Cold funk, hot rhythms and red light jazz

John Moses

Greetings from Los Angeles: a city of veiled glamor and stark contrasts, the crux of which is best epitomized by my office being located between an overpriced hipster coffee stop to the west and a strip club to the east, the median being where I write to you now.

Not too much has happened in my world since we last spoke in early August. I got around to seeing the new Tarantino movie, finally tried both plant-based Impossible and Beyond burgers and have generally been swaying drastically between “working hard” and “hardly working;” A balance of which I truly have yet to perfect. Regardless of any life happenings or lack thereof, one constant is the time I spend finding new music, the best of which I take pleasure in sharing with you on a monthly basis.

When writing these music bits, my vision of The Charlotte News reader-experience is somewhat Rockwellian. Here’s the scene: It’s a crisp morning, the grass is a vibrant green, the sun is peeking through the windows, and you straddle that gray area between still being in bed and officially starting your day—reading the paper in a bathrobe to the sweet sounds of a distant lawnmower alongside the backing vocals of a growling coffee pot. Sounds nice, and with this faux-topia as our narrative and backdrop I thought this would be the ideal setting to start us off on our journey through my favorite tunes of late.

On the rare occasion when I do wake up early enough to catch those first morning rays, I tend to start my day with something bright and sweet. The newest record from the enigmatic band Sault does just the trick. Check out “Masterpiece,” an album-defining cut anchored by a strolling bassline and sweet- sounding vocals. Much like the rest of their record, “Masterpiece” has a timeless quality—a blend of stylistic antiquities and contemporary recording techniques all orchestrated by London-based producer Dean “Inflo” Winton Josiah. Without any context, one might wonder if the album is new or a collection of older works once lost and now found; the complete work is a modern snapshot of hazy funk reverie. Add a bit of Sault to your coffee—and let’s continue.

On weekends, I try to get an early start and pick up the pace on errands before the anchors of lunch and the afternoon sun grinds me to a sluggish halt. For these occasions, I find motivation from the bouncing drum and synthesizer arrangements of Music for the Densely Populated, Vol. 2, the latest extended play from New York City-based duo Ensemble Entendu.

Composed by Sam O.B. and Photay (successful solo electronic artists in their own right), the record offers dance music for introverts and extroverts alike, calling on the aural imagery of ‘80s street art to assemble a collection of kinetic music both endearing and human. Take a listen to “Time Is Certainly Passing” or “Flat Talk” for bold movements and wacky percussive syncopations, evoking the primary colors of Keith Haring. Rounding out the album are the jazzy counterparts to these songs: “Azalea Chuva” and “Up to No Good.” Music for The Densely Populated, Vol.2 feels very New York City of a certain era, but make no mistake, there’s something for everyone here.

At this point, we’ve run our errands for the day and it’s time to kick back and relax. While I don’t smoke (nor do I condone smoking), Kit Sebastian’s debut full-length album Mantre Moderne is international cigarette jazz at its finest. Formed in London by producer Kit Martin and vocalist Merve Erdem, the melodies ebb and flow through clouds of psychedelia, tropicalia and ‘60s Europop. After a listen to the album’s title track, you’ll likely feel compelled to swap out all the lightbulbs in your home with something red and moody. Weighty brass top-lines and shimmering organ accompaniments effortlessly color Kit Sebastian’s record with vibrancy and style, leaving you feeling like a modern(e) day Steve McQueen or Pam Grier. Take this one shaken, not stirred—Mantra Monderne is on heavy rotation in my car, apartment and just about anywhere I can listen to it and is a shoe-in for one of my favorite records of the year.

Though I may be turning out the lights on this month’s segment, don’t let it be the end of your musical journey! I would be remiss not to mention a couple more recent standouts. Look out for the deeply personal upcoming album from fellow LA-er Stone Irr (a fantastic talent with sober, honest lyrics, belying his given name), the twisting and turning newest release from indie outfit Vanishing Twin, and a compilation of ‘70s folk, Sad About the Times (which includes a beautiful, hypnotic 1971 single “Illusions” by Norma Tanega). As always, catch me Sunday mornings from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. on KCRW.

Signing off,
John Moses

Listen to this month’s music on Spotify.

Check out John’s picks and follow his monthly playlist on Spotify