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EL MICHELS AFFAIR

El Michels Affair

Unathi/Zaharila

El Michels Affair returns with a new 45 that is simultaneously a new direction and the signature sound he is known for. This time EMA dips their toes into the world of Bollywood Funk and recruits Piya Malik of 79.5 for vocal duties. He has crafted yet another two sider of heavy duty shit. It also comes in a gorgeous picture sleeve courtesy of Chicago’s Deadly Prey gallery. From the start of side A, Unathi reels the listener in and keeps them through a journey of psychedelic arrangements, unexpected detours, and relentless rhythm.

El Michels again showing the performance and production prowess that has spawned not only bands, but also some independent record labels. Lyrically, Unathi is a song about progress, a vociferous call to arms urging people to come together and work collectively to achieve it. Side B, Zaharila, is cinematic, dynamic, and an almost visual number as if it were the score to a film that’s never existed. Bent guitar notes and blaring horn stabs ride the peaks and valleys of this epic tale about poisonous whispers that destroy a beautiful love affair. Starting slow and calm with Piya’s ethereal melodies floating atop, the song eventually becomes poisoned, panicked, and frantic by the final note. 

El Michels Affair

Return To The 37th Chamber

The wait is over, Return To The 37th Chamber is El Michels Affair’s highly anticipated follow up to 2009's underground cult classic Enter the 37th Chamber. Churning out classic records since then for the likes of Lee Fields, The Arcs, The Shacks, and tons more, it is clear that EMA's signature sound is stronger & sharper than ever. This time, in addition to re-interpreting the Wu compositions for a live band, EMA pays homage to the production and sonic fog that makes a RZA beat so recognizable. Producer and bandleader Leon Michels recorded the album completely analog, sometimes hitting 6 generations of tape before it was ready for mixing, giving the Return to The 37th Chamber it’s own hazy sound.

Adding to the unique fidelity, the record is laced with psychedelic flourishes, “John Carpenter” synths, heavy metal guitars, triumphant horns, and traditional Chinese instruments that make up for the lack of the Wu’s superlative vocals. From start to finish it’s a dark trip that walks the line between RZA’s timeless hip-hop aesthetic and the cinematic soul EMA has become known for. El Michels Affair tackles some classics like 4th Chamber and Wu Tang Aint Nuthin to Fuck Wit, as well as some deeper cuts like Ol Dirty Bastard’s Snakes, Raekwon’s Verbal Intercourse, and Shaolin Brew, Wu-Tang’s contribution to the St. Ide’s Hip Hop endorsement campaign from 1994. This time El Michels brings some of the Big Crown family along for the ride. Lee Fields handles vocal duties on Snakes and is joined by Shannon Wise of The Shacks for their version of Tearz, which pays as much homage to the Wendy Rene sample as it does to the Wu-Tang Clan. Lady Wray makes an appearance on the cover of Method Man’s hit, All I Need, lending her vocal prowess to what gave the Wu one of their biggest hits of all time. 

El Michels Affair

Sounding Out The City

Over 10 years ago, Leon Michels released his first full length record, 'Sounding Out The City'. It was Michels' first full length record under the moniker El Michels Affair. At the time, the budding retro soul scene consisted of mostly organ quartets a la The Meters and of course, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings were in the early days of their ascent to world domination. Leon Michels, who was 18 when recording 'Sounding Out The City' began, had just released 'Thunder Chicken', the first record by his high school band The Mighty Imperials. At the time of SOTC, Michels was just discovering early rocksteady, afrobeat, and 60's garage rock, which inevitably crept its way into the songwriting. He purchased a Tascam 388, an 80's 1/4" reel to reel 8 track intended for home recordings, and began recording music in a 10x10 box with no windows that also doubled as his childhood bedroom. Along with fellow Mighty Imperials Nick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and Sean Solomon, and Michael Leonhart, Thomas Brenneck, and some of the musicians from The Dap Kings, Michels recorded the LP over a two year period. Upon it's release, it received some rave reviews and the small deep funk community ate it up, but due to the lack luster promotion and distribution the rest of the world was slow to catch on to the instrumental gems featured on SOTC, which Michels appropriately labelled as "cinematic soul". However, in 2005 it found it's way into the hands of the people who were organizing a series of concerts for Scion that paired bands with MC's. El Michels Affair was contacted about playing one show with Raekwon The Chef of Wu Tang Clan fame. The show was such a success it led to a tour, and then to another set of concerts that featured multiple members of the Wu-Tang Clan. This eventually led to the release of El Michels Affair's second record, "Enter the 37th Chamber" which introduced them to a much larger audience and has been their most successful release to date. Michels has since gone on to produce and co-produce numerous records for powerhouse soul artists like Lee Fields. He shares songwriting credits with Adele, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killah, Aloe Blacc, and has played on records by Ray LaMontagne, Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys and Dr. John.


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