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THE SOCIAL REGISTRY

"Best Bless" is the debut LP from Sleepy Doug Shaw’s Highlife. Shaw moved from his hometown of London, England at the age of 19, arriving onto the NYC music scene in 2003. At that time accompanied by only by an acoustic guitar, he was soon showcasing his preternatural singing abilities and strong focused fingerpicking blues skills around the city playing under the moniker Sleepy Doug Shaw; and before long he had joined the entrancing psychedelic soul band White Magic.

Highlife was born in 2008 when Shaw, along with White Magic collaborator Mira Billotte, retreated from New York to the small island of Gaspar Grande off the coast of Trinidad, at the southernmost point of the Carribean trail. The pair spent long, wandering nights chanting and inducing trance, recording on a portable setup that Shaw had lugged along. Shaw chose the name Highlife to imbue a feeling of rejoicing and high consciousness, while also giving a nod to the genre of African music ‘Highlife’, which has greatly influenced his guitar style. With the sun indelible in mind, Shaw and Billotte crossed the Atlantic, returning to his hometown of London. It was there at Southern Studios that full-band versions of the songs were recorded by the brilliant Harvey Birrel (Crass, Sir Richard Bishop, Buzzcocks). Shaw and Billotte were joined on these sessions by Tim Koh (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti) and Jesse Lee (Gang Gang Dance), who play bass and drums respectively on "Burying Stones".

Whistling missiles drop and machine-gun guitars unload over a Mahmoud Ahmed percussion loop for Best Bless’ opening song "War Fair". Next, "F Kenya Rip" leaps into it’s bright circular canter, guitars entwine - teasing at becoming tangled, as Shaw begins the inquiry and a chorus of Billotte’s voices bursts forth. A blissful West-African style lilt ensues, with piano cascading and bass bouncing - and the song circles itself in it’s reverie as though it is intent on it’s eternity. Shaw drew influence for "F Kenya Rip" from the style of the F Kenya Guitar Band, in particular their song "Madame Zehae Ala" (Just As I Am), whose refrain is repeated throughout "F Kenya Rip".

"Burying Stones" is a tripped out, circular four to the floor, devotional anthem. A hysteria inducing loop is swallowed by bubbling guitars and pianos, as drums build and Shaw pronounces 'The old new was like new'. Therein the song drops into an incessant groove, as harmonizing guitars jump down the neck, oscillating against one another in echoed tremolo. "Tuareg Dancehall" plays to it’s name, invoking the melodic musical rudiments of the Tuareg nomads, as a journey unfurls towards a distant desert dancehall. "Best Bless" closes out with the subdued home recording of "Wet Palm Trees". It represents the earliest recording on this record - being penned and recorded on the eve of Shaw’s departure from Trinidad.

As of late Sleepy Doug Shaw has relocated back to NYC where he has been gracing stages of all sizes, quickly become a local favourite, and has still found time to moonlight as Gang Gang Dance’s Bass Player...

Sian Alice Group

Dusk Line

The "Dusk Line" EP is comprised of four songs recorded during work on Sian Alice Group's debut album "59.59" in the Summer of 2007. For this release they opted to work on a smaller scale, stripping their sound down to just layered grand piano and voice. Featuring contributions from just two members of the group, Rupert Clervaux and vocalist Sian Ahern, the "Dusk Line" is an exercise in restraint. It was recorded at London's The Garden, utilizing layered piano parts all performed by Clervaux. Sian Alice Group have become known for their sweeping, orchestrated aesthetic, but "Dusk Line" distils their sound to its core. Rather than using the EP format to flesh out one single, they instead utilize the format's brevity to create a concise but wholly realized idea. Starting the EP is the title track, a beautiful pop song. The EP draws elements from "59.59", including "Days Of Grace II", a gorgeous melodic song that echoes "59.59"s "Days Of Grace III", and "When... (Variation)", an alternate version of the album track of the same name that reconfigures the song for just piano and Sian's mesmerizing vocal. Rounding out "Dusk Line" is "October's Piano", a short improvisation by Rupert Clervaux. The resulting EP feels like a scaled down, although no less impactful, version of "59.59". It is a release that helps illustrate the diversity of the band's sound and wide-ranging nature of its ambition.

Douglas Armour

The Light Of A Golden Day, The Arms Of The Night

"The Light Of A Golden Day, The Arms Of The Night" is the debut album from Los Angeles located Douglas Armour. This album finds the artist expertly blending tons of our favourite poptones from days past to create a hyper-literate pastiche that's equal parts nostalgia and forward-thinking. Echoing its title, the album has a structure that plays off binary oppositions to create one of the most varied pop albums we've heard in a long time.

I.U.D.

The Social Club No. 5

It's no wonder that Lizzie Bougatsos and Sadie Laska sound great together. Hitting it off the first day of Art school, the two hung out for the first time at Laska's weed-dealing older brother's party, and the two have been close ever since. With her multi-instrumental and vocal work in the celebrated band Gang Gang Dance, Bougatsos found herself eager to focus more on drumming. She rang up Laska and the two set to work. The result - a blend of propulsive drumming and samples from all over the musical (and often non-musical) spectrum - is a visceral and moving experience.

Mike Bones is New Jersey-born songwriter Mike Strallow, who lives and works in New York City. Of his pseudonym, Strallow offers: 'Bones is a nickname a friend gave to me when I was a kid. Making records as Mike Bones removes my voice from the song, at least in my own mind and leaves a song's meaning and intention ambiguous. I don't have to show my cards.' The resulting album is a collection of songs akin to the later recordings of Leonard Cohen, where the literary and folk-based nature of his work became 'contaminated' by a seemingly incongruous and vulgar computerized instrumentation. Mike Bones' songs certainly come from the folk tradition, but they leave behind the front porch, communal vibes for a much starker aesthetic.

Gang Gang Dance

Retina Riddim

In advance of Gang Gang Dance's upcoming studio full-length comes the band's first ever DVD release. This film was made by Gang Gang Dance member, and visual artist, Brian DeGraw. "Retina Riddim" is by no means a tour film, documentary, live video, or anything as remotely stringent. Though 'art film' is a moniker that may be justly used to describe it, the term falls somewhat short of it's mark. It is, however, Mr. Degraw's first foray into film making and proves to be a more forward thinking release than many of their contemporaries might attempt. As an added bonus "Retina Riddim" also contains an audio CD cut together by Degraw specifically for this release. This was approached by him in much the same manner as the film, by assembling fragments of Gang Gang Dance music, mostly drawn from sound-checks and live shows, into one whole.


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