Joseph Salazar: “The Main Sequence”

Here we are, y’all. It’s the final Song of the Day for 2023. We’ll be off starting tomorrow through New Year’s Day but picking up with some promising new music on Tuesday, January 2nd. With that piece of business out of the way, today we’re wrapping up the year with just one more premiere.

It comes courtesy of Austin songwriter Joseph Salazar, who on top of composing for short films and video games like the acclaimed Halo Infinite, has also carried his weight in the Live Music Capital with projects like Technicolor Hearts, The Cosmic Hour, Eternal Time & Space, and previous Song of the Day feature Dream 2 Dream. In a solo setting, Joseph Salazar’s proficiency on synthesizers, drum programming, and DAW production has been heard on the hypnotic instrumentals he’s sporadically shared since 2016. Listening through those selections, really hints at why Salazar’s style is a perfect fit for soundtracks; in light of an infinity-obsessed ethos that seeds rolling arrangements, Salazar’s chords and melodies remain unbusy without being idle; instead they provide plenty of space to occupy with thoughts, be they about blasting aliens, reflecting on life, or just making breakfast and preparing for your day.

Well with the clock quickly ticking away on 2023, this morning Joseph Salazar turned in his sole single of the year and first since last September’s “By This River”. While “The Main Sequence” sports the same kind of tones we’ve come to expect from Salazar, the inclusion of Megafauna guitarist Dani Neff and Dream 2 Dream bassist Mando Lopez really uplift it into a multi-chef-blessed baton-toss of winter recuperation. So let the kick drum complement your heartbeat, the bass replace your pulse, the synth’s mod wheel bend your senses, and the effects-swept guitar guide you through this climbing three-and-a-half-minute meditation.

Little Jungles: “Happy In Our Winter”

Finding time to perfect your craft as an adult can already be challenging enough. But becoming a husband and father of two? Talk about cutting down on your ability to monkey around in the studio. At least that’s the experience of Kelowna producer-songwriter Michael Niemann, better known by his creative handle Little Jungles. Little Jungles first crept out of the bush in 2011 with Wuts Goin Thru Yer Head, a debut that caught ears and earned acclaim thanks to Niemann’s electro-meets-shoegaze bedroom-style indie sound. Unfortunately in the aftermath, wut began going through Niemann’s head alongside the praise was enough pressure in place for a survival of the fittest mindset. But his amygdala didn’t fight or fly; it froze. The anxiety of achieving a worthy follow-up caused Little Jungles to overanalyze his originals, and as such, last summer’s I Would Kill For Some Sunlight LP came out with basically no promotion. Now that he’s a family man with shifted priorities, Niemann’s taken on a new approach; strike when the inspiration hits, knock out what you can whenever you can, and rather than give yourself the unlimited options to “fix it in post”, track it all to tape. And after six long years of careful home and vacant business recordings, we finally heard the proof of that concept just last Friday with LOOM. Like the title suggests, LOOM finds Little Jungle’s artistic vision once again naturally interlaced with the other threads of life, and the dedication to tape goes a long way. Hear for yourself with the jangling guitar riffs, unprocessed drum sounds, and delightfully lackadaisical vocal harmonies that are sure to lift your spirits, (no matter the reason or season) on “Happy In Our Winter”.

Nihiloxica: “Asidi”

What happens when you aggressive UK bass collides with testosterone-driven Bugandan percussion? Nothing quiet, that’s for sure. That specific combo of acoustic and electronic, of modern and traditional first came about with the formation of Nihiloxica half a decade back, when UK producers Spooky-J and pq linked up with Nilotika Cultural Ensemble members Isa, Sally, Prince, and Spyda in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala.

Owing their handle to a Nile river source in Kampala, Nihiloxica’s sound also captures a stream of consciousness between Bantu and English, and takes inspiration from the regressive attitudes and institutionalized discrimination that so often plague those cross-continental conversations. But as heard on Nihiloxica’s 2017 eponymous EP, its 2019 follow-up Biiri, and their 2020 debut full-length Kaloli, lyrics simply don’t channel that impassioned outrage as well as extreme electronic techniques and an undying drive of drums.

Early last year, Nihiloxica returned to their early Nyege Nyege Studio stomping grounds in Kampala to track their sophomore LP Source of Denial in a rigorous one-month period. The result is an absolutely insane instrumental excursion over eleven outrageous, genre-bending originals. Source of Denial brings an awful lot of bass to the bureaucracy and powerful percussion to UK foreign policy, and as hinted by their near-illegible album artwork, some really cool interjections of metal into Nihiloxica’s formulas. And while themes of racism, xenophobia, and international classism might escape surface-level listeners, that subtext is critical to Source of Denial‘s immense artistic statement. So before Source of Denial hits streaming on Friday, enter Nihiloxica’s next chapter of unconventional-but-necessary, mad scientist-level innovation and techno-entrancement on “Asidi”.

Komorebi: “The Fall”

Although DJ Shadow turned trip-hop instrumentals into an American institution at the tail end of the ’90s, we can’t overlook the influence of pioneering English artists like Massive Attack, Portishead, and Sneaker Pimps earlier in the decade. Their unique placement of feminine falsettos over seductive, sample-and-synth-heavy soundscapes still inspires acts today, not just in the UK, but to far reaches of the former British Empire. We’re not actually going to argue for bygone colonial influence, but that thread did occur upon hearing some fresh stuff from New Delhi singer Tarana Marwah, better known as Komorebi. This brilliantly bizarre producer-songwriter wowed with her 45-minute Fall 2017 debut full-length Soliloquy before swinging through SXSW in 2019 and 2022. Marwah recaptures magic from Björk and Radiohead to Imogen Heap and GORILLAZ with a near-indescribable Eastern twist and an undying ability to wow (both solo or with one of her frequent collaborators). And speaking of teaming up, Komorebi actually worked with Austin’s own Chicken Ranch Records for her sophomore LP The Fall. Well, despite the summer temps, this morning The Fall finally arrived. Half solo, half group effort (including frequent confederate Blackstratblues and some incredible arrangements), The Fall is a narrative festival for the ears that demands to be heard front to back. In doing so, the trickling of trip-hop (on tracks “I Grew Up”, “The Fall”, and “Tangled And Familiar”) when paired with their less percussion-laden counterparts really helps with the pace, impact, and emotional dynamics of the album. From the aural eclecticism that reveals itself, it’s clear that Komorebi’s fervent, unfenced formulas are far from fizzling out. But if genre formulas are what you’re after this Friday, start your weekend off right with the potent Portishead-esque title track that’ll transport you straight back to the days of Dummy. Slay, Komorebi. Slay.

Ekiti Sound: “Mami Wata”

The Nigeria-UK connection has given us some of the greatest musical talents of modern music; while Shirley Bassey and Sade became more of national symbols, legendary performers ranging from Seal to grime icons like Skepta and Dizzee Rascal alongside modern innovators like Little Simz, and Obongjayar have really upheld London’s reputation as an incomparable centerpiece of cultural crossroads. But of course, they’re not the only ones.

For instance, there’s also Leke Awoyinka, better known by his creative handle Ekiti Sound. Stemming from a childhood split between Lagos and Essex, this producer-vocalist just launched his eponymous “Ekiti Sound Show” on Hot FM Lagos – which as of now is the sole electronic music specialty show on Nigerian terrestrial radio. Ekiti Sound’s own style also reflects those cross-country pollinations with electronic-anchored junctions of Afro-juju, Afro-pop, the foggy UK mish-mash jungle/DnB/dubstep, as well as turn-of-the-millennium hip-hop, and Caribbean dancehall. Ekiti Sound first caught ears internationally with his bold foray into Afro-fusion on 2019’s Abeg No Vex, a near-hour-long full-length that lent itself to critical acclaim and a remix EP the following year – Ekiti Sound’s final pre-pandemic studio output.

Friday after next, Ekiti Sound drops his long-anticipated sophomore LP Drum Money. On top of circulating a much-needed fresh batch of percussive currency, Drum Money and its immense seventeen-song track live up to Ekiti Sound’s legacy of bridging the globe’s very best sounds through unorthodox yet accessible originals. For Westerners, it’s nothing short of exotic. For Awoyinka though, it’s just another passage through the transcontinental pipeline that is life between London and Lagos. And although Drum Money lacks some of the explicitly UK-derived grit of Abeg No Vex, it compensates with semi-placeless arrangements, somehow steeped in specific Nigerian regional soundscapes yet simultaneously fitting for party playlists across the globe. Hear for yourself on one of Drum Money‘s more subdued offerings, which follows “Chairman” from this past March. With a grime-inspired stop-and-start 808 beat, a vibrant blend of traditional and digital instruments, and truly untethered vocals, “Mami Wata” perfectly encapsulates Ekiti Sound’s worldly eclecticism and borderless genius in just over four minutes.

Janson Sommers: “Neon God”

Have you ever met an artist that has a bunch of wacky-sounding projects under their belt, only to discover that their eponymous material is the real off-the-wall stuff? Well that’s exactly what you get with Janson Sommers, who temporarily shelved his indie rock band Futon Blonde at the onset of COVID and released an electronic EP last summer under the moniker Dad Boy. But in the short time since then, Sommers has perfected his production techniques and re-surfaced once again as a sleek synth-savant.

So far, all three of Janson’s self-titled singles pack batshit beats and bass, not to mention an eloquent sense of melody and structure. The latest one finds Janson Sommers weaning off lyrics for a strictly instrumental venture, so if you’re in need of a new addition to your workout playlist or just want a two-minute respite from the real world, all you gotta do is approach the primordial altar and offer yourself to the “Neon God”.

Texas Standard: March 22, 2022

Tornados, damaging winds and hail wreak destruction across Texas. Several state agencies still responding to storm damage in north and central Texas and tens of thousands are reported without power. We’ll have the latest on the weather front. Also, the head of investigations for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services resigns as questions mount over allegations of sexual exploitation at a shelter in Bastrop. Plus efforts to secure the return of a Houston native and WNBA star now held in Russia. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Kasai Allstars: “Betrayal By Gossip”

With membership landing anywhere between fifteen and two dozen, Congolese collective Kasai Allstars is nothing short of spectacular; truly a sight and sound to behold. The Allstars represent five different ethnic groups originating in their namesake DRC region, and much like the diversity of their players, Kasai’s music takes cues from a wide range of sources, be it traditional spirituals or modern electronic.

Thirteen years after their 2008 debut In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic, Kasai Allstars has unleashed another mouthful, Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound. The twelve-song LP dropped last Friday and you can settle back into the work week with the patio-appropriate “Betrayal By Gossip”!

Dawn Richard: “Bussifame”

Most amateur armchair psychologists can recognize a Type-A personality out in the wild, and even when she isn’t directly in the spotlight, it’s still hard to miss New Orleans native Dawn Richard. Her impressive list of extracurriculars have included being a martial arts instructor, owner of a vegan food truck, animator for Adult Swim, and cheerleader for the New Orleans Hornets, all of which have co-existed with Richard’s ascension to pop superstardom.

Dawn Richard’s upcoming LP Second Line picks up where Beyonce’s Lemonade left off, with her own message of empowerment for Black women in the South and beyond, placing considerably more emphasis on women producers than previous endeavors. The narrative-heavy, character driven concept album drops on Friday but you can get a head start on learning your new favorite dance moves today with “Bussifame”!

IKOQWE: “Bulubulu”

In the realms of both hip-hop and electronic, there’s always strength in numbers, even when that number is a mere two. Enter Angola new wave producer Batida and Angola rapper/activist Ikonoklasta, whose shared offbeat, on-tempo energy has made their duo IKOQWE a powerhouse.

Inspired equally by Angolan traditional music as by golden age hip-hop, IKOQWE dropped their debut LP, The Beginning, The Medium, The End and The Infinite, last Friday, combining retro drum programming with striking new sounds, all meshed together across a handful of languages and daring messages. This record is weird as heck but a lot of fun and frankly, just really good; hear for yourself on The Beginning‘s sophomore song, “Bulubulu”!

Texas Standard: June 4, 2020

A Texas police chief’s tactic for defusing tensions between demonstrators and police: join the march. As demonstrators continue protests over police tactics, Houston’s police chief talks why he’s joining demonstrators in the streets, and what he’s hearing from protesters. Also whether curfews are working to curb violence in San Antonio. Plus, despite a need for more contact tracing to combat COVID-19, why Texas is declining to use a smartphone solution. And listener questions on COVID-19 and much more today on the Texas Standard:

This Song: GRiZ on Disney’s “Fantasia”

Grant Richard Kwiecinski, who goes by GRiZ, is a producer and multi-instrumentalist who combines electronic music with funk and soul to create a sound that is as uplifting as it is danceable.

Listen as GRiZ describes how seeing Disney’s “Fanstasia”as a child helped him understand that music could take the listener on an emotional journey and how that experience ultimately led to his  interest in making music on the computer. Then listen as he explains why he wanted to explore his own complex emotional journey on his latest record “Ride Waves.”

Listen to this episode of This Song

Listen to GRiZ’s new album Ride Waves

Check out GRiZ’s Tour Dates

Listen to Songs from this episode of This Song

Texas Standard: December 20, 2018

Will this be the legislative session that fixes the way Texas funds public schools? We’ll explore new recommendations. And speaking of the legislative session, there are new bills filed. We ask lawmakers why certain bills are near and dear to their hearts. We also say goodbye to members of the Texas delegation in Washington. And ’tis the season to go shopping, and get a discount: we’ll tell you how. All of that and more today on the Texas Standard: