Raven + Crow Mixtape: May

A lot of Raven + Crow’s picks for best new music in May sounds like traveling to the future from the past.

What happens when a song escapes from the ’80s with mascara running down its face, hangs out for a bit in the nineties and strums a few bars, ends up at somebody’s rooftop party in Williamsburg in the aughts and lands here? Lets go to the mixtape and find out.

Love the line in “Salt Eyes” by Middle Kids that kicks off this mix, “these novels, I bet you’ll never read.” It’s meant in a much more bitter spirit than how we’re asking, but what’s a novel you have at home that you intend to read but know you never will?

Troy Farmer: I tend to eventually read everything I set out to, but I do have this cool, old, used copy of Homer’s Iliad complete with highlighted sections and handwritten notes from the previous owner that Katie got me some ten years and is still sitting unread on our shelves. Is that even a novel though? That’s like calling the ocean a swimming pool or Adam and Eve, “that weird naked couple.”

Henceforth, Adam and Eve will be known as “that weird naked couple.” Noid by Yves Tumor is almost (…maybe “almost” is too strong of a word) a “911 is a Joke” cover. What’s the story with it?

Troy Farmer: Yeah, that’s a characteristically weird track from a truly singular artist—he’s mashing up so many disparate sounds, but it works. He’s got a suitably eccentric public persona and seems pretty hard-to-pin down in interviews and press I’ve read. It’s clear that the lyrics touch on police brutality and just a general manic tension that hangs in the air for many of us these days.

This Pixx song just makes you feel like it’s 2003 and this is what you hear after snorting all your roommate’s adderall, then that outro drops and you feel bad about snorting all the adderall (or at least we imagine that, if that’s the sort of thing we were inclined to do). It’s well named, that song, “Disgrace.” Which is all to say maybe it kind of has a retro-future vibe that blends real nicely into Jay Som who kind of comes on like a female counterpoint to Kurt Vile then also flows into something very different. Maybe it’s not that way for you exactly…

Troy Farmer: No, I think that’s fair. So much music these days seems to look back and reference some of the music we both came up with, but the straight derivative stuff never interests me, it’s this new interpretation of a particular sound that’s still evolving that gets me—as with Pixx and Jay Som and even Rare DM. What’s interesting to me is that so many of these younger artists, when pressed, aren’t necessarily even listening to or aware of the music that it sounds like they’re referencing—it’s just being pulled from the air for them somehow.

What’s interesting to me is that so many of these younger artists aren’t necessarily even listening to or aware of the music that it sounds like they’re referencing.

“Softboy” by Rare DM kicks things back out of softly gated reverb land with some drumline-inspired percussion that manages to be both driving and kind of dreamy. What accounts for that sort of in-between states quality of that song?

Troy Farmer: Yeah, we talked with Erin (AKA Rare DM) about that recently in an interview. The whole describing your own sound thing is always tough—I feel like it reminds me of an illustrator friend of ours who had to depict herself for a bio paired with a project recently—it totally put her off and was way more difficult than she’d expected. With Rare DM, she kind of described her sound as an exercise in anti-comparison—”Do you sound like this?” “No,” “This?” “No.” Kind of like staring at a block of stone and chiseling away the excess to get to what you envision.

Rina Mushonga sounds like she should be headlining the Super Bowl or something. The song you picked has got this epic, kind of athematic quality. Like no doubt she could play an arena, but then that song has these soft moments, where all of a sudden, for a second, things get very small and intimate. Then it blows back up.

Troy Farmer: Man, I’m really happy we stumbled upon her music. Her new album, In A Galaxy, is definitely on our short list for year’s best already. I’ve been slowly working through Peter Gabriel’s early solo work and a lot of that album reminds me of some of his most compelling, expansive, deeply layered music. It’s great. From what I’ve read, she’s Dutch-Zimbabwean but recently made the move to South London and is making music there now. I’m not sure how much of her shift in sound owes to the geographic and cultural shift, but there’s a lot of great, beautifully, subtly complex electronic music coming out of England right now and I feel like it sits well with all of that. Really hope she plays stateside some time soon.

“Never Say A” by Konradsen has this expansive feel like it could sit comfortably in a Broken Social Scene album. Is it typical of their music?

Troy Farmer: I could totally see that. As to whether it’s typical, I hope so—this is essentially one of three or so fully fleshed out singles they’ve done to date (they’re actually a Norwegian duo, Jenny Marie Sabel + Eirik Vildgren); the first was released over two years ago and is much more subdued and ethereal than “Never Say A”; a more recent single, “Baby Hallelujah,” sounds like a return to experimental sparseness, so as far as we can tell they’re traveling back-and-forth between the poppy and the minimal sounds.

Little Simz

Little Simz kind of sounds like Dizzee Rascal’s badder little sister. Where did you come across her? Have you been hanging out in London?

Troy Farmer: Oh, man, she’s so great. She came to us via one of the many PR firms that’s been sending us new music over the years and we were lucky enough to catch one of her early stateside shows here in LA a few years back. She’s playing the Echo in June, and I’d highly recommend catching her, especially in such an intimate, awesome venue.

Can you explain what is going on with J-E-T-S? More amazingly talented female rappers and a name that is a New York football team’s chant?

Troy Farmer: Yeah, J-E-T-S is collaboration between LA-based producers Jimmy Edgar + Travis Stewart (AKA Machinedrum). The full album’s out later this month on Innovative Leisure, but from what we can tell so far, it’s a lot of weirded out hip-hop with some killer guest vocalists; the guest in question on this track is Australian rapper Tkay Maidza. I’m just beginning to dive into her most recent work, but it sounds pretty fucking awesome.

“Keep Your Face On” by Soft Streak somehow escaped from the eighties, put on some outfits in the nineties and then went to a rooftop party in Williamsburg in the early aughts to wind up here. Glad it did is all we can say.

Troy Farmer: Another Los Angeles duo, yeah, they seem great so far. And another example of two people referencing musical genres I gather neither of them lived through. It’s in the air, man. Time to unpack those acid washed jeans and Keds.

Being a conversation between Whalebone Magazine and Troy Farmer about the series of monthly mixtapes from his Brooklyn-born, Los Angeles-based creative agency, raven + crow studio.