toro_y_moi-blessaSometimes the best part of going to see a live performance is being pleasantly surprised by the opening act. This was exactly what happened when I went to see Caribou in San Francisco earlier this year. The opening act, Toro Y Moi, did more than pleasantly surprise... they blew me away. I left the show with a copy of of their debut album that has been in heavy rotation ever since.

Toro Y Moi is the stage name used by Chaz Bundick, a college grad turned musician hailing from South Carolina. Bundick, who performed in indie rock bands throughout high school, began to transform his style after being introduced to the chillwave movement later in his school career. In January 2010 he released his first full-length album ‘Causers of This’ from Car Park Records. ‘Causers of This’ is an provocative journey into the new wave of alternative dance, featuring electronic beats and layers of vocals atop R’n’B samples and synthesized basslines. Each song on the album is crafted with just enough care to be inventive and new while holding you in a sense of familiarity.

The album presents a variety of stylings, from the deep and downtempo “Fax Shadow” and “You Hid” to the dancy and playful “Lissoms” and title track “Causers of This”. The opening track “Blessa” lures you into the album with its beautiful guitar samples and vocal harmonies mixed atop an all-too-catchy bass line. The track showcases Bundick’s ability to use his falsetto as an instrument and provide rhythm via perfectly trimmed samples and not just drum machines.

“Imprint After” is an impressive track that features an upbeat piano piece kept in check by breakbeat drums a wandering synthesized bass. It gets you into one of those head-bobbing, slow-hip-moving kind of dance moods, perfect for a BZ happy hour or recovery brunch.

“Talamak” is an oh-too-short gem that features so many fade-ins and fade-outs that you’ll think your ears are playing tricks on you. Just when you want more it seamlessly transitions into the chilled-out reverb of “You Hid”, a seductive yet war-torn track about failed love between friends. Its yet another track in which Bundick’s drawn out high notes meld together with a wandering keyboard to create a chilled-out showpiece.

As if the record alone wasn’t enough, the live show was icing on the chillwave cake. Bundick, joined on stage by two accompanists, played an hour of dance-fueled electronica that had the entire crowd moving. If ‘Causers of This’ is just the beginning of Bundick’s experimentation in this genre then the down-tempo dance world really has something to look forward to.

lgm050The 50th Release for Lemongrass Music!

Review of Lemongrass and Various Artists, The Remix Sessions
by Jeff Stallings

A few months ago I was hanging out at a favorite San Francisco coffee shop, fiddling around with my new smart phone, when I got the perfect chance to use Shazam, the mobile music identification service I'd heard so much about (but frankly had not yet seen work correctly.)  A perfect accompaniment to some wicked coffee, the most beautiful, sultry song was playing.  I held my phone to the speaker, clicked the 'Tag Now' button, and found out I was listening to the original version of JetTricks' “Lose You”, which about an hour later I discovered is a difficult song  to track down.

I let it go at that until a few days ago when I got a promo copy of the new compilation, “Lemongrass and Various Artists:  The Remix Sessions” and discovered a stunning remix of my coffee shop track:   The Lemongrass Deep House Remix of that very JetTricks track, “Lose You” (featuring Adefunke and Faye Houston.)  Stunning!

Lemongrass, a musical group (and now record label), is comprised of brothers Roland and Daniel Voss, who live and work in the northern German countryside.  I have been a fan of their music since the 1990s and have listened with joy each time another one of their tracks made it to a chillout compilation—which happens a great deal.  Now, they are focusing on signing new groups to the Lemongrass record label and, it seems, remixing songs from those artists.  Ergo, The Remix Sessions.

Besides the JetTricks remix, there are a number of other gems on this release.  The compilation opens with the Lemongrass Full Moon remix of Japanese singer WAWA's “Taste of Fear”, a lovely, melodic English-language track.  Another Asian artist joins WAWA on the lineup:  Nana Wang singing the haunting “Lost in Eden”, in her native tongue, over a blend of acoustic and electronic instruments.   Among the instrumental tracks, the Lemongrass Wet Dreams remix of Five Seasons' “Love Apple” is a stand out, as is their mix of Luke Hampton's “Jazz Music”, a 90 BPM blend of funky horns and sampled voices.

Here at Below Zero, we're always thrilled to get our hands on a new Lemongrass artist or compilation, and “The Remix Sessions” is no exception.  We're all planning to stay tuned as the label expands and adds artists to the line up.

Below Zero & Energy Brunch

level3We would like everyone to know how much we appreciated the support at ALL of our wonderful BZ Brunches... however we have had to cancel our December brunch as the radio station, Energy 92.7 FM, has decided it is best because of many conflicts, including the holidays and their anniversary blast coming up.

BZ Brunch3

They are looking to do more in the future as we were building momentum, so hang tight as Energy's Fernando and Greg work to find another location... so we can all chill and drink our bloody mary's on a Sunday morning.


BZ Brunch4

BZ Brunch6

BZ Brunch1

comfydubOn Comfy Dub, George Solar speaks to all his mistaken Twitter followers that believe in the power of renewable energy.   Sure, dub music has a way of being infectious, resulting in repeated airplay with no reduction in power output.  But, the truth is that George Solar’s name has more to do with the light he sheds on great downbeat dubstep than it has to do with photons.  And, now George has put together a collection of great dubby tracks called Comfy Dub just in time to motivate the world leaders at the summit on climate change in Copenhagen.

Mr. Solar resides in Cologne, Germany.  When he isn’t helping to spread the word about Wax On Records through his selfless promotion of their releases, you can find him spinning sets at numerous events around the globe or creating his own stylish downbeat sound.  On Comfy Dub, George Solar presents a righteous set of 14 reggae-infused tracks from around the globe from 12 different countries.  He has included some of his personal favorites from other artists as well as introducing us to his own creations.

He pours it on thick and slow as molasses on Comfy Dub.  This is the kind of dub you want to bathe in even if it may get you a little sticky in the process.  There are great artists on here that true dub officiandoes should really become acquainted with.  Each carries a slightly different bent that must speak about their geographic influences like the Austrian Waldeck, South America’s Federico Aubele, and Fat Freddy’s Drop from New Zealand.   But, if time is of the essence and you want to go straight to the source for smooth dub-lissful solace, then look no further than Lefthand’s “Cadillac Track”.   Here, George Solar remixes this track under one of his monikers, Solar Moon.  It carries an awesome rhythm punctuated by soulful horns, echoes and synths.   Solar’s hand can be found in other beauts, such as the duo-set of Jen Meets Chin Chillaz.   Her sultry voice takes over with a beat that sets a perfect mood.  All i! n all, Comfy dub is an excellent collection of like-minded dub sounds.  It is like that warm blanket that you just don’t want to get out from underneath.

Track Listing:

1.  Waldeck – This Isn’t Maybe (Mark’s Underlevel Dub)
2.  Jen Meets Chin Chillaz – No Ordinary Life
3.  Rubbasol – Music Makes Us Feel Sexy (PFL Dub)
4.  Federico Aubele – Un Lugar
5.  Cottonbelly – Intense Dub
6.  Salz – Katy Copy
7.  Fat Freddy’s Drop – Cay’s Crays
8.  Seven Dub – “Running Away” (Noiseshaper Remix)
9.  Up Bustle & Out – Wild Majesty
10.  Lefthand – Cadillac Track (Solar Moon Backseat Dub Instr.)
11.  Rubbasol – Mango Bong
12.  Radiq feat. Paul St. Hilaire – Rocker’s Rebel
13.  George Solar & Lefthand feat. Jen – Comfy Dub
14.  Pluto Project – Worldwide

This review was put together by Below Zero's very own Chris Lindsey of Slackline Radio.

cocteautwinsCocteau Twins

Being my first "resident's" corner post/blog of our new website, I thought it only fitting to talk about the band that influenced me the most in the world of chill/ambient or what I call "a painting of unique and beautiful sounds".

The Cocteau Twins and 4AD hit me like a bolt of lightening back in 1988 when I first came across the album, Blue Bell Knoll.  This album had some of the most surreal and dreamy tracks I have ever heard in my life, such as, "A Kissed Out Red Floatboat", "Carolyn's Fingers", and "Blue Bell Knoll" to name a few.  The Cocteau Twins trio are Robin Guthrie (guitars), Simon Raymond (bass) and Elizabeth Fraiser (vocals), these three were making music I had never heard before.  This was during a time I was heavily into the alternative/new wave sounds, so it wasn't like I wasn't into the underground already.  This was different, for them the early albums were as artistic and cutting edge as it gets... at least for me.

Robin literally created a wall of sound with his guitars so much so it sounds like there are other key board players or guitarists in the band.  Elizabeth's voice made me curl up like a baby as she could go into a high pitch or into a deep low tone all in the same sentence.  Now the pitches in her voice carried you all while trying to understand her own combination of English, Galic and other languages rolled into one dreamstate.

With the many releases one would certainly make me sit back as a masterpiece, it was "Victorialand" that really hit a nerve.  It was soft and created a mood and was an album that took patience to listen too, but if you sat back, closed your eyes you would hear the layers.  I also found it a great backdrop for writing or setting the mood if you know what I mean...

I would be lucky enough to see them play live a few times in my life.  My favorite tour was definately Four-Calendar Cafe' as that was during my drinking age so I was not put into the 'under 21' section way in the back like for Heaven or Las Vegas.  This time I was in front on the floor watching them play live and it was like a dream.  Years later when I moved to San Francisco I would befriend Jimmy Siegal (one of my partners from Thump Radio) who I couldn't believe was friends with them.  You want to talk about freak out, well shortly after meeting Jimmy both Simon and Robin came to visit and we had a nice time at dinner.  It's always nice when you meet your heroes and they are that cool.  Robin would go on to work with his project "Violet Indiana" as well as work with Simon on their new label, Bella Union.  Simon would also go on to release his own solo album which also is amazing called, "Blame Someone Else".  They invited me back in 1999 to South by Southwest in Austin Texas to do an interview and cover them and the bands on thier label, again a dream come true.

As for Elizabeth, I never had a chance to meet her in person but she really pushed me into the world of down tempo when she did her work with Massive Attack "Teardrop" which has become an anthem in the world of "chill out". From that track is where I made the connection between all the amazing work the Cocteau Twins have done and the world of Chill/Downbeat.  I had the pleasure of being able to DJ one night while Robin sat next to me and played guitar, it was one of the highlights of my musical career, the set was never released... anyway that should now enlighten or explain why if you listen to Below Zero often you will hear me sneak in a track from the band that made it all happen in a very round about way...

Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas


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