Beautiful chaos and more Death Grips mystery
New styles: We’ve reached a poignant moment in Zac Nelson’s life.
The Sacramento experimental musician turns 33 next month. His first-ever business, Zeal Kombucha, is finding success. His work-music balance doesn’t really exist anymore, because he’s just about given up on performing for a living. He’s seeking stability. And that’s a good thing for his music, too—it can be just for fun.
Yet, it’s at this point in his life that Nelson nabs a two-to-three record deal with Brooklyn label Styles Upon Styles. He’s scheduled to release the first, New Once, on June 16 and is already looking forward to recording the next album—it’ll be his first time creating in a professional studio with professional support as a solo artist.
Though still plenty experimental and avant garde, New Once is Nelson’s most catchy pop record yet.
“I just wanted to create something concise, unique and fresh,” he said. “I’ve listened to it for years and I still love it—that’s a good sign.”
Clocking in at a short and sweet 21 minutes in length, the nine-song collection has been sitting with Nelson for about three years. Thoroughly impressed, Styles Upon Styles signed Nelson and brought on Rusty Santos to polish off the mixing. Santos used to be the mixing engineer for Animal Collective.
If you’re not familiar with Nelson’s solo work, you may know him from the electro-pop trio Biosexual. He’s also performed with ALAK and collaborated with Death Grips’ Zach Hill on the project CHLL PLL.
New Once’s decidedly more pop sound stems from—again—this poignant moment in Nelson’s life. For the first time, he’s making music beyond purely internal artistic desires.
“Do I just want to make some statement like, ’Look how weird I can get?’ Or do I want to make something people will actually listen to? I’ve already made tons of material for myself,” he said. “Now I’m thinking about other people.”
The result is rich, textured and attractively chaotic, with relatable themes such as “dying, love, friends, being baffled by being on a planet in outer space,” he quipped. Nelson’s multi-instrumentation includes baroque singing, guitar, bass, synth and processed computer sounds, but his dynamic drumming stands out. It makes sense, as Nelson starts with drums when he writes songs and layers on top of that.
Grab the record at http://styles uponstyles.bandcamp.com, but don’t expect a Sacramento release show. Nelson hasn’t performed live solo in three years and doesn’t plan to start up again—apart from a label showcase in New York this summer—but you can try bugging him about it at the Midtown Farmers Market’s Zeal Kombucha stand.
Truth: If straight-up, no-frills rock ’n’ roll is your jam, do check out the debut record from Lee Bob & the Truth. Available on vinyl and other formats, The Truth is a raw, foot-tappin’ pleasure that channels both old-school and modern rock vibes. Plus a couple of bluesy ballads.
Lee Bob is Lee Bob Watson, a Sacramento expat best known for his stint in Jackpot. Steve Wyreman and Josh Lippi—another Sacramento expat—round out the Bay Area band’s core.
That last detail is important. The Truth is a Bay Area album—an uncompromising reflection of San Francisco in its dramatically shifting times. Watson’s lyrics—particularly on the first two tracks “Mission Breakdown” and “El Dorado”—are full of enjoyable snark. An example on the latter: “Silicon Valley pastures of plenty / Payments are many in the promised land / Up a spiral staircase they’re counting the money / Saying, ’Thank you kindly, you can keep the pen.’”
Death Grips strikes again: Last week, the alternative hip-hop group known for keeping the world on its toes befuddled the masses once more. A Death Grips-related Twitter account dropped a download link—no explanation, obviously—for I’ve always been good at true love, an album by the I.L.Y.’s.
Who are the I.L.Y.’s? No one really knows, but let’s assume it’s a Death Grips side project. No hip-hop here, though. Drummer Zach Hill—we think—is singing on most tracks over grunge, experimental pop, power punk, synths and a whole lotta other sounds. We’re going to guess he’s the lead songwriter, too, with the mathy Hella style sort of going on. But again, with Death Grips, we can only guess.