Canadian singer/producer/musician d'Eon has been on our radar since LA's Hippos in Tanks label dropped his bewildering Palinopsia EP and his split with fellow Montreal native Grimes, Darkbloom, last year. The artist's latest record, a full-length debut which is simply called LP, has more in common with the R&B appropriations of Darkbloom, but nonetheless finds d'Eon toying with some of the same technophobia themes found on his Palinopsia EP. LP also deals heavily with the ideas and figures from an array of beliefs, and its quasi-religious, neo-R&B tracks are drenched with dense washes of ambient synths. As such, we were interested to find out what music from those disparate realms inspired d'Eon's latest creation, so he sent over five of his R&B favorites and five choice ambient tracks with a bit of backstory on them all. It makes for a great companion to his brand-new debut album.
Steve Spacek "Slave"
I feel like Spacek is way underrated, despite the fact that this kind of music is incredibly in vogue at the moment. "Alternative R&B" owes so much to Steve Spacek. This album and the Spacek albums would be gigantic smash hit records if they came out this year. The production on all of his/their songs still sounds so modern and beautiful.
Omar "Serious Style"
Another amazing and underrated singer and producer. The staccato counterpoints and keyboard lines interlock with each other perfectly. This is a perfect example of how effective a track can be with just keyboards and a lot of notes. Understated production and understated vocals... Totally classy.
[This is] the most bizarre radio track I have ever heard. The mode she sings in is so weird, and the beat is so different from any other North American pop song. Maybe after hearing it so much on the radio, we can take for granted how experimental this track is. I really like everything Kelis has done, but this song is so distinctive that it never seems to sink into the nondescript radio noise like many other songs.
Bobby Brown "Girl Next Door"
This is a perfect example of the shimmering digital sound that I love so much. Keyboard music post-1985 was so much more sonically interesting once digital synthesis was invented. The ascending bassline with the 1-2-5 chords on the right side give it a hyper-optimistic tone. I feel like this track has a lot in common psychologically with James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual, in that the shapes of the melodies and chords cultivate optimism in the listener's mind.
Sadie Ama "So Sure (feat. Kano)"
[This is a] beautiful track, the third British track in this list. There are no real chord changes in Danjah's beat, and I love the way she sings almost in an Eastern modal style over it. The instrumental retains so few of the fundamental elements of R&B, but combined with Sadie's vocals, it comes out as a perfect grime/R&B song.
The Steve Miller Band "Threshold"
Like probably a lot of people, this was the first proper "synth" track I ever heard when I was four, and it flipped my little wig. I was really into space as a kid, so this was exactly what I wanted. I remember listening to The Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits CD every single day for like a year. This was also my first real exposure to pitch bending, which has interested me and so many others ever since.
Terry Riley "Shri Camel"
This record made a huge impact on my own keyboard playing. Arpeggios played by hand are a totally different zone from arpeggiated sequences. Modal music that adheres to one scale is really good to play because once you know what notes of the keyboard you have to play and not play, it's just a matter of running your fingers along the keyboard.
Olivier Messiaen "Apparition de l'Église éternelle"
Monolithic, terrifying organ music that invokes the fear of God. There is not much music in the world that taps into the innate fear and dread of God people have inside themselves. Olivier Messiaen was intensely Catholic. It shows in all of his music that he obviously looked at God with awe and fear, and was inspired by that feeling to make awe-inspiring and fearful music. Even his more joyful music that had to do with Christ's ascension were still pretty scary sounding.
Hobo Cubes "Bending the Love You Keep"
Amazing Montreal pitch-shifting from Frank of Hobo Cubes, who is hugely prolific and also plays with Dirty Beaches. Super-essential Montreal DIY, he has a huge discography and is constantly making music. Some of his material reminds me of earlier James Ferraro and Oneohtrix Point Never, and a lot of it is pure Montreal psychedelia.
Coil "Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night"
[This is] perfect digital arpeggiation, another example of beautiful digital synth music. I have always related a lot more to digital synthesizers and keyboards than analog. The glossy, glassy tone of the arpeggios on this track cut through the eardrums. Listening to this in high school, I thought this was the coolest, darkest shit ever, and I still love it.