Dukepope's blog about music, art, design and technology.

Music

My Top 10 Musical Discoveries of 2017

I have a tendency to discover new artists when they are already old news. In the case of Electric Guest I stumbled upon them through Youtube recommendations in August right after their single ‘Oh Devil” (Feat. Devin Di Dokta) had been released. I think this is probably the one song I’ve listened the most to this autumn. Love the falsetto vocals, the catchy melody, the Jamaican guest vocalist Devin Di Dokta and how they manage to bring a retro vibe into a modern pop production. They have a bunch of other great songs too, but this one is my favourite so far.
 
Chela is another artist I discovered around the same time through Youtube. Those recommendations can be a great way to discover new music. This girl has some real attitude, a very unique dancing style and an interesting vocal delivery from down under. I really like the creative music video for “Romanticize”.
 
Now over to something completely different. Found this gem of an album in the Turkish music section at Oslo public library. Just reading the title ‘Disco Folk’ was enough to convince me and their 70s Turkish disco hippie style assured me I had found a real treasure. Have listened a lot to this one over the last year. If you like disco and Turkish folk music, there’s no way you’ll be disappointed by Derdiyoklar Ikilisi.
 
I got interested in the Peruvian 60s and 70s musical style called chicha through an American Band called Chicha Libre and their version of the early electronic hit Popcorn (They call it Popcorn Andino). A little googling led me to Lucha Reyes, one of the most well esteemed Peruvian artists of the mid 19th century. She has a beatiful voice, but the accompaniement is also very distinctly shaped by the musical tradition of Peru and the Andean region.
 
I colleague at work told me my own music sounded a bit like Chromeo, so I naturally had to check them out. They really have a catchy sound, mixing analogue synths and electric guitar with disco, funk and modern electronica. It’s rare and refreshing to hear pop artists nowadays who are such skilled musicians, you can really hear these guys are having fun when they’re playing. “Hard to Say No” is my favourite track so far.
 
 I watched a great documentary from BBC a while back called Synth Britannia. It chronicles the rise of synthpop in early 80s England, how a handful of bands grown tired of punk and progressive rock sought influence from electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and Donna Summer (who fronted Georgio Moroder’s radical synth driven pop productions). The Human League feature prominently in this documentary, as they were among the pioneers of synthpop. They maintain some of the cold robotic aesthetic Kraftwerk have become known for, but nonetheless bring something more lighthearted and very british into the mix and became major trendsetters in the 80s.
 
It’s hard to describe Mother’s Finest. They really defy cathegorisation, and racial stereotypes too. Let’s say they are the most soulful funk rock band around, founded in 1970s Atlanta and still going strong! Discovering them was one of my definite musical highlights of 2017. Above is their studio version of “Baby Love”, but there is also a great live version out on Youtube.
 
Babe Ruth is another 70s rock band who did their own thing, this time on the other side of the Atlantic in England. Their sound is a mix between prog, heavy metal and spanish/latin sounds. Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican” was sampled by the Prodigy for their lesser known album The Dirtchaimber Sessions, which I listened to as a youngster. That particular song was my favourite on that album, so it was great to discover the band behind the sample some fifteen years later.
 
47 Soul was a big musical discovery for me in the past year. They combine acid house influences with hip hop and arabic folk music and have created a killer sound. Omar Souleyman is another artist to check out for more acid arab tunes. They have already been in Norway a few times, so I hope they come back soon and will not miss the next chance to see these guys live.
 
I visited the Faroe Islands when I was fifteen and have since been very fascinated by this little archipelago right between Norway and Iceland. Faroese Eivør Palsdottir or just Eivør has gained a following in Scandinavia and Germany, but has yet to break through in the English speaking world. I say yet, because I think she deserves a wider following, with her otherwordly singing and fascinating soundscapes.

A quick review of Yungcloud

feature6-2yungcloud3-9f1ee721059140ef

Yungcloud was founded in May 2015 as a reaction to the gradual commercialization of SoundCloud,  which has left many artists and fans feeling frustrated that they are not given enough importance. On their official Twitter account Youngcloud claim to be the “world’s leading underground music streaming serive” (I think they meant service). Which may be true, since Soundcloud has had few serious competitors since Myspace’s slow death some years back. (On paper Myspace still exists, but as a social platform for artists to connect with their fans it has been dead for many years).

I made a Yungcloud profile and uploaded a few tracks some weeks back to give it a try. Yungcloud is a new and fairly small platform, so when I contacted them regarding technical problems, Jvde or Mc Jude, one of the co-creators and site admins responded within minutes and sorted everything out in no time. He also added me as a friend and liked one of my songs. I doubt SoundCloud’s customer service can compete with that, though I’ve never tried contacting them.

The downside of Yungcloud for me is that I’m having a very hard time finding music that I like on the site. The majority of it seems to be this sort of lo-fi hip hop, I guess it’s called trap. Not really my cup of tea. I did find some ok sounding vaporwave and synthwave after a bit of searching. As for more mainstream sounds they seem to be almost non-existent. And if you ever sign a contract with a label you will be banned on the site if I understand correctly? They have this ban list featuring famous artists on their front page. Which seems a bit overly harsh, and not the best policy if they want to attract some decent sounding music to their site. [Edit: a yungcloud fan has made me aware that the ban list is there because those artists have sent DMCA notices to yungcloud if anyone uploaded remixes of their work]

To conclude, I kind of like the Yungcloud platform, but I’m not impressed with the artists that use it, which again makes it kind of useless for me as a networking tool. If you have some more pop oriented music up on Yungcloud, please hit me up and I’ll follow you back.


Yazoo – Don’t Go

Yazoo is one of the most unique and powerful acts of early synthpop, and have been a big source of inspiration for me. Vince Clarke’s crisp, melodic synth and Alison Moyet’s powerful voice are a perfect match. Check out their music video for Don’t Go, a nice window into the early 80s, a time when talent mattered more in pop music than fitting into some narrow ideal of physical beauty. If you want to hear more of this style of music, there is a great BBC documentary called Synth Britannia which chronicles the rise of synthpop in the UK, where Vince Clarke and Yazoo are also extensively featured. Last time I checked it was available for free on Youtube.


My first singles are now up on Spotify!

dukepopezero logo

My music has finally made its way out on the commercial market. Not that I’m expecting to make me rich anytime soon, certainly my expenses will be way higher than my income this year from music. (Unless I score a radio hit or something.) So here is a link to Duke Pope Zero on Spotify. My music is also available through all the other major streaming platforms, plus Bandcamp, Soundcloud and a few other minor music networking sites which I plan to write reviews of here soon. The focus on the blog will also shift more towards music related stuff from now.


A wonderfully weird music video from vaporwave originators Pet Shop Boys

Put on your conical hats, lean back and immerse yourselves in this music video, bringing you straight back to that early nineties post-modernist aesthetic. “Can You Forgive Her” features the typical Pet Shop Boys sound, mixing 90s dance with ambient and orchestral elements, accompanied by airy vocals and funny, yet poetic lyrics.


Who said the white man can’t make reggae disco?

I shared this song with a friend on facebook a while back, and introduced the post with the question in the title. He told me: “Not sure if anyone ever said that.” Maybe nobody said it out loud, but I still feel like some people have harboured suspiciouns in this regard. Well, here is the proof that will have you discard your doubts if you ever had any; Break my Stride by Mathew Wilder from 1983. Take note of the crazy outfits, the interesting dance moves and Mathew Wilder’s proto-hipster moustache!


New website (and old desktop telephones)

I finally have my own personal website, which I’m being told is a must for creative professionals in today’s competitive online marketplace. Here it is: www.dukepope.com

To be honest I’m still trying to figure out how to get ahead in this rat race of self promotion and social media mumbo jumbo. I sometimes wish we could go back to the time of knocking doors and calling up solid desktop telephones with gut shaking mechanical ringing and get through to a real person on the other side. In reality I guess there’s nothing stopping us from knocking doors and ringing up people, and despite the mantra of “online presence is everything” perhaps this is still the way that would actually get you somewhere as an aspiring creative professional. I guess it’s time to put it to the test! (And perhaps I’ll even let you know how it goes). In the meantime please have a look at my webpage and let me know what you think of it! (And as a side note, if you click the “music” link, it will take you to my soundcloud and my latest song, which I finished last week, called Believe in Love.)

www.dukepope.com


Freakshow on the Dancefloor

After briefly straying into the domain of protests and revolution, it’s time to get back on track with some funky R&B from the height of the carnivalistic madness of the 1980s. Behind this great track are the Bar Kays, a resilient band with a stormy history. They started out in 1966 as a backing band for Stax Records, and were chosen to support Otis Redding in 1967. Tragically, four of the founding members died in the same plane crash that also ended Otis Redding’s career much too early. The two surviving members of the Bar Kays however managed to re-establish the band – an admirable accomplishment. They went on to become a successful funk band in the seventies, and kept up the success with a more commercial sound as they entered the eighties.


Norwegian Hair Metal

Since Black Metal originated in Scandinavia in the early nineties, the scandal ridden metal sub genre has become a prime cultural export of Norway. The audience stretches from Buenos Aires via Teheran to Tokyo, and the biggest names still draw massive audiences on their world tours. At this point however I wish to wipe the dust of a Norwegian rock band at the total opposite end of the scale; Hair Rockers TNT. They never reached as big an audience as their Swedish counterpart Europe, but their tunes are equally catchy and the band bangs out a constant virtuosic overload. With vocalist Tony Harnell covering four octaves, and Guitarist Ronny Le Tekro possessing some wild guitar skills, they did however become very big in Scandinavia and in Japan (of course).


Image

Victor Moscoso, the Grand Old Master of Psychedelic Art

Allthough Wes Wilson is seen as the father of the psychedelic rock poster, the poster art of Victor Moscoso stands for me as the archetypal expression of the hippie era. With vibrating colours and psychedelic imagery, his posters take you straight back to that special vibe of the late 1960s San Fransisco. Victor Moscoso was born in Spain in 1937, but moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York three years later, where he spent most of his youth and childhood. He went on to study art at Yale under the supervision of Josef Albers, whose color theory later became an important inspiration for him. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was a motivating factor for Moscoso to move on to California and San Fransisco in 1959. But it wasn’t until 1967 with the Summer of Love that Victor Moscoso rose to international fame, with his posters for the Avalon Ballroom (whose concerts featured artists such as Janis Joplin and the Doors). There is an excellent interview with him at The Comics Journal, for those who would like to read more about his fascinating life and refreshing take on art. Victor Moscoso is still active as an artist.

Victor Moscoso Quicksilver MessengerVictor Moscoso Miller Blues BandVictor Moscoso Family DogSONY DSC


Video

Great track and funky music video from Norwegian duo Ost & Kjex

I’m amazed by how simple and yet how cool this music video is. (Directed and animated by Ellis & Sac Magique). Norwegian electronic duo Ost & Kjex (cheese & crackers) have been around for quite a few years. I love their playful, unpretentious style and their quirky falsetto vocals.


Video

Love & Theft: A Crazy Trip to Psychedelic Cartoon Land

This short film by German animator Andreas Hykade takes you on a spastic journey back and forth through cartoon history, with short detours via evolution and psychedelic trip.


Street Musique by Ryan Larkin, a Psychedelic Animation Short from 1972

Canadian animator Ryan Larkin has sadly become just as well known for his unfortunate life story, as his powerful animations. After being nominated for Oscars with “Walking” in 1969, he followed up the success with this amazing little film in 1972. Unfortunately, Street Musique became the last complete movie he made. Somehow Larkin ended up on a path of alcoholism, drug abuse and homelessness. A few years before his death in 2007, he did however have a little comeback; as the director of the music video “spare change”, but only as a vague shadow the creative genius he once used to be.


Zoolook: The Music Video

Here is a gem of a music video, of legendary Jean Michel Jarre’s song Zoolook. It was one of two singles on the album of the same name, released back in 1984. The plot revolves around a crazy Frankenstein-ish scientist who travels the world with his fantastic robot show, enchanting young audiences from Shanghai to Zanzibar…


A Synth Slap Bass Bonanza: Theme Music from the Classic Amiga Game Jaguar XJ220

This is one of my favorite classic computer game tunes, composed by Martin Iveson for the Jaguar XJ220 game on Amiga back in the early nineties. I grew up playing this game on our neighbours’ Amiga 1200, in what remains an intense childhood memory. The smell of the computer, the sound of the loading floppy discs and the excitement of us promising young race car drivers tucked into a small boys room, it all feels palpable to this day.


Rydeen, a Japanese Synthpop Hit from 1979

Yellow Magic Orchestra are less known than their German contemporaries Kraftwerk, but they were no less important in shaping the synthpop of the eighties and in turn electronic music as we know it today. Rydeen is one of the highlights from their second album, Solid State Survivor, mixing disco with eastern musical elements. It’s an energetic and uptempo tune, which also showcases their pioneering use of synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines. Although the music video may look simple to our modern eyes, it must have been pretty advanced for it’s time.