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Thursday, Apr 25, 2013
One of Italy's most esteemed and successful rappers, Mondo Marcio continues to broaden his musical horizons with his latest album, a stylistically-diverse effort that captures his freewheeling spirit.

His stage name translates as “Rotten World” but lately, life for Mondo Marcio has been pretty sweet. One of Italy’s top rappers, the artist has for the last decade been helping give form to a highly misunderstood genre of music in his home country and selling loads of albums in the process. A once callow teenager taken in by the world of hip-hop, he has now blossomed into a fully assured individual who works steadily to reinvent the genre through a particularly Italian perspective. Six proper albums into his career, Mondo (whose real name is Gianmarco Marcello) has now cultivated a style that incorporates everything from electronica and R&B to orchestral pop and dancehall reggae into his rumbling, bass-saturated brand of hip-hop.


Born in Milan, the 26-year-old struggled with a difficult upbringing that saw his home-life in disarray and at the mercy of Social Services. With such an inauspicious start in life, the rapper was left to fend for himself, trying to keep afloat, rather unsuccessfully, with school and the troubles of a broken family life until inspiration finally hit. With courage and a burgeoning sense of curiosity, Mondo abandoned the everyday routines of teenage life for the more dangerous and exciting turns of the music world. Adopting a stage name that would reflect the youngster’s outlook on life, Mondo quickly worked his way up, spitting rhymes and cutting tracks, honing his craft until he could manage to put together a solid collection of work to bring to the masses. After releasing a demo, which he shopped around to a number of music execs at independent labels, the young Italian soon caught the attention of those in the growing circles of the hip-hop communities in Italy. A proper debut was released in 2006 and since then, the platinum-selling artist has been churning out albums that have further carved a niche in the thriving and vibrant scene of Italian hip-hop.


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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013
Critics' darling Lori Carson has been offering her small and devoted fanbase quiet bliss with her emotionally-textured and intimate songs over the last two decades. But just recently, Carson turned to her other love of literature. With her first novel, she delves even further into a strange and still familiar world -- one that her haunting music has often explored.

Lori Carson spent the last three decades immersed in the life of song, sketching out the details of her most personal explorations in a series of chord progressions, overdubs, and musical meters. Her music introduced the world to a highly introspective and sensitive woman who seemed to be communicating a life’s worth of trouble and joy by way of the guitar. Carson’s first effort, 1990’s Shelter, was a shy entrance into a world dominated by excessive noise; hair bands were dying out, hip-hop was just cresting in the mainstream, and British dance music had started to expand beyond the borders of the UK. Shelter was brave, in that it forced Carson into a lone confessional space with only her guitar. At the time, female singer-songwriters brandishing guitars were far and few between, and the industry hadn’t much time for young women making big confessions in very small ways. Carson’s music defied those misconceptions. Her musings may have been secretly intimate and, therefore, easily ignored, but her no-nonsense storytelling approach and convincing sway with melody and inflection ushered those who did listen into her small, private world.


Anton Fier, founder of the Golden Palominos, took notice and invited the singer to appear on two of the band’s most inventive and forward-thinking albums, This is How it Feels and Pure.  Both albums explored electronic textures in a rock-band set-up, with Carson’s breathy cooing and warm acoustic guitar giving a sensual shading to each of the seductive numbers she appeared on. Following her stint with the Palominos, Carson would return to recording solo, turning out quietly devastating works, like 1997’s Everything I Touch Runs Wild, recorded mostly in the calm privacy of her apartment. Wild, the album in which the artist was finally received with some attention outside of her cultishly small fanbase, borrowed some of the influences heard on her collaborations with the Palominos, along with some of their guest session players (most notably Bill Laswell). A string of albums would follow, exploring various reaches of folk, pop, and electronica, and Carson remained musically active whilst still keeping a low profile and on the margins of commercial success.


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Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013
Hannah Marcus, rock music's most marginalized oddity, has languished in the shadows of her more celebrated contemporaries. But her fresh musical perspective and oneiric musings on empty lives and disembodied souls have marked her a singular talent worthy of discovery.

I first discovered Hannah Marcus’ music nearly ten years back. Hearing the opening strains of “Laos”, a track off her last album, Desert Farmers, I was nearly frozen in place. I wasn’t sure how or why, but something in the song called to me on a deeper, more private level than any other song I had heard. It seemed to invade such a personal space within me where I held deeper, undisclosed emotions and, yet, it wholly belonged in that space. After half an hour’s worth of hearing the song on repeat, it found a home in me and it has since never left.


What especially caught my attention was Marcus’ utterly strange and distressing way of turning a phrase, sounding out a word with an inflection so alien, it startled and seduced in equal measure. Her songs were like doors to other worlds that explored the ideas of situational love and lives configured by loss and abandonment. In Marcus’ songs, people struggle not to survive but to simply exist; survival and the pain endured is merely an afterthought. To be able to encapsulate the heady and emotional complexities of human drama in the span of a pop song is an achievement in itself. To pen an indelible melody to accompany her striking visionary world is leaps and bounds over the moons of many songwriters.


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Wednesday, Mar 27, 2013
Red Baraat founder Sunny Jain discusses Shruggy Ji and his band's Festival of Colors shows.

Last year, the Brooklyn band Red Baraat was ranked #8 amongst the Top 50 Coolest Desis by Desiclub. The dhol ‘n’ brass band has seen a rapid rise in their success and repute, having performed this year at an inaugural ball in Washington D.C., during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and then several shows at South by Southwest in Austin. The festive season doesn’t end there, however. Red Baraat is holding a celebration for the Hindu holiday of Holi with two Festival of Colors shows, one in Philly on March 28th and another the following night in New York City. While the throwing of rang (colored powders) may not go over so well with the management of an indoor club, the energy from the band won’t need to be toned down.


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Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013
David Woll's Transit is a perplexing and beguiling album that explores a lonely life on the road travelled by the strange, the hopeful, and the hopelessly lost.

Montrealer David Woll’s Transit, was an atmospheric travelogue voiced by a lost and intrepid traveller whose adventures spanned a ghostly world of abandoned lives. Hopelessly navigated by a forlorn heart, Woll’s character, a bleary-eyed, hard-hearted rocker with a guitarist-as-gunslinger stance, blazed across continents in search of some elusive fix on dreams found only on the cinema screens. Woll didn’t write a novel, but he may as well have; his stories chapter the lives of downtrodden losers who have seemingly escaped from the pages of a pulp-paperback. His album, lamentably, was released to very little attention and he now seems to occupy a space in musical obscurity. Woll’s aural worlds and inner landscapes evoke the mysterious, sonic terrains of Ennio Morricone, and the cigarette-chaffing cool of Godard films; it’s pop music for sure, but the rich imagery supplied by the lyrical vignettes offer up a world that was born from cinema. 


Very little is known about the musician, and the sparsely-written bio on his website only helps to further the self-sustaining mystique that he created for himself through his work. Those looking for an apt comparison may look to Dirty Beaches—both acts having grown up on a diet of rockabilly. But while the moribund-blues of Dirty Beaches stretches a single hue across a groundwork of scuzzy guitars, Woll paints his canvas with the colours of New Wave, punk, Tex-Mex, chanson and the romantic smears of gothic Americana. Odd clashes of Spaghetti-Western guitars and Euro-jazz are sized up against a wall-to-wall of catchy punk-pop in a surreal landscape peopled with characters straight from the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Woll turns enigma upon enigma, churning out pop-song conundrums while his ghost-in-the-gramophone vocals call from somewhere outside the songs.


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