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Album Review: Business 80 - Strangers With Me

From the outset Business 80's debut Strangers With Me quivers with a looming sensation of darkness. It oozes a sadness that lurks in the darkest corners of its sound. A collage of glitching synthesized sounds, live instruments, and ominously sung vocals, Business 80 is the latest project by local songwriter H.A. Eugene (whose previous creation, Burbank International's City of Burbank, put him squarely on the Bay Area's music scene map) and a dramatic turn from the tender folk sounds of his previous work.

A mostly electronic album, Strangers With Me is broken into three movements, each (for reasons not outwardly clear) named after Tenderloin bars (Koko, Hemlock, and Ha-Ra). With driving industrial rhythms and often piercing electronic squelches throughout Strangers With Me, apt comparisons to acts like Nine Inch Nails (or a much harder version of Depeche Mode) certainly jump to mind, peppered with a spirit of IDM from the likes of Plaid, Autechre, or even Squarepusher (maybe a stretch).

Opening amidst a wash of penetrating electronic sounds and almost choked vocal gurgles, the eerie and despondent "Koko" begins the section of the same name. As with most the songs on this album, an intricate depth characterizes the soundscape of this song, with multiple pieces waiting to be found amidst the layers. Trapped in a loop, the album title is repeated endlessly as the synth sounds punctuate the space of the song. The result of this, as the line "strangers with me" is muttered ad nauseum, is an unnerving level of violence to the loneliness evoked throughout "Koko."

"Who Died?" follows, and with it's crescendoing viola line it may well be my favorite track on this album (the track that follows being a close second). Coupled with an ethereal-sounding arppegiated synth-line, and one of the more forceful and driving bass outros I've had the pleasure of hearing, this song really sends chills down the spine.

If "Who Died?'s" outro is an emotional ascension, "Mad at Nothing" is its zenith. Certainly the funkiest track on the album, "Mad at Nothing," if for its title only, really captures the spirit of Strangers With Me. There is a feeling of impudent rage that permeates throughout the narrative of these songs. From the anger and the drive that pushes the vamping repetition of the line "never learned shit, got stupider stupider," to the flailing rage that percolates from Mad at nothing, to the suffocating impotence of "Getting Sick for Real" and "This Place Where We Used to Play," there is an invisible force that torments the character of Strangers With Me.

All things considered, with its tumultuous layers of electronic sounds, Strangers With Me is an alluring and schizophrenic emotional ride. Peppered with rage, terror, loneliness and pure driven anguish Strangers With Me is a fascinatingly complicated album.


-Ada Lann

Note: Copies of Strangers With Me can be aquired at Business 80's CD release show, at El Rio on July 1st, or for free by contacting H.A. Eugene here.


Noise Floor Crew

I received word today that the local label Dust Traxx will be releasing the debut ep from Noise Floor Crew (Local Hero and Lady Foursquare). The group has been making beats and remixes for the last two years and has stirred up a lot of attention in the dance community. On their debut ep they have created a whole new sound for Chicago house while keeping key traces of the classics. They also have remixes by Rob Threezy and Rampage of Ghetto Division, Edu K, Chrissy Murderbot, Thunderous Olympian and DJ Figure from Tommie Sunshine's new label, Brooklyn Fire. Here is our first taste of what we can expect from Noise Floor Crew.


Teen Daze & Houses

One of the hottest bands on the internet, Vancouver’s Teen Daze, has partnered with our very own Houses to create a track called “Destiny”. The publicist for Teen Daze made it sound like there will be more to come from this exciting combination.


Best of NYC #27 + Weekly Feature #209b: Gordon Voidwell

We continue our "Best of NYC Countdown", covering every day one of the artists that made our Year End Best of NYC list (a chart compiled by a jury comprised of local bloggers, music writers, promoters, record store personnel and DJs).

Few people in the city can call themselves native New Yorkers. Nine times out of 10, this rare specimen has stories to tell and a lot to say (note: not an actual statistic). William Johnson is one of the select individuals who can proudly brandish the title he was born in Brooklyn, grew up in the Bronx and returned back to Brooklyn, where he currently resides. He uses the name Gordon Voidwell to tell his tales of love, race and class to funky, fat synths laid over soulful, beat-laden pop melodies. An immediate comparison can be made to Prince for the ability to successfully fuse funk, R&ampB, pop and soul in a palatable form for mass consumption.  So far, the songwriter/producer/recorder/sound engineer has released the digital EP “Ivy League Circus” and a 26-song mixtape for hip-hop site OkayPlayer, featuring original songs by Johnson and remixes for Das Racist and Boy Crisis. - Read Nancy Chow's interview with Gordon Voidwell here.


Best of NYC #27 + Weekly Feature #209a: Asa Ransom release 12"

To understand and fully appreciate Brooklyn’s Asa Ransom (pronounced ay-sah ran(t)-səm), attendance at one of their shows is mandatory. Their intense, whimsical energy practically throbs off their recorded EPs, but it is only fully realized and witnessed at their live performances. The band is tight, the crowd is wild for the dance-prone music and good times are bound to ensue.  
Asa Ransom dreams up songs that have transformative properties. Though some of their influences are Western-based such as the Talking Heads and Velvet Underground, they have clear world music inflections. They lure listeners in with the hypnotic, snake-charming intro to “Two Invitations” and keep them at bay with the polyrhythmic, African-influenced percussion over distinct, spirited guitar, tickling keys and walloping bass. To get a taste of their wildly vivacious music, their latest offerings, the five-song “Gold” EP, and the 12" The Luck of Stoney Bowes" can be streamed here. - Read Nancy Chow's interview with the band here.