Concert Review: Arthur King & The Night Sea and Aaron Espinoza @ The Hi Hat

The Hi-Hat and Dangerbird Records presented an experimental, psychedelic odyssey on Sept. 20 as Arthur King & The Night Sea and Aaron Espinoza (of Earlimart) showed up with music that went beyond the normal audio performance one expects from a concert. A major addition to both sets was the inclusion of visual aids that elevated the already trippy yet calming sounds coming from a variety of instruments.

Highland Park’s The Hi Hat venue offers adequate space for the performers and music lovers to watch on. The building includes a bar, billiards tables and burgers within arm’s reach. It’s the ideal place to get good food, drinks, and watch interesting, boundary-pushing shows at an affordable price. The best aspect is the homey, comfy vibe you get within it all.

Haunting and comforting all at the same time, @theshipstudio #MICRODOSE

A post shared by The Hi Hat (@thehihatla) on

First to take stage was Aaron Espinoza, from indie rock band Earlimart, a Pixies / Sonic Youth post-punk band that’s been around since 1999. Aaron’s performance was a complete opposite of that: a part electronic, part acoustic set both spacey and calming yet daring and alluring. Two screens were placed on each side of the stage, setting the appropriate lighting for his journey through the cosmos. Aaron’s voice was sampled live and played behind his singing voice, producing a chorus of voices that were textured and layered above the various synths and pulsing drum beats. The set was one long, progressive experience that had no defined beginning or end, allowing listeners to get lost in their own trance thoughts and keeping rhythm while doing it. Overall, Aaron’s foray into minimalistic electronica expands our appreciation for his talents and keeps us guessing what he plans on doing next.

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Image via Dangerbird Records

Arthur King & The Night Sea are a white-wearing clad of diverse talents all wrapped into one. Before they begin, a large drape covers the stage, separating the band from the audience. Soon enough there are light projections shot onto it allowing for interesting visuals that almost make it seem like we are watching a movie with a band providing a live soundtrack. The music was atmospheric for the most part, taking dives in and out of jazz, rock, electronic and at times, a mixture of all of them. At one point, the visual aid displayed a first-person view of riding a roller coaster just as the music elevated to a suspenseful state, truly making a cohesive marriage between both sight and sound. Although Arthur King & The Night Sea is mostly instrumental without lyrics, they can convey more feelings, emotions and thoughts with a high level of creative expression. Be sure to show up when this amalgamation of influences and styles comes rolling into a town near you.

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Photo by Isiah Reyes

The combination of these two experimental acts performing in Highland Park is the appropriate marriage between of where the growing artistic town is and where it will be in the upcoming years. Stay tuned for more on Arthur King & The Night Sea, Aaron Espinoza and The Hi Hat.

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Agency – Album Review

R&B and Soul artist Agency has recently released his album “Resist,” a political-infused album about the struggle for equality fighting the power. Check out the song “Backwards” from the album here:

“Resist” starts off with a powerful speech followed by sirens. The opening track “What’s Going On (Right Now?)” is a bouncy track but with a powerful message that questions the world we live in. The clap beats give the song an upbeat feel but there is clearly more substance between the surface. “Till & Marrow” is a slower, introspective, and soulful song with R&B influences and sultry voices. You’ll find yourself nodding your head to the beat as well as the message.

The piano and guitar enter the fray in “Rumours” to add a breath of fresh air. Backing vocals and a hip beat mixed with civil rights movement-based lyrics clearly define the album’s message of making a political statement. “Backwards” also uses piano prominently as a groovy instrument with “I won’t go down without a fight” as a line that echoes the album’s namesake in “Resist.”

“Black Boys on Mopeds” (a cover from Sinead O’Connor) opens with acoustic guitar and shows off the album’s variety in styles that make for a rich listening experience. Sonically, there are many elements that make up the sum of this album’s parts; for example, sound clips of historical audio clips are played throughout the album in tasteful ways to add context to the theme of the album. Agency’s Drake-like voice also adds a layer of flavor to the sound, as it is strong yet vulnerable and yearns for a positive change in the face of hopelessness. “March on Babylon” even adds trumpets to the mix for a truly exotic feel and “Red to the Moon” has strings and mechanical background noise to truly round out the listening journey. The avant-garde approach on some of the songs is akin to the likes of FKA Twigs and suitable for anyone looking for a new, bold, and enriching collection of music.

Overall, “Resist” is an essential for any R&B fan but also anyone who enjoys a wide spectrum of music, as it covers a lot of ground in its scope and execution. The songwriting is top-notch and the message is always present, making for a cohesive piece of art that stays on track while utilizing an array of tools in the music making department.

To stay up to date with all things Agency, be sure to check him out on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and Soundcloud.

zenxienz – Album Review

Hong Kong-born musician, producer, and songwriter, Cameron Williamson, aka zenxienz, has released his second full-length album for 2017 titled “Brainforest” on August 4. Listen to the album on Bandcamp here:

 

The opening track “Insignia” is a full burst instrumental rife with colorful sounds that mix both electronic and tribal-sounding drums, enchanting piano and an immense amount of creativity that sets the table as to what’s to come. The Middle Eastern vibe is traditional with a strong dosage of modern influences. “Undercurrents” continues the electronic sound but with a more intense EDM and dance vibe that pulsates at every turn. It’s the perfect song for those hot nights at a glow in the dark festival where you just want to lose your mind, body, and soul in the music. The album is the audio translation of a painting full of vivid colors and strange shapes all colliding into each other to produce a unique visual image. The beats throughout the album are fast yet the melodic keyboards that accompany them are slow, majestic and space-like to the point where being surprised becomes the expectation.

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Image via zenxienz

“Pico” has vocal sound samples mix with heavy bass and disjointed drums all put into a synthesizer blender that melts away all conventions about what music is supposed to sound like. The drum style changes pace, style and tempo all in a matter of seconds making it a stand-out track that is destined to be blasted against a backdrop of strobe lights and beer cups held in the air. The sound of the album is heavily electronic, constantly changing through different methods of expression in both planning and execution. Soaring synthesizers add layers of discover that make for repeated listens, as this is not an album that could be fully understood in just one spin. The amount of rave and hardcore dance injected in each track will be enough to last for a very long time.

Some tracks like “Coiled” are a bit darker in tone with vocal tracks making small appearances to keep you on your toes of what to expect. Though most of the songs border on being dubstep, they do not stray into the territory of being loud and abrasive for the sake of it. The psychedelic drums and bass have deeper intentions with many breakdowns that give you a breather from dancing and trancing about. The breaks allow for recuperation, reflection on introspection, and allows you to take in the moment with someone new as you’ll most likely be listening to this new age, off-the-rails record at a blistering venue. The sounds, although chaotic, are therapeutic even for those swaying alone to the rhythmic madness alone in a room.

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Image via zenxienz

There’s no doubt that the sounds from zenxienz will continue to impress for many years to come. For now, let’s all enjoy what this masterful electronic musician has created: an inspiring connection with others through sounds, mental images and creativity. To stay up to date with all things zenxienz, be sure to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, and his official site.

Jay Hunna – Song Review

Jay Hunna released a new music video for his track “Good Ol’ Music” from his upcoming “Better Days” album coming out Sept. 8. Check out the track here:

Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Jay’s inspiration for his debut album “Better Days” comes from the tragic death of his cousin Sandra Bland, which sparked nationwide attention in July 2015. Sandra Bland closes out the album on the track entitled “Land of The Free.” To tell his story in the album, Jay looks to Hip-Hop artists such as Jay Z, Tupac, Notorious BIG and others and takes elements of their style. Some of those elements can be heard in “Good Ol’ Music,” which celebrates Hip-Hop and independent record shops as seen in the video. Jay visits a shop and picks up classic records from legendary rap acts all while giving a very chill vibe that celebrates recognizing where we come from and the importance of community. Although the song talks about coming from humble beginnings, the track is also proving that we don’t always have to stay there.

Lyrically, the song begins with Jay expressing his appreciation for music at a young age and how he would go up to his room and use music when he was feeling down to feel like new again. The chorus is about relaxing, smoking, drinking, and listening to good ol’ music, and the chill beats allow for the listener to do the same when they blast this track at full volume. Jay comes off as a man who wants to enjoy the good times and not worry about the problems of the world, making him the perfect candidate to deliver a fresh track that celebrates the inspirations of legends past as well.

Overall, the song is recommended for anyone who prefers the more laid-back style rappers compared to their super hard counterparts. There will no doubt heavy-bangers on the rest of the album, so we’re excited to hear what comes next from Jay and his upcoming “Better Days.”

To find out more about Jay check him out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and his official site.

The Peanut Gallery – Video Review

New Jersey Hip-Hop duo The Peanut Gallery recently released its first single “Deep Thoughts” from the upcoming “Tales from the Basement” album. Check out the track here:

The Peanut Gallery is made up prep school graduate and breakdancing Orlando and his partner in crime Flee Jones, an inner-city gangster using music as an outlet. They got together after their plans to start up Party of 5IVE went astray and now the duo are making songs they want to and connecting with fans on a deeper level.

The song starts off with a symphonic keyboard track and popping beats that get you in the mood to hear what deep thoughts could come from the unorthodox duo. Almost immediately, hints of OutKast and A Tribe Called Quest can be heard yet the duo takes their expressive style in their own direction. The music production by Flee Jones has been accurately compared to the likes of Dr. Dre, Ja Rule, and Ludacris.

The personal lyrics cover topics like getting locked and being denied, but the main takeaway is that Orlando will not change his outfit or stop rapping because that’s who he is. The track delivers the message of accepting who you are and making it as far as you can despite the haters that will inevitable try to tear you down. His poetic style of the song and the lack of a chorus allows Orlando to fully express what’s on his mind without having to conform to any typical songwriting patterns, creating a refreshing and unexpected take in the rap genre. “Everything I end up loving always seems to disappear” is the final line that puts into perspective the overall message of “Deep Thoughts” and allows the song to be relatable to other people who are going through similar experiences.

The video strongly features Orlando’s interest in plushies, especially one of cartoon character Arthur. The visualizations on camera represent what’s being said lyrically and there’s a humoristic tone with the acting throughout. The use of the dolls highlights Orlando’s comedic values and soft spots rather than trying to appear all hard like most other rappers do.

The Peanut Gallery are in the process of writing and producing their album and both plan on releasing various projects together along and touring this year. “Deep Thoughts” is available on iTunes Spotify and SoundCloud, and we know we’ll be seeing more of them as they continue to rise. Be sure to check out the album “Tales from the basement” coming out Oct. 13.

Find more of The Peanut Gallery on YouTube, Vevo, iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and Twitter.