Author Archives: Ash El Gamal

[TMN Exclusive Interview] Get To Know: UK R&Bounce Producer XO

xo
XO
Through The Night (feat. RobLaw)

Soul, funk and R&B seem to revive themselves every few years whether it be in hip-hop, electronica or indie music. It is a welcome longevity that doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the breadth of those genres’ influence. A batch of electronic producers from collectives like SoulectionHW&W and FlowFi have been leading the latest revival melding elements of EDM and hip-hop with soul and ’90s R&B influences in what’s been referred to as Future Bounce and Emotional Dance Music.

Over the last 6 months or so, UK producer Sunil Heera, aka XO, has been building quite the audience on his SoundCloud with his unique R&Bounce style. Although it certainly fits with the current direction of electronic music, his sound has broader influences in house and garage reflecting a diverse musical background. His latest single “Through the Night,” off his upcoming debut EP of the same name, serves as a perfect introduction to XO’s music. The bouncy, soulful and sexy production on the cut match RobLaw‘s voice to perfection in part because XO also works closely with his vocalists in the songwriting process.

Get to know this up ‘n coming talent in our exclusive interview below. Through the Night drops on December 1st and can be pre-ordered via iTunes HERE.

TMN: What is your first musical memory? And when/how did you get into making music?

XO: Hmmm, probably dancing around my living room to the Spice Girls with my older sister, I must’ve been like 3/4 years old or something, don’t judge me.

I’ve always been a music fanatic for as long as I can remember, so I guess the initial interest in actually making my own stemmed from there. I started producing casually in my early high school years, purely out of curiosity I suppose. The idea of creating music from my own bedroom intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a little go!  A couple of years later, once I’d reached a point of consistency with my production skills, I started out as XO and after a period of self discovery, here I am!

TMN: You seem to be pretty involved past just the production of your tracks. How did you go about constructing “Through the Night”? What’s your collaboration approach with vocalists more broadly? 

XO: Yeah totally, I’m a songwriter just as much as I am a producer nowadays. “Through The Night” started off as a simple chord sequence as most of my tracks do. During the developmental stage, I got a general feel for the vocal melody and began to pencil in the lyrical content. The track concept itself was perfect for RobLaw’s voice, so we just had to work together again!

My collaboration approach with most vocalists is similar to the one I’ve just described, I like to get an initial idea first of all, and then build and refine it with them. Although, there’s no set procedure to how these things work, every song you write or produce is different – going with the flow is the best thing to do.

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[NEW] Alt-J – Left Hand Free (Lido Remix)

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Alt-J
Left Hand Free (Lido Remix)

A week after Lido previewed this remix on his Diplo & Friends MixAlt-J has let loose the Norwegian producer’s much anticipated take on their infectious single, “Left Hand Free.” We’ve come to expect the unexpected from Lido at this point and, on this one, he relaxes the upbeat original to kick things off allowing Alt-J’s vocals to shine over a minimalistic background. Around the 1:45 mark, Lido breaks the tension with his signature big-room breakdown accompanied with vocoder melodies.

This one was released exclusively via Spotify and comes a day after Lido’s I Love You Too, the impressive remix EP of his debut project featuring a number of fellow up ‘n comers. If you’re anything like us, you’ll have this one on repeat all day.

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[Festival Review + Playlist] Photos & Songs from Treasure Island 2014, SF 10/18-19

_MG_1990As regular festival attendees, the Ninja staff has definitely learned to appreciate a well-organized event and last weekend’s Treasure Island Music Festival proved once again to be one of the best in the business. With no overlapping sets and plenty of room to dance, TIMF, even in its most well-attended year to date, felt like a paradise for festivalgoers who, with the current popularity of live music, have become accustomed to the more stressful aspects of music festivals. Treasure Island’s 2014 lineup featured masterful curation of diverse genres encouraging attendees to check out acts they might not have otherwise.

Check out a playlist of memorable songs to go along with some amazing photos of MØ, Chet Faker Outkast, Alt-J and more from Treasure Island Music Festival below. If you were in attendance last weekend, we hope this brings you back!

Day 1

Why we loved it: Electro-pop vocalist MØ has been on our radar for quite some time now. As a performer, she has an undeniable energy with a voice that translates incredibly well live. Due to an eye infection, she was rocking an eye patch during her set, which actually ended up making her look even cooler on stage. TIMF2014_4 TIMF2014_5TIMF2014_6


Dont Wanna Dance
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[TMN Exclusive Interview] A Conversation with Ásgeir at Treasure Island Music Festival

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Ásgeir
Dýrð í dauðaþögn

At this point, it’s far from a secret that Iceland produces some of the most uniquely talented musicians in the world. Acts like Sigur Ros, Bjork and, more recently, Of Monsters and Men have solidified the international awareness of Iceland’s magical music scene. Although each artist brings something vastly different to the table, there does seem to be a sort of ethereal, mythological nature that ties them all together.

In 2012, Icelandic folktronica artist Ásgeir emerged in his home country with his debut album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn, which broke the record for best-selling debut in Iceland surpassing some of his immensely successful predecessors. The ten-track project features Ásgeir’s phenomenal oft-falsetto Icelandic vocals over folky guitar and subtle electronic elements, most notably employed in the bouncy ”Leyndarmál” (later adopted in English as “King and Cross”). With his album owned by nearly 1 in 10 people in Iceland, Ásgeir took to spreading his music to a broader audience by releasing a fully English-translated version titled In the Silence earlier this year taking him around the world touring.

We had a chance to catch up with Ásgeir’s after his incredible set at this year’s Treasure Island Festival to discuss his musical background, home country and plans for the future. Give the conversation a read below and make sure to keep Ásgeir on your radar.

TMN: Tell us a bit about your first experiences with music and how you got started.

Ásgeir: I started playing guitar when I was about 6. My first guitar was a classical guitar and my parents are classically educated so I went to school pretty early playing classical guitar. Pretty soon after that, I started having an interest in writing songs. Then, I started listening to rock and grunge music. I eventually wanted to play electric guitar and started forming different bands. It pretty much started with my family who had a lot to do with encouraging me.

 TMN: What were some of the artists that you were listening to a lot growing up?

Ásgeir: I went through different periods. From 6 to 11, it was all Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Metallica and that kind of stuff. At the same time, I was playing classical guitar and I didn’t really feel connected to the instrument until I grew up more at 13 or 14. At that time, I started listening to more folk artists. I got my first acoustic guitar with steel strings and that’s where I kind of found country music. Johnny Cash was one of my favorites and an Icelandic artist Mugison. Sigur Ros was always one of my favorites as well as Sufjan Stevens and Kelly Joe Phelps.

 TMN: Icelandic artists tend to have a very distinct, unified sound. How has that played into your music and why do you think that is?

Ásgeir: A lot has to do with just the music in Iceland and what we grow up listening to, which inspires us. I grew up in the northwest side of Iceland in a really isolated small town and I was always really close to my environment as well. I can’t really put my finger on what it is that connects us and makes the music how it is. But there’s definitely an Icelandic vibe and sound that comes from our unity. I think its just how small of a nation we are, how few people live there and everything like that.
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[Good Morning] Lion Babe – Treat Me Like Fire (Snakehips Remix)

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Lion Babe
Treat Me Like Fire (Snakehips Remix)

Snakehips have a unique capacity for suspending listeners in a perpetual state of summer. This morning, the UK production duo dropped some good vibes with their remix of Lion Babe‘s “Treat Me Like Fire.” This laid-back rendition adds some sunny guitar riffs, future-bounce elements and hip-hop percussion that, paired with the soulful vocals of the original and very brief cameos from Biggie Smalls and A Tribe Called Quest, make for the perfect song to wake up to. Check it and grab a free download here. Happy Friday, ninjas!

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[Hip-Hop] Chance the Rapper – No Better Blues

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Chance The Rapper & The Social Experiment
No Better Blues

When Chance the Rapper speaks, or rather raps, people listen, and rightfully so. The Chi-town emcee is quickly approaching superstardom resting near the top of festival lineups and selling out shows around the country on a grueling tour schedule. In the last few months, Chance’s releases have been scarce but of an incredibly high creative caliber including a star-studded cover of the Arthur theme song and the bright, piano-laden “Tap Dance.” Today, Chance gives out another freebie for his fans and, as expected, its an unconventional, original cut.

“No Better Blues” takes the tempo, and Chance’s energy, down a notch, reminiscent of the track “Acid Rain,” with a soft piano background and minimal percussion. Lyrically, Chance builds a list of things he hates but, per usual, not in a straight-forward fashion as he creates commentary through conflicting views. Give this one a listen and grab a free download above.

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60+ Songs to Prepare for Treasure Island Music Festival in SF, 10/18-19 [Event Preview + Playlist]

timf2014-sfweekly-fullpgLineups for major music festivals often boast 100+ artists, which although in theory is a great concept, can end up being overwhelming and frustrating when you realize the impossibility of seeing every act on the bill. San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival, a collaboration between Noise Pop and Another Planet Entertainment, provides one of the few exceptions to this conundrum electing to go with fewer artists and alternating sets at only two stages. Having attended last year, we found this to be a genius, albeit seemingly obvious, solution making the experience far more relaxed for festival-goers without sacrificing any quality in the music. Aside from the unique arrangement, the backdrop of Treasure Island overlooks both the Bay and Golden Gate bridges and has one of the more stunning sunsets the Bay Area has to offer. For anyone who will be attending this year, we also highly recommend checking out the non-stop Silent Disco stage courtesy Silent Frisco.

To help you all prepare for what should be an amazing weekend of music, we’ve put together a massive playlist including every single artist on the TIMF lineup because, with no overlapping sets, you will actually have the opportunity to see them all. Whether you’ve already got your ticket, are still on the fence or can’t make it this year, we hope this serves as a fun, introduction to a dynamic collection of musicians. One and two-day passes for Treasure Island Music Festival are still available so, if you like what you hear below, grab your tickets HERE.

Day 1: 

Painted PalmsNoon @ Bridge Stage. 

Sounds like: San Francisco-based, psychedelic pop.

Painted Palms
Anna
Painted Palms
Here It Comes

Tobacco (of Black Moth Super Rainbow), 12:40PM @ Tunnel Stage.

Sounds like: In his own words, “I want to make you feel paranoid in a good way.”

Tobacco
Self Tanner
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Gangs in the Garden

ratking1

MUST-SEE: Ratking1:10PM @ Bridge. 

Sounds like: Gritty, high energy New York hip-hop.

Ratking
So It Goes
Ratking
Pretty Picture
Phantogram
Fall in Love (RATKING Falling Off Remix)
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