It’s 1993. 3 years into the 16-bit era, Squaresoft releases Secret of Mana for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Mana is a top-down multiplayer action role-playing game, offering a distinct, vibrant art style, strategic real-time battle system, and memorable soundtrack, all encapsulated in a high-fantasy world driven by themes of magic, nature, and life-giving “mana”. A young Natsukashii is taken in by its vivid colors, animated characters, and engaging gameplay… but its rich, varied soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta leaves the strongest impression. As he plays, Natsukashii often places his character standing in Mana’s world in order to listen to the looping themes again and again, filling his young heart and mind with Kikuta’s masterful music.
It’s 2020. The world is gripped by a pandemic. As economies are shaken and self-isolation becomes the new reality, a cultural gravitation towards nostalgic comfort grows. An older Natsukashii shares this longing and revisits Secret of Mana once more. While some aspects of the game have not quite stood the test of time, its soundtrack remains largely lauded. As he plays, Kikuta-san’s timeless melodies again stir Natsukashii with that same fervent essence he knew 27 years before, filling his spirit with inspiration. Heartfelt and determined, he begins to create Manawave.
Kikuta’s compositions provide the foundation for this modern homage, as Natsukashii infuses 12 selected tracks with crafted downtempo beats, lush synth instrumentation, textural ambiance, and dottings of environmental sounds and vocal samples. Lending serendipity to the project, Hiroki Kikuta himself generously provides liner notes, and art from legendary Secret of Mana artist Hiroo Isono is featured on the cover. Sometimes pensive, sometimes playful, always impassioned; Manawave is a genuine love letter to an enduring classic.
First Ever Vinyl Reissue of this title! Officially licensed reissue courtesy of Real Gone Music and pressed by Gotta Groove Records on high-quality 150 gram vinyl, in GGR branded rice paper innersleeves. Lacquers cut by Clint Holley and Dave Polster at the Well Made Music studios.
With long-standing stints in Tower of Power and Santana, Chester Thompson just might be the most decorated and distinguished keyboardist in all of rock and R&B, let alone of the Bay Area musical scene. It’s little wonder that this 1971 album, then, is one of the rarest and most coveted albums on the highly collectible Black Jazz Records label
This is Thompson’s debut record, cut a couple of years before he joined Tower of Power, with a smokin’ band featuring fellow Black Jazz recording artist Rudolph Johnson on sax along with ace drummer Raymond Pounds (Pharoah Sanders, Stevie Wonder, Pointer Sisters) and trombonist Al Hall (Johnny Hammond, Freddie Hubbard, Eddie Harris). And, yes, Powerhouse comes by its title honestly – it’s jazz, all right, but injected with a jolt of electricity courtesy of Thompson’s Hammond B-3, and with just four tunes spread out over two sides, it’s pretty much a nonstop groove.
Newly remastered, and with liner notes featuring quotes from fellow Tower of Power member Dave Garibaldi and Bay Area keyboardist Todd Cochran a.k.a. Bayeté that testify as to Chester Thompson’s greatness, this is another long-lost triumph from the Black Jazz label.
A reliable traditionalist with a penchant for bittersweet songs of heartbreak and loss, Ashley Monroe pulled a complete 180 for her spectacular new album, Rosegold, riding the joyful emotional wave that followed the birth of her son to create her most ecstatic, blissed-out collection yet. Written and recorded over the past two years, the record finds the Grammy-nominated Nashville star pushing her sound in bold new directions, drawing on everything from Kanye West and Kid Cudi to Beck and The Beach Boys as she layers lush vocal harmonies atop dreamy, synthesized soundscapes and sensual, intoxicating beats.
Pre-order for Rosegold‘s 4/30/21 street date. Single vinyl pressing in matte finish gatefold jacket!
Esperanza was a short lived band from the Los Angeles/Victorville area who took their influence of 80’s D.C. hardcore and crafted 11 songs that are presented here through their complete studio recordings compiled on one release.
Esperanza was important for many reasons, chief among them the ability to identify and delineate serious problems rooted in immediate experiences and connecting them to larger socio-political phenomenon while doing it in a time of relative comfort…when it is harder to be “angry” but even more important to be vigilant…as we all learned with the era that would soon be birthed on September 22, 2001…leading us the present uncertainty of COVID19 and everything thing that connects the two…One of the last hardcore punk bands out of Southern California before the Y2K takeover, whose members went on to become professors, scholars, builders and DJs.
Quietly Blowing It is an intimate and introspective offering that finds M.C. Taylor ruminating on themes of growing up, alienation, obligation, hope, purpose, family, class, self-discovery, healing, and rebuilding, fashioned with impressionistic tones.
He says the record “feels like the most personal album that I’ve made because I’m not trying to explain anything to anyone except myself.” Taylor reckons with these turbulent times in deeply personal terms and seeks to inspire listeners to do the same.
Musically, the new songs are steeped in gospel, Southern soul, indie folk, and alt-country with tinges of blues, rock, and jazz influences running throughout. Highlights include the minimalist R&B of “It Will If We Let It,” the rolling country groove of “The Great Mystifier,” and the heartfelt, smoky lament of “Painting Houses” (co-written with Gregory Alan Isakov).
Quietly Blowing It features special guests that include Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Zach Williams of The Lone Bellow, Nashville guitar great Buddy Miller, and producer/musician Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman.
Pre-order now for late June delivery – available from Merge Records. There is an exclusive vinyl version available through indie record stores as well.
Jazz fusion ensemble Matthew Alec and The Soul Electric has released their new album Cleveland Time via Cleveland Time Records, and vinyl pressing by Gotta Groove. Working alongside Cleveland-based producer Jim Stewart, the album is finally ready to be released after being recorded in multiple sessions because of the ongoing pandemic.
Cleveland Time marks the first album release from the group that features Matthew Alec (tenor saxophone and EWI), Brian Woods (piano, keyboards, organs, plus vocals on “Give What You Take” and “Baby You Got Me”), Steven Forest Sanders (guitar, plus vocals on “Enigma Man”), Jared Lees (bass), Jeremiah Hawkins (percussion, plus drums on “Baby You Got Me”), and Leon Henault (drums). The album also features special guests Tom ‘Bones’ Malone (trombone and horn section on “Cleveland Time”), MINUS THE ALIEN (vocals on “Cleveland Time”), and Tim Coyne (trumpet on “Blues For McCoy” and “Enigma Man”).
Walkers Beware! We Drive Into the Sun is a call for fearless sensuality – a subtle revelation of longing, desire, and bliss. Wrapped in a simple pop song, every guitar note, every groove of the bassline is engineered to move us into romance, and acceptance that dressing and undressing is a pattern we are aching to repeat. Stab/Slow carries over the same sensuality of Walkers into a more danceable form, a slow house influenced track with retro vibes yet unpredictable in signature Sweet Trip style.
Holographic Prism is the final chapter of The Sky Trilogy by Purl – a three chapter volume of works, exploring collective dreams of celestial origin. features mixes from SVLBRD, Lav, Slow Dancing Society, Coppice Halifax, Warmth, Deflektion, Innesti, & Svartholtet.
Fromthing Somethat is the best complete the black watch record that the band has ever made. Available on download, CD and 12” vinyl. Haunting melodies, dance beats, flashes of 80’s synth pop, Beatlesque resemblances and shoe gazey in all the right places describes the brilliance of the band’s 19th full length release. No longer teaching full-time, band leader John Andrew Fredrick has been on a creative hot streak making multiple records in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Academia’s loss is the world’s gain in great new the black watch music.