Mysterious yet accessible, impeccably cool but with a mischievous wink, Made in Heights’ new LP, Without My Enemy What Would I Do, hints at hip-hop and EDM delicately encased by smart, graduate-level pop song craft. At turns romantic and bombastic, danceable and ruminant, producer Sabzi and vocalist Kelsey Bulkin made a stunner in WMEWWID.
Sabzi dropped this “albumixtape” in the inbox this morning as a little gift to the fans. Thanks, Saba! Seems like The Woods is a preview of what’s to come in 2014 from Made In Heights, his side project with vocalist Kelsey Bulkin — an unexpected and welcome surprise! Happy Holidays and stay warm, family.
Made In Heights seems to get busiest during the Holiday season. Winter Pigeons found the first light of the internets in December three years ago. When we caught MIH’s first live show in Brooklyn last month, my fiancee described their music as “romantic”. I agree, and what better time of year for romance than the Holidays. “Pirouette” is a delicate ballad to curl up to.
The gradual rise of Made In Heights (Blue Scholars’ DJ/producer Sabzi and vocalist Kelsey Bulkin) has been a slow but intense burn. For a time, shortly after their relatively low-key but intensely beloved debut in early 2011, the duo topped this blog’s “most searched-for” list for about 30 days straight.
206UP has been a fan since the start. MIH is that rare electo-pop act that finds the perfect balance between the glaring computerized elements of its compositions (Sabzi), and the organic humanist component of its vocals (Kelsey). Success for groups like this depends on existing in the harmony between. (See also: Lorde.)
Made In Heights appeared live on stage for the first time at the Blue Scholars show in Brooklyn, about a month and a half ago. A lot of the songs they played were like the new one you hear below: calculated, bombastic and, at times, seemingly frantic. What remains most impressive about Kelsey Bulkin is how she uses her upper register to neutralize Sabzi’s digital bluster. This new track is called “Death”, but it’s really all about how much life this impressive singer breathes into a modern musical device that is, for all intents and purposes, inanimate without her.
See, there are good reasons to treck to Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a Wednesday night! Music out of the 206 invades New York City for the next two evenings as electro/dance outfit The Flavr Blue (Hollis, Parker and Lace Cadence) play their first show in the Apple tonight at Cameo Gallery in post-hipsterville Williamsburg. Joining them are budding R&B singer Alisha Roney (who you will recognize from her two stellar turns on The Good Sin’s The Story of Love x Hate), singer Avery Storm, and Blue Scholars DJ/producer Sabzi. Sample a few tracks from TFB’s debut album Pisces, below.
Photo by Alex Crick.
And speaking of Blue Scholars…The currently touring duo will rock Bowery Ballroom for the second third year in a row tomorrow tonight with The Physics and Brothers From Another on deck as support. Grab tickets here or meet me outside for a falafel on the Bowery tomorrow before the show!
Alright, welcome me back from my week-long vacation out West. The irony of me traveling to Seattle (from my now more-than-temporary home of New York City) is that I don’t actually get any blogging done when I’m out there. Too busy drinking coffee, eating the best sandwich in the country, and splattering pho broth all over my shirt front.
Oh yeah, I’m also busy talking my way into sold-out Blue Scholars shows (thanks, Hollis!) whilst trying to avoid every drop of torrential rainfall the Pacific Northwest has to offer. (The U-Dub stadium parking lot was a river on Friday night. Sheets of water, I’m telling you!)
Anyway, BS kicked off their #TownAllDay Tour jaunt around the country on Friday with a sold-out performance at the Showbox Market. Geo and Sabzi have tightened up their live set (as if that were even possible) by interspersing a totally engaging series of video shorts throughout their rap songs. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the cities on the tour docket and have tickets, you’ll see what I mean.
The vignettes act as a narrative stitching the hyper-local focus of Blue Scholars together. It’s fun playing guess-the-Seattle-sights while watching the clips, but perhaps more importantly the sequences serve to eliminate that bit of regular hip-hop show fatigue — you know the one that starts settling in right around the 45 minute mark.
On Friday the group also debuted a new song, “The Decisive Moment,” which finds Geo getting back to MC basics. There’s no hook here and just enough of a groove by Sabzi to help impart the autobiographical, self-revelatory sentiments of one of the Town’s most beloved artists.
Also fresh: the video for “Anna Karina” (directed by Matt Jay) which has an interesting origin story and subtle provocativeness that speaks volumes without being bombastic. Blue Scholars continue to age like a fine wine.
Caught this little number over at Sabzi’s blog, Townfolk. Inspired by a choice instrumental in an episode of Mad Men (hence the “Sally Draper” in the title), Saba gives us something “crunchy” and “stumbly” (his words) for our brains to chew on.
Blue Scholars’ new video for “Slick Watts” is a pantheon of northwest hip-hop cameos — the food and Townfolk variety. Jordan Nicholson helmed the high-def for this one. Chances are good you’ve seen dude’s lens work on other local music sites. I implore you to Google further.