Interviews

vibeVibe Boutique Records/Love2Lounge

For my first residents corner blog spot here on our swanky new website I thought I’d spotlight a new label, going by the name Vibe Boutique Records along with the somewhat more established label, Love2Lounge.

Now, as it happens I do love to troll the pages of MySpace occasionally, there’s some great talent there for the finding, and it was on a recent foray into the “Space” that I came across Vibe Boutique Records. A new label out of NYC specializing in downtempo-lounge Nu-Jazz and Deep House. The default song sounded cool so I let the player do it’s thing and listened to all the tracks while making breakfast one afternoon (yeah I’m a late riser, what can I say!). I discovered a treasure trove of cool chilled out grooves which upon further digging led to some very talented acts along with another downtempo label, Love2Lounge, which I’ll get to later in this blog. It’s always a great thrill when you discover a new source of hitherto undiscovered talent, in this case some new downtempo chill to enjoy, and of course feature in my mixed and live sets.

So I emailed Brigetta, Vibe Boutique’s A&R Manager, who turned out to be super friendly and approachable, and got a little more info on what the company is all about. It turns out that Vibe Boutique Records is Alessandro Oliviero and Brigetta Dunson, two good friends who came to find each other through their music. Alessandro has been producing, writing, and recording for years under the Monodeluxe moniker and Brigetta is the driving force behind The Bria Project compilations. Joining forces to create Vibe Boutique Records, they can now offer the listener a smorgasbord of artists and releases to satisfy their musical palette. From Nu-Jazz, Chill, Lounge, Deep and Soulful House to Jazzy Hip Hop and Neo Soul, Vibe Boutique is set to offer a varied selection of releases in the coming months that is sure to bring delight to all who have chance to hear the great artists who create them. Focusing on scintillating vibes and chilled beats, I’m sure Vibe Boutique will expand the horizons of the listener, presenting creations from artists from around the world.

L2L Digging in a little deeper I discovered the equally chilled out, downtempo-lounge label, Love2Lounge, based in Marbella, and also featuring the production talents of Monodeluxe’s Alessandro Oliviero. Love2Lounge began life in 2005 spinning live sets at lounge residencies in some of Europe’s most exclusive lounge and beach clubs like Nikki Beach, Suite del Mar and Marbella Club. It quickly became apparent that true creative freedom could only be achieved by starting their own label, and so that’s exactly what they did!

Their mission: “To release quality music from a diverse roster of up and coming artists”.

So the A&R team at Love2Lounge ensures the mix of established producers and fresh talent keeps the label right at the cutting edge of the lounge scene. With productions from the likes of Boulevard, Nu Grooves, Gottafunk and Monodeluxe combined with some high calibre remixes, Love2Lounge is fast establishing itself as an up and coming label to look out for.

I’ll be featuring some of what Vibe Boutique and Love2Lounge has to offer in the coming weeks on Below Zero. In the meantime if you’d like a sneak peak at what’s going down at Vibe Boutique HQ, check out their Website and MySpace page...

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We had a chance to catch up with Curt Smith live at the Standard in West Hollywood.  Every Tuesday during the month of October 2008 Curt put on an amazing live performance.

It was very personal and felt like you were in his living room getting a private preview of his new release, "Halfway, Pleased".

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We strongly recommend if you were a Tears for Fears fan to pick up this release.  As a solo artist Curt reaches deep into his own life and delivers with very mood setting and wonderful melody.

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Mason Rothert & Curt Smith

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Red Broad & Curt Smith

EmzyCollins2Emzy Collins

I have always been about doing things yourself in this world and relying on the people around you to support and lend their skills...  case in point Below Zero.  My post this time is by someone who reminds me of the very core belief I have in regards to music and the love for it.  Do it simply because it is who you are with no expectations.

Before Below Zero I was one of the co-founders of the underground collective known as Thump Radio which heavily focused on the sounds of the psychedelic trance world.  Through a mutual friend Isaih Titus, who reached out to us.  He was working with Vibrasphere, a band that had played for Thump Radio, and this is how I came across Emzy Collins.

I was given a few tracks after meeting up with Isaih, mainly for Vibrasphere, but there were a few others in there as well.  What I didn't realize was that they were in my box until weeks.  By the time I got around to listening to them I didn't know who it was or where it came from!

Iit took a weekend back in San Francisco with Sinukus who just happened to say, "hey have you checked out the music by Emzy yet from Isaih?"  The very next week when I was working on the next Below Zero show I premiered the track, "Feel Your Love" which to me had all the right moves in it for chill.  It had an atmospheric background, some light percussion and the rest was piano filled with a sad voice.  I played "Feel Your Love" on the show for weeks and then did short feature.  Since then I have had the pleasure of getting to know Emzy, and he is as real and kind as it gets.

He hails from the west-side of the state of Michigan and moved to the Detroit area to attend school at the University of Detroit.  He has been there for over 5 years and the Motor City's diverse culture has made a big difference in his life.

Emzy has always played a lot of instruments but he started as a concert pianist.  He has developed his songwriting skills from his life experiences and loves all types of music.  If you were able to grab his iPod and put it on shuffle you would hear DJ Shadow, Nine Inch Nails and Ray Charles.

His EP is where it all started for him, he was simply a musician before the launch of the EP.  He had a ton of melodies written but no lyrics to go along with any of them.  It took a heartbreak from a long term relationship to help him find the words to his music.  "Nothing Yet" is a black and white color choice for the EP because of the feeling of grey.  He didn't want to send out a simple demo but wanted to put something together that was about him and where he was at this time in his life.  For him, demo is such a boring statement.  He didn't want to walk around and say "check out my demo", since he hadn't done anything prior the title "Nothing Yet" which seemed the perfect choice.

Emzy plays primarily in the Detroit area but did play a few shows down south.  It is hard for him to tour as it's on his own dime completely... so if anyone wants to help or book him he is willing and ready!  His music is made so that when he plays out live he doesn't have to hide behind anything and keeps it pure.

The latest release, "Moving Time" is his best work to date and when I asked him the meaning he said, "I don't like to talk about meaning of my songs because to some people it may mean one thing than to another, everyone sees/hears their own message.  I like to keep it like that."  This song was one of the first he brought someone in to work with him.  Andy Ross helped produce and structure the track adding a bass line and drums.

Currently Emzy is working in his studio on his music, we hope to one day bring him out west.  When I asked him what he thinks is the definition of chill he said, "Well to relax - but you can relax to upbeat music it doesn't just have to be super slow or ambient.  When I think of the chill out scene, I close my eyes while my fountain is going in my room and turn the music up and just relax, to me that is chill."

CityReverbCity Reverb

As a self-described connoisseur of down-tempo music for well over a decade now, I am used to seeing Chris Coco's name pop up all over the place. He is well-known for DJ'ing both dance and chillout sessions in Ibiza and beyond, and even more so as a remixer on any number of chill compilations. The list of tracks Coco has remixed over years is extensive, but two that I come back to over and over are Afterlife's “Home” from their 2006 release “The Afterlife Lounge” and his rework (with Rob da Bank) of last year's “Sunshine Philosophy” by Future Loop Foundation.

Moving above and beyond his artistry in remixing other folk's tracks, Coco (aka Chris Mellor) released his own album “Heavy Mellow” in 2005. Beautifully written, produced and mastered, “Mellow” became an overnight hit with people like me who swoon over majestic pads, ambient strings, smooth vocals and chunky basslines. If you haven't heard it, grab the CD but wait and listen when you're feeling mellow, perhaps even slightly hungover, on a Sunday morning—preferably not alone.

Chris has now tacked a different direction as producer, singer and guitarist with his new band City Reverb. City Reverb's first album “Lost City Folk” is due out in September 2008 and features 12 tracks that merge Coco's early work in gritty acid jazz with the smoother sounds from his past decade. The band also features Micky Bucherri (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Nick Cornu (guitar, keyboard and apparently anything else he can get his hands on.)

On "Lost City Folk" you can definitely detect the influence of musicians that informed Coco's early career—New Order and Kraftwerk in particular. Some of the tracks remind me of Wings-era McCartney, before he gave up rock-and-roll for pure pop. The album fuses electronic music with live elements that work to create an atmospheric sound Coco calls “Robot Soul”. There are layers upon layers of otherworldly backup vocals, superb guitar work, electrifying build-ups and this being Chris Coco, ass-kicking basslines.

This album is intentionally less refined than Coco's earlier work and the title “Lost City Folk” sets the stage for what you'll hear. There are several ballads about the burned-out, drugged up, lost cause-types that you'll find in any city. But the best songs on the album are the more uplifting tracks, in particular “City of Lights” of which remixes are already in the works by Reverso 68, Beards of Paradise and Dr. Strangelove.

The album opens beautifully with “Everything Will Be Alright”, a track in which I detected a channeling of Neil Young's voice—not perfect, but perfectly moving. Further along, “Central Heating” is 80's New Wave-inspired pop with a hook that will be playing in your head for days and a guitar riff that will set your toes tapping whether you want them to or not. Among the ballads, the one that best reflects the grittiness conjured in the album title is “Ghetto Glamour”, a love song about a down-on-their-luck urban couple dreaming of the unattainable riches locked behind shop windows.

“Time Side On” is another smooth rock number that self-referentially claims that “soon this song will break your heart”. The only thing I love more than chilled rock is self-referential art, so this one is a winner in my book. And I couldn't help but love “Hedonist” with its updated New Wave sound and lyrics about East End hedonists meeting West End hedonists. As an American with limited London time under my belt, I can't help but hear the Pet Shop Boys in those words, but this tune is edgier, grittier and darker than the hit by those other British blokes.

On the final track, “Drinking Song” (the most minimalist of the lot), Coco sings that “you're bound to win because I'm born to lose”. Fitting lyrics for “Lost City Folk” but pure fiction: Chris Coco is anything but a loser, and you've hit a winning number if you pick this album up. I'm looking forward to hearing more from City Reverb and any project Coco gets his hands on.

soundsfromundergroundSounds From the Ground are Elliot Morgan Jones and Nick Woolfson.  Over the last 15 years, these two have mastered serious down beat electronica that infuses sounds of so many genre.  From hip hop to dub to jazz, SFTG takes the best elements of these different styles to create something singular and of their own.  They continue to remain consistent and true in their creations from their first release Kin to last year's, Brightwhitelight.  Slackline Radio was fortunate enough to chat with SFTG and find out a little about the men behind the sound.

Slackline Radio: Where do we find you two today and what in life is occupying your time at the moment?

Nick Woolfson: We are currently working on a new SFTG album consisting of rare and unreleased material stretching back from our 1st album to our latest album. It is called 'Thru The Ages'. We have just set up a digital distribution deal and are planning to release this album on our own label, Upstream Records digitally.

Elliot Jones: We've just finished the final touches to our next release " thru the ages", the sun is shining and the weekend approaches...

Slackline Radio: Tell us a little about your history.  How did each of you come to realize your appreciate in the same style of downbeat music that lead to the creation of SFTG?

Nick Woolfson: I think we have come from different musical directions but have similar tastes. I enjoy lots of different styles of music as long as it is innovative and good quality and downtempo is my comfort zone. I don't really know why it worked out with Elliot, but he turned up at my studio one day with the bare bones of Triangle and we just clicked. Over time we have had our ups and downs but musically it has always been good and writing has never been a problem. Now, 15 years down the line we have a clear
understanding of each other and what works for us and we are still wanting to write and embrace new technology and ideas.

Elliot Jones: My background is chillout and dub, from running my own label and doing clubs and gatherings in the early nineties. I had written "triangle" as a demo and was introduced to nick, our styles matched and the rest, as they say is history.

Slackline Radio: The evolution of SFTG has progressed from the early days of the Kin release.  What do you feel is different about your most recent release from last year, BrightWhiteLight?

Nick Woolfson: I am always adding new sounds, plugins and synths etc which keeps me interested and on my toes and I work with other writers on other projects when I'm not doing SFTG which means that I will always be in a different space when I start a new SFTG project. I always try and keep a clear understanding of our core essence musically ie deep bass and warmth with a broad 3 dimensional sound but I feel it is important to move on as well and I also need to enjoy what I am doing which, so far, I do.....

Elliot Jones: I feel although the technology has changed in the studio you can still hear elements of "Kin" in the latest album, we're still the same people, the sound keeps evolving.

Slackline Radio: How does each of enjoy taking breaks from music?

Nick Woolfson: I love my motorcycles and am always going out for fast blasts down country roads or going travelling whenever I can, weather and time permitting. I also go down to the gym and try and work of the weekends excesses and pretend its fun.

Elliot Jones: In between projects I like to get away, if possible. I've recently spent time in Ireland and in the past have enjoyed visiting New York, it's good to change your surroundings from time to time, it gives you a fresh perspective.

Slackline Radio: Tell us about some of the things in life outside of your music that bring each of you pleasure?

Nick Woolfson: Definitely food and entertaining..........holidays with the family and friends.........and fast bikes!!

Elliot Jones: Relaxing, I enjoy cooking, a brisk walk and catching up with friends.

Slackline Radio: Global warming or global cooling?

Nick Woolfson: Definitely global chilling.

Elliot Jones: Really?! I feel that's out of my hands, I'll let nature decide.

Slackline Radio: What do each of you find liberating about performing live at say The Big Chill and producing your music in the studio?

Nick Woolfson: We haven't done a live show for a few years now although Elliot does dj now and again. As for life in the studio, well....I am in there most of the time as my studio is at the bottom of my garden and I love the fact that I can go in with a blank canvas and come out with an album that I am proud of which gets played all over the world. That is a good feeling.

Elliot Jones: It's always good creating new tracks, it's something we both feel at ease with, playing new songs out is a buzz and although we haven't been at the big chill for some years now, we preview new material at thier in brick lane.

Slackline Radio: Do you have any big plans in 2009?  Will you be out on the road this year?

Nick Woolfson: See above. No plans to do any live shows although I would love to do some gigs in the US. I am looking forward to releasing our 'Thru The Ages' album and am planning to put a new experimental ambient project together with Elliot......maybe something with an emphasis on beatless soundscapes. Just thinking about it.

Elliot Jones: As i mentioned we have a compilation released soon, it'll be available via download. We'll host a night to celebrate the release. We'll be back in the studio recording new tracksfor the future, check our websites for updates.

Slackline Radio: The Ocean or the mountains?

Nick Woolfson: Mountains every time..........

Elliot Jones: That's a tough one, but I'd have to say the ocean, being a water sign.

Slackline Radio: I believe food tells us a lot about the individual.  Tell us what each of you may be eating and drinking tonight?

Nick Woolfson: Mmm, I love food of all kinds,  preferably washed down with a good bottle or 2 of quality French red.......and preferably eating and drinking outside with some good friends on a warm sunny evening.

Elliot Jones: It's a curry for me, and when that's done I'll be on the Guinness.

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