Sunday, May 29, 2011

Banging Beats from a Not-Too-Distant Future: Protocol

Protocol - Self-Titled

Soulful, instrumental performances and exacted, hip-hop production come together in the self-titled debut album from Kansas-based producer duo, Protocol. Riding the wave of the livetronica movement, DVST8 and Smalls have created a sound akin to that of Theivery Corporation, RJD2, and DJ Shadow. A concept album based 200 years in the future, this is the soundtrack to the adventures of one man in an intergalactic society plagued by authoritarianism. The details of this concept are slightly foggy, but the sound of the album could be straight out of a feature film based on a Philip K. Dick story. Blade Runner, anyone?

Austin "Smalls" Hanson is the mind behind the multi-textured guitar performances that give Protocol its leanings toward a post-apocalyptic, science fiction film score. Dark and calculated, Hanson's guitar licks evoke the spaghetti-western-in-space motif that carries the concept through the entirety of the album. Sometimes slowly building and sometimes immediately dominating, the guitar textures are varied but exactly what each beat needs to become elevated to more than a hip-hop composition. Smalls is also accompanied by the guitar work of guest performers Matt Stewart and Adam Stuber.

The tracks are all grounded by DVST8's beat programming and sample selections. The hip-hop beats bring a succinct finesse that emulates a soulful drummer. The atmosphere of this record benefits from the electronic production because it helps lend the overall sound to the futuristic vision of the Protocol concept. Further grounding this album in the hip-hop realm, DVST8 brings solid turntablism and scratching to the forefront of many of the guitar laden compositions.

The album opens with "pro_log," a groovy guitar progression that immediately reminds the listener of the world inspired tracks of Thievery Corporation. The beat drops as sampled saxophone rides in and creates a laid-back cut that will continue the narrative for the rest of the album. "Time_to_leave" begins to really tell the futuristic story of a space traveler. This is the track where our minds begin to go elsewhere and the artists invite us to escape our reality. The sound of Protocol really begins to shine. More than any other track on the album, "time_to_leave" sticks in your mind. This is the stand-out track of this self-titled debut.

"travel_money" carries the idea of a narrative, but it begins to show the weaknesses of a cinematic composition. The passiveness of this track makes one feel like they are watching a dialogue scene with no dialogue. Thankfully, "high_roller" picks the pace back up with a bass line worthy of Digital Underground and a chugging organ rhythm. Although, not the strongest songs, "travel_money" and "high_roller" offer the listener the first traces of a continuum amongst each of these tracks as chapters of a story. The titles are not explicitly linked, but the fact that they both play off of money as a theme give the listener a chance to fill in the details with their own imagination. I begin to imagine a Harrison Ford-esque character scrounging his way across the galaxy and getting mixed up in something much bigger than himself.

The space-western feel of this album really begins to take place in "a_fallen_country." One can easily imagine the character on the cover of the album traversing the red deserts of Mars to this track. Another one of the standout tracks on the album, the synth patches used here evoke the sound of Pretty Lights. The scratching and sampling of guitar licks keep this track fresh until the end. The title hints at a desolate home world ravaged by war. It feels like our character has been marooned without resources where his survival is risky at best.

The intergalactic setting of Protocol crystalizes in "formations." The name lends itself to the idea of many spaceships in flight and begins to take the listener away from the desolate planets of far off galaxies and into the complex lifestyle of outer space. A heavey, synth-bass line supports muted guitar rhythms and together create the foundation for the quirky rhodes melodies sprinkled throughout the track.

Vocoder by DVST8 and funky guitar wah from fellow Digiproach artists, BRAHE, make "prairie_dogs" one of the stankiest tracks on the album. The opening riffs create the feel of a character lurking through the alleys of a great future city. We hear turntablism come to the front of the mix on "process_of_assimilation" with DVST8's scratching used for stop and start record sampling as well as tight rhythmic soloing. "final_option" features a catchy guitar lick that could be mistaken for a sitar. The world rhythm of this leading lick is dominated by heavy distorted guitar chugs that pretty much kill the Theivery vibe that the track opens on. The buzzy bass-synth helps balance out the grime by giving the composition a future funk element.

Protocol begins to shine in a different way with "aftermath." This track is deep in the cut with reverberating claps, atmospheric guitar loops, and a synthetic violin effect that lays over most of the song. This is another short interlude piece that actually feels a little too short. If Protocol would continue to cultivate this erie, mysterious sound they create on "aftermath," they might really be on to something.

"regeneration_station" is one of the albums most electronic detours. Although still within the overall soundscape these producers are after, the track is dominated by choppy, synth textures and a repetitive dance beat. The song would work great as background music for a boss fight on Mega Man, but as a listening experience, it lacks some of the soul and gusto that the rest of the album musters.

Protocol presents some of their fattest beats in the final chapters with "the_new_hero" and "departure." The second to last track, "the_new_hero" seems to set the album up for a sequel. With an air of triumph, this could be the soundtrack for the hero of the story walking with his back turned to a giant explosion. Enemies vanquished, the new hero arises. "departure" is dominated by a heavy beat and an eerie vocal chorus that could easily be the music for the credits but also suggest a scene of deep space flight. The hero boards his ship and moves on to the next great adventure.

The sound of Protocol could easily be expanded upon by a live band yet still manages to bring the out the best of the studio production format. Producers, Smalls and DVST8, have crafted an intriguing concept album that shines in its moments of perfect execution such as "time_to_leave" and "final_option." The best of these tracks capitalize on the fusion of guitar work and beat production. With a supporting cast of electronic synths and textures, Protocol have flexed their compositional muscle while still keeping their individual fortes in the spotlight. The only low points of this album are when the music falls victim to its own concept. The musical compositions sometimes seem to take a backseat to the idea of a sci-fi narrative. If this were, in fact, the film score to a movie, then some the weaker tracks would play a more vital role in fleshing out the experience as a whole. But as a primarily musical experience, the album might have benefited from simply leaving minutes of some tracks on the cutting room floor. Regardless of this shortcoming, Protocol present a set of tight tracks that will find many fans among the beat culture. The artists have presented a debut album with an enormous amount of potential for follow-up releases that will continue to tell the story of this sci-fi soundscape.

Protocol is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby. You'll find it for the best price on Amazon at $8.99.

Be sure to listen for yourself below.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Latest Lotus Releases: Destroyer / Ridalin

"Destroyer" - Lotus

The new track from Lotus, "Destroyer," opens with lilting synths and glitchy clicks, creating the ambience on which a killer guitar groove is built. Just posted to their Bandcamp today as a free download, this track is a slight departure from the sound that Lotus has become known for as a jamtronica staple on the festival circuit. The electronic influences are far more subtle than on tracks like the simultaneous release "Ridalin." Lotus does a good job of crossing the festie fanbases by bouncing between happy-go-lucky, ten-minute jams and synthed-out, bass-heavy bangers.

If nothing else, Lotus always brings a danceable sound to their shows, but what drew me into "Destroyer" was the introspective nature of this guitar dominated composition. This is not so much a dance track or a jam, as it is a real rock song. The beat will move you, but it's more likely to make you head bang before it makes you shake your butt. "Destroyer" dances playfully around its arrangement, dipping occasionally back to the subtle groove that opens the song. Up until the final minute, the track slowly builds over the on-going electronic textures. The repeating peaks and valleys of the overlapping guitars carry the song through before its drops back into the more subtle atmosphere of the opening. The notes for this release read: "Lotus is able to encapsulate a small piece of their cathartic live shows on the studio version of Destroyer." This statement is never more true than in the final progression of the song. The beat drops to half time and the guitars wail one chord over each measure. Although short, this piece is poignant and evokes the most powerful emotional build and release heard on the whole track.

When the track wraps, it leaves me wanting to listen again.

Check it out for yourself below.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

74 Miles Away: Jazz and Future Beats

74 Miles Away - Self-Titled

Jazz and beats, a combination with an amazing amount of potential. Although not pushed to its fullest potential, experimental collaboration 74 Miles Away ambitiously explores this genre fusion. The self-titled release from this unexpected collaboration manages to literally ride the fence between the two genres it attempts to meld together. The release consists of four tracks performed by the Belgian Pierre Anckaert Trio and then the same four tracks reworked by Brussels producer duo Monkey Robot, featuring new vocal performances from Carina Andersson, Ahu Kelesoglu, and Miles Bonny. Although leaving itself widely more accessible to purist jazz fans and electronic dance hall goers independently, 74 Miles Away's choice to present these compositions independently may miss a great opportunity to merge these two disparate audiences.

Despite this segregated presentation, 74 Miles Away still manages to evoke some of the two genres' strongest elements while at the same time avoiding the pitfall of degrading what makes jazz and electronic production so enticing on their own. It is difficult at times to even compare the two sets of compositions as the Anckaert trio is the epitomy of organic instrumentation and then Monkey Robot is nearly the opposite with electronically produced textures and crispy machined beats. The thing that ties these two sets of tracks together is the spirit of progression which is ever-present in jazz and electronica. Although at times fully immersed in their own disciplines, they inevitably gravitate to the forward-thinking, future-funk elements that thrive in both environments.

The album does a good job of carrying the listener through the on-going transition from more traditional jazz compositions and improvisation, heard clearly on "Romeo and July" to more funky, groove based tracks like "Chromeface." The Anckaert trio is never quite as psychedelic and jammy as Herbie Hancock's 1973 Head Hunters, but it still pushes the envelope of the traditional jazz trio to the point that it makes for a smooth transition into the beat oriented remakes from Monkey Robot. You will hear the more synth-based grooves of Herbie Hancock's influence present immediately in the smooth, beat-laden "Finding A Place." Carina Andersson's vocal performance is a welcome change to the mix with her silky, chill hooks.

74 Miles Away begins to take is most dramatic turn in "So Amazing" where the wobbly bass reminiscent of a dubstep track dominates the composition. Luckily for those who have become bored with the uber-popular sub-genre, this track avoids the heaviness ever-present in today's bass music and opts for a more calculated and subtle execution which is highly successful. "Same Dream Again" beckons forth the ghost of J Dilla with its laid back hip-hop styled drums. The track features singer Ahu Kelesoglu, noted for her collaborations with Flying Lotus under the pseudonym "Dolly." It seems no coincidence that Ahu found her way on to this project as a singer known for her collaborations with one of the most successful producers to blend jazz with hip-hop and numerous electronic genres.

"Neverending Rhodes" closes the album on a high note with one of the most dancy beats dominated by the classic electro clap and a slappy, funked out bass line. The beat instantly induces you into a head-nodding trance while the inspired mono-synth solos keep the track's momentum rolling full steam ahead.

As you can probably tell by the content of this review, I favored the more electronic styles of Monkey Robot's tracks and I think 74 Miles Away will find a more engaged following amongst the club-going, bass music fanatics so prevalent in today's nightlife. But the affect of this genre-blending collaboration will most likely be difficult to clearly discern for many years, if not longer.

The Pierre Anckaert trio will without a doubt find eager ears within the modern jazz audience, and then, possibly, keep them entraced as the project transitions into the mixes of Monkey Robot. It is questionable if the electronic fans who so loyally absorb dubstep and bass music in general will have a mature enough palate to absorb the original compositions of Anckaert. Yet the exquisite blending of genres by these two groups is bound to create some cross-over between fan bases.

Perhaps it is naive to classify these two genres and their fan bases so exclusively. It is clear that the musicians of 74 Miles Away were able to easily bridge the gap between their two respective fortes, so it shouldn't be so far fetched to believe that the majority of listeners could do the same.

Be sure to check out 74 Miles Away for yourself below.

By clicking around a bit through the many sites that curate the 74 Miles Away project, I stumbled upon an extra treat. Here is a forthcoming track to be featured on a Laid Back Radio compilation. This is a live cover of Placebo's "Humpty Dumpty" featured at Melting Pot Music. This recording is the most successful realization of this project that I have heard so far in that it features both of the major composers' styles in one live performance. The self-title release previous to this recording does not feature Pierre and his trio performing or even actively collaborating with producer duo Monkey Robot. Although listening to this I still can hear a clear divide from one groups performance to the next, it is refreshing to hear them played as a single composition.

74 Miles Away - Seven Four (live at Stubru) by LaidBack

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

G.E.D. Soul Lands a One, Two Punch with Magic in Threes

Magic in Threes - Self-titled

Classic vintage sound, unmatchable swagger, the definition of cool: these are just a few of the phrases that come to mind while trying to find words that would adequately describe the sonic succulence that is the Magic in Threes. I for one couldn't be happier to know that somewhere in Nashville, TN the guys of G.E.D. Soul records are busy cooking up the newest thing that never got written about 30 or 40 years ago.

As a fan of the vintage production movement from the likes of the New Mastersounds and Dr. Dog, it didn't take long for me to fall deep into the pocket of the groove that Magic in Threes cuts on their debut self-titled album. G.E.D. Soul is not only a purveyor of vintage sound production but also vintage manufacturing. As the physical medium for music is becoming more and more an endangered species, emboldened labels like G.E.D. Soul are side-stepping the modern paradigm for music distribution and taking it back to a medium where sound quality is king. You will find many of the G.E.D. Soul releases available on vinyl 45s or LPs. Check the G.E.D. Soul Records store here at to browse the releases on vinyl, CD, or Mp3 from other funky label mates SkyHi, DeRoberts and the Half-Truths and the Coolin' System.

Magic in Threes takes no time to instill the groove from the first beat of their "Intro" through the fades into "Nick's Theme" and "Neal's Lament" where the laid-back hypnotic brand of funk continues with a subtle yet expressive solo on the rhodes stage piano.

The following track "Its Good to Be The King" is aptly named. Listening to this deep funk cut makes me want to ride in a drop top Cadillac DeVille from the '60s while tripping on acid and watching the trails of the streetlights pass by me like a some magic fireflies. "Breakin' the Beats" is another track with an unmistakable cinematic feel and you will find the effect further enhanced if you watch the video for "Mesothelioma" on the G.E.D. YouTube channel. The solid rhythm of this track stays true to sound we've heard so far on Magic In Threes, but the addition of the squeaky, slowly decaying synth tweaks the composition to another place.

The depths of the human mind must be no stranger to these composers. The psychedelic, almost slow-motion inducing feel of this album is never felt stronger than on "Pushin' Off." The melancholy slides of the melody played on the rhodes transmit the gritty angst of a dope addict while still managing to keep your head nodding. Its a disconcerting juxtaposition that Magic in Threes creates while emersing you into the sonic equivalent of an opium den while still somehow instilling the need to gyrate like you are at an Earth, Wind and Fire show.

The final track, "Trinity Way" helps us shake the sense of disconcertion like a dunk in a cold bath as the horn section swings us back into a composition that will simply make you want to strut down your nearest city block.

There is no doubt that Magic in Threes is a very passive listening experience. Even in the mode of active listening, you may find these tunes slipping into the background of your mind. Although this music is not aggressive in its execution, it is successful in presenting its vision. The debut self-titled from Magic in Threes is truly a listening experience worthy of the album format. This is not just a collection of songs. The playlist flows almost cinematically through the intro, themes and laments, and multiple interludes, but these are just stops along the way. The meat and potatoes of this album comes from Nick DeVan's and Dave Singleton's spot-on compositions and arrangements. As the musical architects behind Magic in Three's enchanting sound, Nick and Dave eloquently translate their vision to the forefront of the production in their numerous performances on drums, percussion, organ, synth, and more. The atmosphere of these 10 tracks is further cultivated by the engineers' commitment to authentic vintage sound. All in all, Magic in Threes is a real class act.

Check it out for yourself below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Calvin's Self-Titled Debut Album

Calvin - Self-Titled

Out today, Calvin's self-titled debut album can be downloaded for free until the 27th at their bandcamp site via the links above. Not only are Calvin rolling out their first release, but they are doing it under their new label AM Crown Records. Also on the new label are the Temangerines.

I got to listen to the Calvin album all the way through three different times today, and I can easily say that "Battleship" and "Falling" are the stand-out tracks. Calvin may agree with me as these are respectively the opening and closing songs on the seven track album. I have had the opportunity to hear many of these songs live as well as in different recorded renditions, but today was my first listen to the final studio version of this release. Calvin did a good job of putting the studio polish on all these well-tested tracks that they have carried with them over the past three years.

The first track "Battleship" opens with a watery ambient sound that slowly draws you in to the following synth and then the shining guitar work that will dominate the rest of the album. Relaxing electric-guitar finger picking carries you along lightly through the verses with a carefree melody before the tune drops suddenly into a much darker, free fall psychedelia. Calvin has developed a style that you will hear throughout all seven tracks that can delve deeply into serious guitar angst and then without warning fall back into ethereal light hearted rock music. "Battleship" manages to touch on all these notes and does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the listening experience.

As the album continues through "Toasty Tickles," "Time Ticks," and "Hooked" the band falls back into the sound that makes them a true rock band. Solid rhythm tracks from the classic alternative rock power trio could have been enough to make these tracks a solid listen, but the addition of piano and other synthetic keys take these tracks toward another sound more akin to Radiohead. The electronic influences from members Cory and Kurt's side project Little Miss Mr can be heard with the additions of sampled beats throughout many of the latter parts of these songs.

The album begins to take its most psychedelic turn with the track "Tumor." Heavy drums lead into crooning background vocals and wandering guitar melodies. The intro clocks almost two minutes before any vocals come to the front of the arrangement. Even then the darkness of this track lays heavy on your ears as lead singer Cory's vocals lurk into the track with a deeper voice drone than heard anywhere before on the album. The vocals begin to soar more as the track leads you in the its most grooving composition "Hit the Ceiling."

The final track "Falling" is a treat with some of most expressive performances from the band. This track feels more live and the players really bring emotion to the recording. The raging guitar jam accentuates the vocals well before the band drops into another psychedelic piano laden jam. When the album ends, "Falling" leaves me wanting more.

Be sure to check it out for yourself below and leave your comments.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Treks: The Remix - Stems Now Available

We are excited to announce that we are making the majority of our songs from the Fresh Hats Tight Beats album TREKS available for remixing. We will compile a compilation album from the best of these remixes. In order to get in on the action, just choose a track from the list below. Click the link next to the track name to download a zip of wav stems. Be prepared for a download that is about 100 MB in size.

02 - Fresh Pots! -

03 - Friday Eve -

04 - Java -

07 - Smooth Break -

08 - Master Control Program -

09 - Lullabyzzz -

10 - Dragon Massage -

These stems are optimized for use in Ableton Live, but could be used efficiently in any multi-track audio editing software. It should be noted, each track is a mixdown of each individual instrument starting on the first beat of the original arrangement. This means that certain tracks will have large areas of silence. Our stems are mixed down in this fashion so it would be easy to drop them into whatever music software you choose to work in and have them all match up without any fudging around. It is perfectly acceptable (in fact probably preferable) to chop these stems into smaller more manageable pieces. Either way, we have presented them in this fashion so that you will find it easy to sync the original tracks into one session together. After that, the ball is in your court.

Please send us your finished tracks to
Let the remixing commence!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Center of the Universe: Murfreesboro, TN

Do you recognize this room? I know I do.
As some of you may or may not know, there are a few Winslows (Tim, Zach, and myself) currently participating in Moustache May. We are not just sporting a moustache for the month of May, we are also documenting it online with about 300 other guys from all around the world. If you haven't seen this site yet, you really need to take a look at the amazing 'staches and the truly stellar photography that the users bring to this Nashville based website. It is to say the least, very, very entertaining.

While ranking and commenting on staches this weekend, I was excited to discover fellow moustache grower McGillbot had posted a picture which had clearly been taken in the living room / venue of our old Winslow house in Murfreesboro, TN. You can see the picture above. After a day or so, I was then further amazed to learn that another Moustache May participant, Henry Daggs, is currently a resident of the former Winslow heaquarters which is now known as House Pride. A collective of musicians and artists just like ourselves are now running the show at the house on Memorial. You can catch up with all their going-ons at

This house is where we recorded our first Winslow record, the Color album. The backyard of this house is also where we filmed 4 episodes of our show KickStickBottleBall which still plays on public access in Murfreesboro.

Those of you that are familiar with our old digs in Murfreesboro should peruse Henry's Moustache May pictures to get a few glimpses of what has become of our place of origin. Check out etcvisitor's profile at:

If you're too lazy to click a link, here is a video from House Pride's YouTube page featuring Henry singing one of his original songs in our old band room. Seems like that room was just meant for making music.

I love this video because I myself spent so much time playing music in that same room.

If anyone else can share stories from the previous lives of this house, we would love to hear them. Leave a comment or email us I believe its fair to say that this house has been a band house for a long, long time and for a while we were very happy to call it home. From one artistic collective to another, we wish much love and good luck to House Pride in their future ventures on Memorial Blvd. in Murfreesboro.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Colorado Music: The Acidophiles - Earth EP

Earth EP - The Acidophiles

Colorado electronic artists The Acidophiles recently dropped their newest release, the Earth EP on their bandcamp page for free listening and only $3 for download.

I was finally able to get a full listen in this afternoon on my day off and I was very happy with what I heard. The first track "New Biginning" (sic) starts the EP off very mellow and uplifting. The Acidophiles are no stranger to arpeggiated synths which you will hear laced through the entire EP. A nice major arpeggio takes "New Biginning" from light and thoughtful straight into "Earth" where things start to get much heavier. From "Earth" until the end of the album you will get back to the Acidophiles sound you may be familiar with (or maybe just now getting associated with) that sets them apart as well as makes them a top electronic act to see live here in CO. The duo stays consistent to their sound but won't disappoint if you are looking for the next step in their musical evolution.  Lots of powerful synth sounds and melodies, wobbly gritty bass, and laid back electronic beats keep the Earth EP rolling through until the final track, "Grounded." You will hear the Acidophiles bring back a tempo change trick they have used successfully in the past on their ExisDancE EP more specifically on the track "DANCE." The tempo ramps up as "Grounded" opens and also grinds slowly to a moaning trance inducing drone for the close of the EP. Its a very dramatic way to end the EP, but also a very relaxing sound to listen to before the Acidophiles hit us with a hard cut that leaves you hanging and wanting more.

At noon on a Wednesday, some of these tracks were a little out of place as I worked through my to do list, but I can say that late at night in a venue these tracks would be right at home. I am looking forward to what I am guessing will be a full series of elements-based EPs as the Acidophiles have posted on their event page: "Next up is The Air EP - Stay tuned for details...."

 Be sure to check it out for yourself.