Free and legal MP3: deeB (evocative, trip-hoppy instrumental)

Such is the aural buffet launching the song that the listener is hard-pressed to be impatient at the music’s unhurried unfolding.

deeB

“Call It a Day” – deeB

The nostalgia floating through “Call It A Day” is mutli-layered, irresistible, all but unfair: containing within it both the stylized noir-ish-ness of ’60s soundtracks and the elegant trip hop of three decades later, which had itself found inspiration in those evocative spy-movie sounds in the first place. And now that’s 20 years ago at this point, so here we are again. The phrase “what goes around comes around” seems especially apt, given the itchy, circular ambiance of this canny, constructed, cinematic instrumental.

And yes, I have a hard time resisting the urge to call any instrumental “cinematic,” if only because of the way sounds skittering across a lyric-free aural landscape to my ears almost automatically conjure some kind of wide-open, wordless screen scene or another. But this one all but demands the label, with its three-dimensional distances, footsteppy echoes, and suggestive detail. Such is the aural buffet launching the song that the listener is hard-pressed to be impatient at the music’s unhurried unfolding, which is hung on a framework of unresolved chords, intriguing noodles of sound, and an unpretentious beat. We don’t get even the barest melody until 30 seconds in, and from there the main theme is evaded and implied but not heard until 1:25—and, even at that point it sounds more like an afterthought at first than the star of the show. It is restated at 1:38 but still sounds like throat-clearing. Finally, at 1:52, the theme emerges with confidence but only at 1:59 do we get the first full iteration—and we see now that previously we had been hearing only the theme’s second half. United with its partner, the sparse but purposeful theme feels rich and heady, bolstered by regular visits from a whale-ish trombone sound, ghostly guitar lines, and the drumbeat’s unfrazzled shuffle.

The man calling himself deeB here is Danny van den Hoek, a Dutch producer/beatmaker who is aligned with a collective called Phonophanatic in the Netherlands. “Call It A Day” is a track from the eight-song EP A Day in a City, released in January on the netlabel Dusted Wax Kingdom, based in Bulgaria. MP3 courtesy of Insomnia Radio. You can download the whole album for free at http://dustedwax.org/dwk296.html; if you like the sound of this one song, I recommend the rest.

Free and legal MP3: Monophona (acoustic electronica, w/ elusive melodies)

Claudine Muno sings with persuasive sweetness, providing a strong handhold for the song’s inconstant melody lines.

Monophona

“Give Up” – Monophona

With an acoustic heart and a blippy-trippy soul, “Give Up” moves with a purposeful stammer, creating dynamic momentum out of some intimate, creative percussion and an evasive, uneven melody. I am enchanted for reasons which remain unclear.

Things begin in a gentle swing, with singer Claudine Muno emerging out of muffled distortion. At 0:38, the track slides into place, but remains noncommittal, blurry in intent however crisp and engaging the sound. Muno sings with persuasive sweetness, providing a strong handhold for the song’s inconstant melody lines, which are abetted by her overlapping vocals. The layered percussion pounds and twitters as she purrs and mumbles, coming occasionally to the forefront with a trenchant phrase—when she sings, now in harmony and unison, “Stop pulling at yourself” (1:21), the song locks in with unexpected force, one of those moments you long to hear again, suspecting however that it’s not coming back (it doesn’t).

Monophona is a Portishead-ish trio from Luxembourg featuring Muno, DJ/producer Phillippe Shirrer (who goes by Chook), and drummer Jorsch Kass. Muno previously fronted a folk-pop band called Claudine Muno & the Luna Boots, which released five albums between 2004 and 2011. Muno is also an author (she has published seven books to date, in four different languages) and a teacher. Schirrer has previously released one album, called The Cocoon, in 2010; a subsequent single called “You Are All You Have,” released two years ago, featured Muno on vocals—if you listen you can sense what Muno brought to the table for the collaboration on Monophona. Kass was previously in a Luxembourg band called Zap Zoo. “Give Up” is from Monophona debut album, The Spy, which was released in Europe in November. You can download the song as usual by right-clicking the title above, or by going to the SoundCloud page. And while you’re at it, you can listen to the whole album, and buy it, via Bandcamp.

photo credit: Joël Nepper