“African Pt. 2” by Sanda may be my favorite song of 2021. An instrumental dancehall track produced by a 16 year old French girl, it makes me think of all the “my kid could paint that” arguments that happen so often with visual art but never music. Often that’s because mastery of a musical instrument takes practice and precision, whereas the impulsive skitters of a child’s drawings can mimic the more deliberate freeform art of their (relative) elders. But what if children, now natives to technology, could use digital production without any of the structures and influence of centuries of musical knowledge in the same way they can scribble on construction paper? To be fair, Sanda’s father is an instrument maker, and certainly at 16 many people have created great art, musical or otherwise. But the track possesses an air of youthful unbotheredness that is hard to fake. It’s got bounciness, laziness, goofiness, and a siren. Could an adult make a song like this? Of course. Would they is another question. I’m excited to see where Sanda’s music goes as she grows up. Though, on the other hand, maybe not.
Has anyone compared L’Rain’s truly excellent album Fatigue to Frank Ocean’s Blonde? It has the same kind of rise and fall, where among wisps of sound, songs seem to form from nothing, squalls coming in from offshore. “Blame Me” is one of the album’s most succinct moments, a very sweet song with a sour guitar line that reminds me of the twang of Beach House. But where the husk of that band’s vocalist, Victoria Legrand, defined the group, here L’Rain’s voice is sharp, trying to cut through. She does at first, before the track grows, and she too falls into the fog.
Rashied Ali recorded “Larger Astronomical Time” six months before he died, a thundering piece. I was listening to the song, a slow-rolling drum solo, while attempting to sum up the totality of his monumental career, including but very much not limited to being a beloved partner of John Coltrane, when I was offered some always needed perspective, by my mother, who I am currently visiting. “What is that noise?” she asked. He banged at the toms, kissed at the hi-hat. Drums, I said. “I thought it was the washing machine.” Rest in peace.
Speaking of my mother, last winter she and I watched this short documentary on the wonderful DJ Marcelle aka Another Nice Mess. Marcelle is legendary for her voracious taste and wild DJ sets. I was lucky enough to see her perform poolside at the Sustain-Release festival two years ago, a real rager of a time, though it was raining and mid-afternoon at latest. I was trying to explain this experience to my mother and found this video to do the work for me. My mom really does not have context for three turntables versus two, for a DJ planning out a set versus winging it on vinyl. But because I am her son, she does know what it’s like to see a music lover do their thing. She appreciated it. Marcelle’s new album, Explain the Food, bitte, is reflective of this vast and massive love, with sounds of all sorts collaged atop each other. “The Orphan Serenade” features piano tinkling by Michael Vincent Waller, turning a damp and repetitive drum loop into a real wander of a track. The rest of the album is as hectic as expected.
My relationship to Florian Kupfer’s music is kind of like my relationship to those people who you see around and have had maybe one or two great conversations with, and you mean to hang out with, but you never get around to it. No real reason, but it’s already hard enough to find time to hang out with your old friends, forget making new ones. But he deserves to be a part of the inner circle. Consistently pumping out tracks for almost a decade, he’s a diverse electronic music producer with an ability to thrill in any genre. His new album, Phantom Pain, takes a pitter-pattering approach to ambient. “Grow” is an album highlight, a lovely, sparkling song. Not to be corny, but it’s the kind of music that you feel in your heart. It brings in light. You can feel it wiggling around in there. Play it for a friend. Or someone who should be.