Backyard Bxss Season 1, a 10-track compilation featuring experimental electronic artists from around the city, is the first tape to be released in a quarterly series by local collective smth savant (pro. sum’thing/ suhˈvant). The collective is most known for throwing their monthly Backyard Bxss live sessions held around the city. Founded in 2017 by Kilamanzego and Madam Data, the collective has grown to 5 members and have held monthly gatherings since May of that year to create and share beats and songs during the Backyard Bxss sessions. Continue reading →
I’m a sucker for hyper-specific genre names when I’m searching the internet for new music, so seeing that Kilamanzego tagged several of their recent tracks as “kalimba core” warms my heart.
For sure, it’s a reference to a song: this spring, the experimental electronic musician from West Philadelphia released an enchanting piece of music called “Picking My Kalimba From A Distance.” But “kalimba core” also works as a summary of their mission statement. Kila’s music is rooted in house, trance, dubstep, and ambient electronic styles, but draws influence from a variety of African sounds as well. Listen and you’ll hear Congolese rhythmic intricacies, highlife vocal samples, and that titular kalimba and its melodic leads — also known as the mbira (or colloquially as the thumb piano), it is an instrument with origins in central African countries.
Primarily, Kilamanzego’s music is indented to rock parties with high-energy beats — they’re part of the smth savant collective with MadamData and others, which organizes the backyardbxss event series — but they also look to push the possibilities of what those beats can sound like, merging Kila’s Ghanaian’s heritage with their punk rock roots and experimental spirit. Continue reading →
From the opening notes on “Picking My Kalimba from a Distance” with its bright, high-pitched samples and tribal stutter-step, the listener can tell that they’re not just in the presence of a beat-maker: they’re witnessing magic by Philly’s Kilamanzego.
Imagine a dusty warehouse in West Philadelphia, stocked to the brim with old, rusting pianos, pitbulls with mange and orange bandanas, and a whole lotta white people wearing black clothes and rocking dreadlocks. This was the scene when I first heard Kilamanzego cast auditory spells, lifting the crowd with euphoric organ swells only to pummel them with roaring bass drop after bass drop. That night, Kilamanzego — armed with Ableton Live triggered from a laptop and an infectious energy — wasn’t just playing a beat set; they were opening portals to realms from which I don’t think I’ve ever returned. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying: that sounds like a lot of music guy talk, and the big lofty words volleyed about to describe what’s being thrown down don’t impress you. The thing is, while that performance might have been a welcome surprise — that so much powerful, trance inducing sound could be conjured by a petit yet tough former hardcore punk, black girl in a west Philly punk rock basement — Kilamanzego’s next performance I witnessed? It was a revelation. There is no doubt that we are dealing with one of Philly’s most creative musical minds.
And for Kila, it’s a long time coming. Kilamanzego has created a tightly wound catalog of entrancing beats, mini-séances that invoke both their time spent toiling in Philly’s underground and their Ghanaian roots. At once tribal and atmospheric, Kilamanzego has etched new sounds on the beat-based landscape. With their series backyardbxss that they curate as part of the smth savant collective, they’ve helped cultivate a movement that bridges scenes and communities in the spirit of Hip Hop. For Kilamanzego though, that spirit doesn’t seem to want to be tamed. With a hypnotic new single called “Stay Floated In The Tribe” out this week and upcoming shows including Get Better Fest at the First Unitarian Church, we sat down with Kila to discuss beats, life, and sonic ritual texture. Continue reading →
Originally hailing from New York, rapper / producer DistantStarr has been holding it down in both Philly’s underground rap and experimental beat scenes for about a decade. His sound, a rich mixture of spacey, ambient-inflected instrumentals and slick, razor-sharp bars tastefully embodies the spirit of both scenes. We caught up with Distant Starr a few days after his mind-blowing, impromptu set at Backyard Bxss (a live Beat showcase organized by Smth Savant collective). We talked about his latest release, Discover Tape, the unheralded history of Philly’s live Beat scene and the collaborative work that has connected him with artists around the world. Continue reading →
Electronic artist Madam Data paired up with beatmaker Kilamanzego to bring some old tracks to life in the form of the new split EP Like Daggers. The split is the debut release from smth savant, a local artist collective and DIY record label. Both artists dug through old material to put together the four track collection, writing on bandcamp that “Like Daggers is a fucked up mish mash of wonky, experimental, and ambient bleep bloops representing this mess of a world we live in and the struggles K and MD have faced in the name of creativity.” Continue reading →
Here at The Key, we spend a lot of time each week digging through every new release from Philadelphia that shows up on Bandcamp. At the end of each week, we present you with the most interesting, most unusual and overall best of the bunch: this is Items Tagged Philadelphia.
It’s been two weeks since Charlottesville, and writing about music still feels kind of frivolous.
I mean, yes, music is what we do here at The Key. But when we’re living in a country where a sniveling torch-bearing Nazi mob gangs up on a southern college town that wants to remove monuments celebrating confederate Civil War leaders — not a terrible idea in 20-freaking-17, honestly — and when you’ve got some of that mob veering into acts of terrorism, shooting guns and driving cars into crowds of counterprotesters…I mean, being all “yeah, but you should totally listen to this band” seems insensitive and irrelevant at best.
I was at Union Transfer when the news broke two Fridays ago, watching The Districts wrap up their celebratory album release gig for Popular Manipulations. I pulled out my phone and opened Twitter to post a picture of the stage-diving frenzy. Instead, I found myself frozen, met with a stream of horrifying photographs from the white supremacist march. I looked back up — an obliterated fan just crowd surfed onstage and sloppily attempted to sing into Robby Grote’s mic, then stumbled to the side and cracked open a beer. Did nobody know what was going on just a few hours south? What would they feel if they did? Continue reading →