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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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Channel Tres - Channel Tres EP Music Album Reviews


Channel Tres barely avoided the EDM world. And thank god for that. He turns in a debut EP of dark and deep hip-house with tons of promise.

There’s an alternate timeline in which Channel Tres ended up an EDM DJ, resigned to the HARD Fest circuit until his soul officially bottomed out. Instead—in a case of what could be called divine intervention if you believe that Moodymann is God—he discovered house music. It was an awakening for Channel, now 26, who spent his post-college years songwriting, DJing, and generally just trying to make a living. And though he’d lived most of his life in Los Angeles, having grown up between Compton and Lynwood, something about the basement soul of Chicago and Detroit spoke to him: “That shit just woke me the fuck up,” he said earlier this year.

Enter “Controller,” the lead single from Channel Tres’ self-titled debut EP on Godmode (the label that brought you Yaeji’s pair of 2017 EPs, which similarly made the case for modern hip-house). Over loose, tumbling drums, Channel speaks as though he can’t be bothered to raise his voice much above a whisper, which makes his demands all the more powerful: “Your body is a game, fuck the lames, fuck the fame—I am your controller,” he decrees. His commands extend beyond the listener to the producer, Godmode co-founder Nick Sylvester (a former Pitchfork contributor): “Throw some sub in that bitch!” Styling himself as the omnipotent narrator of the dancefloor, Channel evokes an icier take on the near-religious devotion of Midwest house anthems where vocalists played the role of deities. But with his ice-cold spoken-word baritone—too cool to care, too commanding to be ignored—his inspirations skew more towards the composed sleaze of Moodymann’s “Freaki Mutha F cker” or the casual control of Mike Dunn’s “So Let It Be House.” These are artists who know that “less is more” only applies when you’re the coolest motherfucker in the room. Which they are.

If “Controller” feels warmed by mid-afternoon L.A. sunshine, the rest of the 5-track EP slinks into dusk. “Jet Black” is lit by the sunglasses-at-night glow of neon and street lights, its pulse reminiscent of the kind of Afrofuturist electronics where utopia and dystopia aren’t as opposed as they might seem. While spoken word of “Controller” ventures further into straight-up rap, Channel’s tone never veers from a self-assured deadpan. “Glide,” with its deeper-than-deep bassline and restless little snare hits, takes things even further into Motor City techno, Channel’s voice echoing across the cavernous space. But as lush background vocals and ambient synths creep in, it begins to resemble the work of guys like Theo Parrish or Mr. Fingers, Midwest pioneers who played man and machine against one another, making tracks where mechanical repetition coexists with improvisation, drift, soul.

Channel’s own unique perspective feels especially clutch on “Topdown,” where mahogany synths and a driving techno beat create the perfect pocket for his almost-raps: “Rolling with the top down/With my n****s, and your bitch.” He seems to be exploring familiar Midwestern territory, until halfway through, ’90s G-funk synths come wailing into the picture—an inspired halfway point between the Midwest and the West coast. It’s a lane ripe with promise, and one that begs for further exploration—hell, before there was N.W.A., there was the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, the electro group in which Dr. Dre performed turntable surgery in a sequined jumpsuit. With Channel Tres’ vision already this clear on his debut, the dancefloor is in good hands.

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