Welcome to the first Steal This Track of 2011, and it’s a doozy! Coming hot off the presses and direct to your ears, this week’s free Colorado tracks still have that new car smell. We’ve got soulful shoegaze from 200 Million Years, hip-hop-inflected jazz from Juan Lee Reed and your first chance anywhere to hear a brand new remix of Pictureplane by Strange Powers. Kick your new year off right by stealing these tracks.
It’s been several months since 200 Million Years — the trio of Zale Hassler, Ellison Park and Carl Sorensen — released its self-titled debut EP, but the band has made the wait worthwhile. “Ma” — which will be released digitally on Jan 22 — contains just six tracks that sprawl across more than 40 minutes.
Lushly orchestrated, lovingly crafted and beautifully recorded at Macy Sound Studios, “Ma” represents a huge leap forward from the band’s debut, which was pretty impressive in its own right. The EP’s opener, “Brain-Body Disconnect,” effectively encapsulates the trio’s evolution, pairing atmospheric experimentation with memorable melodies and solid songwriting. But for my money, “Closer” is the real standout track. Pink Floyd is a frequent comparison for this band, but with this song, it sounds like “Purple Rain”-era Prince stepped in for the lead vocal. Space hasn’t seen this much soul since Lando Calrissian.
Steal This Track has earned a reputation for jarring juxtapositions of genres (try saying that five times fast), but the leap from 200 Million Years’ soulful shoegaze to Juan Lee Reed’s acid jazz isn’t that large. Indianapolis-born Reed — who counts the legendary Hugh Ragin among his teachers — is a lyrical trumpet player whose emotive style comes closer to that of a great jazz vocalist than to the usual pantheon of jazz trumpeters.
For his debut EP, “Rhode to Heaven,” Reed (a.k.a. J. Reed) teamed up with Denver DJ, beatmaker and producer Nofrendo (a.k.a. Joseph Mezey, a.k.a. DJ Scrub), to create a record that skillfully balances jazz, hip-hop and even some drum-and-bass elements. Though occasionally reminiscent of ’90s acid jazz (and occasionally guilty of some its sins, like prioritizing beat over melody), “Rhode to Heaven” — which will be released on Nofrendo’s Chops Records — is a thoughtful and tasteful collection that just might create some new jazz fans. A number of the tracks would play just as well in a dance club as in a jazz lounge, with Nofrendo’s crisp production and funky beats providing the ideal setting for Reed’s laid-back horn playing. “Cryin’ Sun” — with beautiful guitar work by Chops Records artist Andy Nicolai — epitomizes this unique collaboration.
In the spirit of small leaps, we take you from the beat-driven jazz of Juan Lee Reed to the beat-driven experimentation of Pictureplane. Strange Powers (a.k.a. Josh Powers) slipped us this remix of “Goth Star” — a track from Travis Egedy’s critically lauded 2009 album, “Dark Rift” — at the first installment of the Steal This Track party at the Hi-Dive last week and we can’t stop listening to it.
Powers — whom you might remember from a wickedly weird cover of Berlin’s “The Metro” — kept the bizarre, inside-out synth-pop vibe of the original track, but also found its rump-shaking, club-rumbling soul. It doesn’t hurt that he also sped the tempo up considerably. The simple, accessible beat and infectious hook might almost make you forget you’re listening to what some might call experimental music. The resulting darkwave disco track rewards repeated headphone listens and is sure to bring out the freak flags on the dance floor.
If you like Steal This Track, you’re gonna love Reverb’s Steal This Track night at the Hi-Dive. We’ll be taking over the South Broadway indie rock institution on the last Thursday of every month with special guests, giveaways, drink specials and more. In the later hours, DJ Savior Breath (a.k.a. Reverb’s own Eryc Eyl) will turn the shindig into a pants-dropping dance party. And just like Steal This Track, it’s absolutely free. You won’t want to miss it.
Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live.
If you’re a band or musician ready to expose your fresh sounds to the readers of Reverb, email your tracks — along with any interesting facts about them, as well as a photo or album art — to Eryc Eyl for consideration.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Monday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.