The Beauty Of It All - Black Tokyo EP Review

5/27/2011 06:55:00 PM / Posted by Iron Lung / comments (0)

             It’s the return of the one who never left; Black Tokyo is in the building folks. This guy has been making music for over a decade and recently underwent a name change amongst other things. The producer formerly known as Skott Phree has come back with a new name and a new plan of attack. Now bearing the Black Tokyo moniker, he seems to have shed some of the Skott Phree-isms and started fresh. Same old swing and swag, but the instrumentation is now wearing a freshly pressed button down shirt.

            “Mindstate” was the first EP out of the gate, but it seemed a bit like he was testing the waters to see how people took to the new tracks. “The Beauty Of It All” is his second effort under the new name and it starts and ends very smoothly and maintains the slightly off kilter swing groove we get from the likes of Dilla, and Doom. No, that wasn’t me saying he’s Dilla, that was just me trying to get you to hear something with your eyes.

            I really liked the entire EP. Perfect length, at just 8 tracks, it’s impossible to want to fast forward anything and also impossible to get bored to any one song. Compared to his older production, it seems like the chopping skills have improved yet again, and the drum layering has become more creative. The atmosphere throughout is one of a long car trip through the streets of Tokyo. While I have never been, I can be certain that when I do visit, this will be on my iPod.
            The soundscapes are majestic and simple all at once. Black Tokyo has seemed to have found a new balance and applying it to his sound. Take advantage while you can and download the entire EP for free. Download link here or copy paste this: and you can also follow him on facebook here Well folks, till next time, I'll keep you posted on what's going on with my record. Peace ninjas!

Second Impressions

5/11/2011 11:27:00 PM / Posted by Iron Lung / comments (0)

So I’m sure most of you know already, but I’m a real music lover. I recently went digging for records with my boy Dustin from Alien Orchestra and every record we took home was pure gold. I found and original pressing of the Peter and the Wolf Orchestral album, Herbie Hancock’s Man Child, a sick Pablo Cruise record, Los Angeles Negros instrumental LP, and even Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. We got a lot more but those were the ones I remember off the top of my head. We keep the vinyl at his house since the tables are there.
            This semester I’m taking a Jazz class and I found it funny when the professor said we don’t listen to jazz, we just listen to its offspring, hence hip hop, r&b, and what have you. Basically he was saying we don’t listen to real jazz artists. I can kind of excuse his generality but I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when I thought of the gigs of jazz music I had on my laptop sitting on my desk: Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sly and the Family Stone just to name a few.
            I also have the Mayer Hawthorne record. I first heard of him through the “Maybe So” single and I was hooked. It was revived Motown soul in an unassuming white boy.  After listening to the whole thing a few times over, I can say its really enjoyable if you’re into the real jazz and soul. I was stoked to see him keep the integrity of the music he plays by releasing an entire EP of cover songs for Free.99.
            Impressions. This record not only showcases his live band on a few tracks, but also his diverse musical tastes by choosing to do songs by artists who are vastly different. He goes from the Isley Brothers to Chromeo without losing a beat. My favorite song has to be the Chromeo cover. you might have to peep the original to really appreciate it. The song, the story, the chilled out rendition, the eerie vibe, its perfect. A cover of "Mr. Blue Sky" is the last song on the EP and it was actually recorded live in one take, true to jazz form. I really like it, it’s a good song period. It may help that I’m in love with Lily Allen’s version (well maybe just Lily Allen herself) but yeah, one take! What’s that? You don’t believe me? Ok fine, here’s the video of that very song… asshole.

Dope right? Here is his write up describing the record.

1. Work To Do
This one features my live band, The County: Quentin Joseph on drums, Topher Mohr on guitar, Quincy McCrary on piano, and Joe Abrams on bass. It was recorded live in a radio station studio somewhere during our Winter 2010 US tour. The tapes recently surfaced, but nobody can remember exactly where we were. The song is originally by The Isley Brothers, and that’s the only version I was familiar with until we started playing it in our live shows and people would come up to us and say “hey, loved your cover of Average White Band!”.

2. Don’t Turn The Lights On
My favorite track from Chromeo’s latest LP. On the surface it’s an electro-funk, dance floor filler, but underneath is a brilliant love ballad with lyrics that reminded me of something from Tyrone Davis. Dave1 (of Chromeo) told me the song is about a guy who falls in love with a ghost, so I wanted my version to have an eerie, ghostly feel to it. Quincy McCrary played the creepy piano solo at the end.

3. You’ve Got The Makings Of A Lover
Textbook Northern Soul from a little known Dallas, Texas group called The Festivals. I was digging for records in NY with my homey DJ Kurse, and the shopkeeper played the 45 in the store. Both of us immediately ran up to the counter and said “yo! what is THAT?!”. The original version was recorded in the late 60s, and the mix isn’t very good. I wanted a version that I could bump. Quentin Joseph played the drums and we recorded them at Sam Beaubien’s studio in Detroit. That’s Sam playing the trumpet as well.

4. Fantasy Girl
This song was written and composed by an amazing man from Pasadena named Steve Salazar. He was born with a heart condition and passed away at the young age of 27. Before he died he recorded one incredible album of demos in the mid-70s with a band called Shorty’s Portion. Peanut Butter Wolf found a copy of the album and I loved it so much that he gave it to me (thanks Wolf!). The vinyl had a handwritten note tucked in the sleeve that was addressed to anyone who could help the band with management, a record deal, radio airplay, etc. I’d estimate there were less than 300 copies pressed. That’s my Dad playing pedal steel guitar and Topher Mohr shredding the guitar solo on my version.

5. Little Person
Jon Brion is not from this planet. He penned this song for the soundtrack to Charlie Kaufman’s film “Synecdoche, NY”. I didn’t get the film at all, but I really got the soundtrack. The original has only female vocal and piano, but I always heard a larger arrangement. Hubert Alexander played some of the piano and I did everything else.

6. Mr. Blue Sky
This one also features my band, The County, and was recorded live, in one take, in a tiny makeshift tent, at a festival in Dour, Belgium.