New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Kahron Spearman, Laiken Neumann, Kevin Curtin, Michael Toland, Greg Stitt, Tim Stegall, and Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 12, 2021
BoomBaptist, Elaquent, Juicy the Emissary
Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify
The sentimental and effective Komfort Food features a skilled producer/beat-making trinity – BoomBaptist, Elaquent, and Juicy the Emissary – taking on the perilous yeoman's work of reimagining the high art of hip-hop deity J Dilla. The former (Austin's Andrew Thaggard) conceived the hilarious pseudo-marketing campaign as an extension of the concept behind Donuts, their inspiration's curtain-closing 2006 masterpiece.
"We conceptualized Komfort Food as if we were opening a donut shop," explains Thaggard. "The last year put a pretty major halt in our momentum. If you see the promotion all the way up to release, it's envisioned as a career pivot, which is ironically what all of us had to do after COVID."
The artificial model for Komfort Food is a "three-city franchise" in Austin, Dallas, and Toronto, where the trio asks people to "invest in their own Komfort," as a necessary proxy for "support local musicians" notions. Detroit's late James Dewitt Yancey, Feb. 7, 1974 – Feb. 10, 2006, haunts their grooves.
"All three of us are super influenced by [Dilla's] work and wanted to celebrate him in February while making the tunes in our own styles," agrees Thaggard.
As BoomBaptist, his "Toucan Wing" plays on Dilla's "Two Can Win," and refigures application of the Sylvers' "Only One Can Win" into a winding and bouncy wooze. Elaquent (Ontario's Sona Elango) contributes a version of "The Official" that's delicate, in-the-clouds, contrasting the original's grit and filthy bassline.
One of the more anticipated tracks based on name value alone is an eponymous consideration of De La Soul's classic "Stakes Is High" by Juicy (Denton's Frank Ponecall). Reliant on a looser chop from other sections of Ahmad Jamal's jazz fusion tome "Swahililand," the producer applies a new, more structured punch onto the baseline. This slight, predictable starching is a broad quibble in an otherwise standout collection.
Re-creation of Dilla's uncanny ability to manipulate soul sushi, grooves, and crunchy kicks into pliant collages isn't possible, nor desired. Yet Komfort Food is incredible fan service, accomplishing the nearly impossible: paying homage while remitting distinction within the same vein. – Kahron Spearman
Indoor Creature, "American Dream"
Coasting its usual honey sweet dream-pop, Indoor Creature's latest single pokes fun at the one-percent. Smooth percussion and subtle chorus of "la-la-la" drive "American Dream" with the luxe of a private jet, while a trumpet swings it up into the air. Amidst this sonic exuberance, the first release from the band's upcoming third album, Living in Darkness, is both a recreation and a warning. Lead vocalist Caleb Fleischer embodies a greedy capitalist ("So what if there's ethics standing in my way?") whose justifications of wealth are so bloated with delusions that they drip with underlying guilt. He works hard for his billions! Expanding on the wit that the jazz-leaning indie-pop sixpiece exhibited on earlier tracks like "Ode to Boone," the single preambles their Darkness with a satirical, yacht rock attitude. – Laiken Neumann
Big Wy's Brass Band, "Pillow Talk"
At first, the stone cold bass groove that opens "Pillow Talk" feigns the same flavor of fat beats and funked-out NOLA jazz Big Wy's Brass Band strutted on 2019's Lord Dope EP. Then, the track slides into sensual new territory for the local horn crew: yacht rock. The group's titular frontman, Wyatt Corder (son of Chronicle Senior Account Executive Jerald Corder) first hints the cut's swooning nine-note refrain on a slinky Stratocaster before horns bring the refrain to full girth. Highlighted by solos – Justin Dunlap's nasty trombone dalliance and Marcus Cardwell's silky tenor sax – "Pillow Talk" attains a distinctly smooth feel for the group, still lively and propulsive, but also eliciting rose-pink synesthesia. – Kevin Curtin
Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube
An "interrobang" combines the inquisition of a question mark and the exclamatory function of an exclamation point ("‽"). It also titles a neo-brass octet from Austin. Veterans of Honk!TX, Interrobang the band launches new single "Roux," after the sauce thickener used in gumbo. What makes the song interesting is its lack of traditional brass band theatrics. Instead, the soulful groove comes courtesy of bass, piano, and what sounds like a full drum kit, the horns assaying a smooth, R&B-style melody in unison, as brief solos occur at proper intervals. Closer to Grover Washington Jr. than the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "Roux" would fit in nicely on hipper smooth jazz stations, and it won't make your teeth hurt – Michael Toland
JU4N: Amor Fati
Outside of moonlighting on a 2018 live Akira rescore in the Switched On Ensemble for Lifted Traces, the recording of which swims in the belly of the Bandcamp beast, Juan Cisneros remains mostly dormant since Holodeck debuted his alias in 2013, all live performances in the Before Times notwithstanding. Title pulled from the Latin phrase translating to "love for one's fate," the Austinite details the digital release as "a personal form of resistance to the creative malaise of lockdown and the weight of seemingly endless social adversity." Both curious and playful, the eight-track spread of ambient New Age runs brisk and bright, albeit far too brief thus yielding instant repeat playback. – Greg Stitt
Delphine Coma: Tortuosa
Melding shoegaze effects, post-punk basslines, and vocals harking preeminent darkwaver Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy, Austin duo Delphine Coma quietly released sophomore bow Tortuosa on mainland Europe's Swiss Dark Nights imprint last Halloween. Both longtime locals, Ashe Rüppe and Lizzbeth Tamburri boast decades of history in goth-forward groups based out of Portland and Houston, respectively. Fleshed out with nine original cuts, plus a cover of Glorious Din's "Arrival" from the Bay Areans' 1985 debut featuring vocals from songsmith Eric Cope, the album as a whole creates a consistently textured and lightly foreboding presence without ever sacrificing a great sense of rhythm throughout. Get a vinyl copy direct from the band while you can. – Greg Stitt
Nice Surprise: "I'm Old" b/w "Nice Surprise"
Nothin' to do, nowhere to go-oh, only neither Ian MacDougall nor Stuart Sikes wanted to be sedated by lockdown. When not producing the recent User Unauthorized EP ("ear-blistering hardcore"), the latter studio wiz and his Riverboat Gamblers guitarist/Black Gold cohort made music partly to break in Sikes' new studio compound. The two-song result, with the producer drumming and recording and MacDougall doing everything else, rocks harder than a concrete floor. Catchier than the Buzzcocks with influenza, fuzzier than your dryer's lint trap after washing towels, garage-ier than your oil-and-coolant-stained carport, Nice Surprise – the band and the song – checks off a lot of boxes. As does the A-side, "I'm Old." Going by the rich sonic pleasures demonstrated here, these two should get bored more often. – Tim Stegall
Dylan Blackthorn, "Candlelight"
Accordionist Dylan Blackthorn delivers last rites to planet Earth with "Candlelight," a post-apocalyptic love song where he serenades the end of the word with "book, a bell, and a candle burning." Marked by serenely strummed ukulele and dancing clarinet, the single finds strange comfort in armageddon and eternity in the stars. A California cartomancer who moved to Austin in the Aughts while squeezing and singing in the vaudevillian touring act the 999 Eyes Freakshow & Surreal Sideshow, Blackthorn upholds deep-rooted klezmer traditions with Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour. His first solo long-player, April's Small Flames features appearances from Bad Livers' Mark Rubin and Squirrel Nut Zippers' Dr. Sick amongst gusts of mystical folk and psychedelic blues. – Kevin Curtin
Cari Hutson: Salvation & Soul Restoration
Salvation & Soul Restoration delivers on the EP's title, Cari Hutson's scorching vocals ripping in a cathartic and empowering surge. "Take the Day" swells triumphant to lead the five tracks, building from a broken plea to emphatic determination, while "My Breath" burns bluesy behind husband Hunter St. Marie's guitar. "Stand Up" likewise roots out funky grooves ahead of blistering closer "Blame." The emotional core circles centerpiece "The Rescue," written in the wake of her mother's death and capturing the struggling realities of facing addiction in those you love. Hutson gives the EP a livestream release from the Saxon Pub this Friday at 9pm. – Doug Freeman
Curtis McMurtry: Toothless Messiah
Curtis McMurtry's third long-player would likely play much differently had the 2020 election turned out otherwise, yet the political invective of Toothless Messiah resonates no matter who holds office. Spoken word intro, "1/27/17" sets the scene against a thunderstorming soundtrack, asking "How are you adjusting to the new regime?" McMurtry deploys biting critique across the political spectrum, from would-be tyrants and sycophants ("Around My Neck," "Praise Caesar") to hollow-promising reformers and shallow resistors ("Food on the Table," "Lion on a Leash"). Tension swells in the singer's sanguine tenor and the provocative, jazzy arrangements loping playfully behind the songwriter's plucking banjolele and Diana Burgess' cello. Horns from Daniel Fears, Roy Thomas, and Sterling Steffen then punctuate emphatically as they whirl into brass maelstroms. The frustrations of "The Calvary is Here" still gives way to pushing forward, setting aside "Dinosaurs" to acknowledge, as he declares in "You Need Me to Betray You," that, "My teachers taught me not to trust my teachers." – Doug Freeman