California Sounds: New tracks from Dawn Richard, William Tyler — and a new DJ Mija mixtape
Dawn, “New Breed” (Local Action/Our Dawn Ent.)
The new album from the artist born Dawn Richard further establishes — as if that’s even necessary at this point — her voice beyond the work she’s done as part of the commercially-inclined R&B group Danity Kane and the less pop-leaning, more menacing work with Dirty Money.
Endlessly willing to throw herself into the weirdest beguiling beats she can find, Richard on lead track “Sauce” harnesses music built by Cole M.G.N. and Hudson Mohawke to sing about what she describes in release notes as “women taking pride in their prowess, and about being raised to celebrate my skin.” She added, “I lost focus of that when so many men degraded and disrespected my brown skin.”
Elsewhere on “New Breed” she roams her adopted city of Los Angeles as if James Ellroy narrating a crime thriller. She locates the song “Spaces” “somewhere between Hollywood and Vine” in a song about a divine brush-off, phrasing her lyrics through a snare-snapped, stutter-step beat like street racers chasing each other down Sunset Boulevard at 3 a.m.
Mija, “Dead Flowers & Cigarettes” music video (Mija Music)
The new video by the artist born Amber Giles is presented as if it were a silent film, with opening captions that introduce a melodramatic ensemble of characters who are in the midst of some sort of music-induced breakdown. Giles, who DJs and makes tracks as Mija, stands before a microphone, half-singing, half-speaking her lines as attendees gradually begin to weep at the music.
It’s a wonderfully odd video, more self-effacing than self-aggrandizing. As an uptempo but gently delivered rhythm commences, Mija seems to mock in song a former lover who told her, “You’re the saddest girl I know.” A few times the music goes silent in deference to the action, only to return with gusto moments later.
Perhaps best, the track drops to half-time near the end, and listeners are transported into a chopped-and-screwed take on the rhythm.
Giles relocated from Phoenix a half-decade ago to be where the action is. Like the wisest musicians, she brought the action with her. Plugging it into the downtown L.A. beat-production scene surrounding producer Skrillex’s OWSLA imprint, she set about crafting sets and tracks that drew from house, techno, British garage and grime — and a bunch of music under the brand FK A Genre that defies neat categorization. She also has a clothing line called Made by Mija.
Those looking to burn some calories with a living room dance party would be advised to check out Mija’s fantastic recent mix for Noisey, embedded above. The hour-long set highlights her ear for knockout rhythms and her skill at tangling them together.
William Tyler, “Goes West” (Merge)
The Nashville guitarist first made his name as a member of country rock groups Lambchop and the Silver Jews, but has long been issuing magnetic instrumental guitar music as a solo artist and leading a band.
A few years ago Tyler relocated to northeast Los Angeles, and his new album kinda-sorta documents that journey.
With complex plucked melodies that spiral with a kind of algebraic precision, opening song “Alpine Star” could be a lost Jerry Garcia studio demo. “Fail Safe” opens with a four-on-the-floor kick drum, one that drives beneath the music like tires hitting the concrete seams of a torn-up state highway.
Much of Tyler’s output has a meditative quality, and the work on “Goes West” strikes that same balance. He prefers his electric guitar tones clean and seems to revel in what he’s learned to do on his instrument. In that sense, Tyler is similar to one of his collaborators on the album, Bill Frisell, who tangles with his younger peer on the album’s closing song, “Our Lady of the Desert.”
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