outlet, Coyote works to break artists (Spokes, Silk Road Assassins, Forever Forever, etc.) with a left field approach to the London sound, melding tradition with wildly inventive approaches to melody. In that context, Letta’s inclusion in the Coyote fold makes all too much sense, but it’s been far from a linear path to this point, a story of addiction, rekindled inspiration and long lost family ties that we outlined in our interview with a few weeks ago. Last night, Letta took to the decks at the Coyote Boiler Room in London (still looping to our knowledge), sharing the stage with Last Japan, AJ Tracey and more and strutting Testimony and other material on his biggest stage yet. And while a record like Testimony isn’t exactly the banging club record that most Boiler Room audiences prefer, it fit seamlessly with performances from the rest of the Coyote roster, belying Letta’s status as a consummate outsider and snuffing out any doubts as to why he has been brought in for the label’s first full length release.
Listening to Letta’s Astral Plane mix a few days before his departure for the London, it becomes clear that his love for outsider music, whether that be Gang of Four or Mr. Mitch, seems to mesh easily with the weirder strains of modern rap and R&B. It’s not ever day that Ciara and Akira or Loom and D-Lo sit side by side, but through his own bootlegs and a few additions from Purple Tape Pedigree’s own Geng, the mix seems to come together with a somewhat jarring cinematic grace, topped off with well chosen and well placed dialogue snippets from The Wire. It shows off a more mischievous side of Letta’s repertoire as well, seen in his past bootleg work and hidden just below the surface throughout Testimony. This is most apparent in the way he works banger/big room quality vocal work over decidedly introspective beat work, drawing out qualities in both components that might otherwise have lied dormant. Letta will be hitting a good deal of radio while he’s in London so be on the lookout for those announcements and don’t forget to pre-order Testimony (out October 7)!
It’s another blistering day as Letta and I sit outside the Arts District warehouse he’s currently staying at. Los Angeles’ famed beat scene is the topic of conversation, or, more accurately, the lack of recent innovation in Los Angeles’ beat scene. “I can’t fuck with anymore 404 drum machines or those god damn jazzy seventh chords that sound like Nintendo. How long can you do that?” Hailing from the Northwest, Tony Nicoletta has followed a roundabout path to his current location, a path rife with internal struggle, addiction and violence. Letta is also sick of the deluge of kids following outfits like Team Supreme and Soulection. “If I were that positive I would be married and be a real estate agent and have a huge house. All this shit that makes LA seem so laid back and peaceful gets to me.”
With his debut Testimony LP out on October 9, Letta has a lot on his mind and while LA’s hoards of teenage trap DJs are a drag, the album’s background soon takes over the conversation. “I did the hip hop thing for a really long time. Always slower than the boom bap-y stuff, more on a Portishead tip. I was always making shit at 65-70 BPM. I just sampled shit for years.” The conversation takes a detour to the tragic passing of legendary Brownsville rapper Sean P, one of Letta’s favorite MCs and an immensely relatable figure. Nonetheless, Nicoletta later laments that “words are dead” and, at least for now, he’s working almost entirely with the instrumental format, blending the occasional sample into the mix but largely letting his pensive, harmonically thorough productions shine on their own.
Letta first came across grime in the early 2000s, initially attracted by the sparse arrangements and dark minimalism of Wiley, Ruff Sqwad and Tinchy Strider. The MCs reminded him of East Coast rap’s rougher streak, the cold, no-fucks-given attitude that would also attract him to Portishead and Gang of Four. In fact, Letta’s dad was in several Seattle and Bellingham-based synth pop bands, an uneven (but unsurprising) musical lineage that included the passing down of an Ensoniq ESQ-1. Years later, after a long stint in a methadone clinic, Letta would utilize a Casio-101 to begin to realize the sound found throughout Testimony, a cavernous blend of twisting, heart-wrenching synth lines and punchy drum programming loosely based in classic grime, but more akin to the style pumped out by other Coyote artists like Spokes and Last Japan, as well as much of Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper roster.
Hit the jump to read the full Letta feature interview…