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The Skull Eclipses homecoming at Johnny Brenda’s is a win for cross-continental hip-hop

The Skull Eclipses | photo by Matthew Shaver for WXPN

Philadelphia rap auteur Lushlife (Raj Haldar) continues on a hot streak of album partnerships, this time with beat connoisseur Botany (Spencer Stephenson) to form The Skull Eclipses.  Together, they specialize in a sort of lo-fi, kind of psych infused, and refreshingly nostalgic experimental hip-hop.  Analog synthesis, twisted beats, and rapid fire boom-bap are the name of the game here, and a three-year journey spanning cross country collaborations paid off, and Lushlife brought it home to celebrate. Continue reading →

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The Skull Eclipses reflect on social injustice with Open Mike Eagle on new single “Gone”

Skull Eclipses
The Skull Eclipses | photo courtesy of the artist

The Skull Eclipses is a duo comprised of Austin producer Spencer Stephenson (aka Botany) and Philadelphia emcee Raj Haldar (aka Lushlife). Their music blends spacey textures and hip-hop lyricism, and a new single from their forthcoming eponymous album (out March 9th on Western Vinyl) takes a particularly urgent tone. The track, “Gone” features a verse from Chicago rapper Open Mike Eagle, and covers weighted topics including the prison industrial complex, corrupt banks, immigrations, and police brutality. Continue reading →

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The High Key Portrait Series: Raj Haldar of Lushlife and The Skull Eclipses

Raj Haldar | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

At last September’s Philly Music and Arts Fest, Philly rapper Raj Haldar and Austin-based producer Botany debuted material as The Skull Eclipses. Haldar brought some fire that night, piquing interest for his new project, though to be fair current fans of his other nom de plume Lushlife were already plenty familiar with the level of focused intensity and urgency in Haldar’s lyrical delivery, and all the thoughtfulness with which he crafts a verse.

In the below interview, conducted later that evening, Haldar seemed more than satisfied with their first outing. He was just a bit opaque about this project back then, by necessity, but at the same time you could see him wrestling a bit to keep his exuberance for it pent up. He talked openly about his work as Lushlife, and about what he described as an organic transition from being a recording auteur to now entrusting the beats to the capable hands of a skilled producer. Haldar shared his thoughts on Philly, too, from the perspective of an artist who’s spent significant amounts of his life and recording career in London, New York, and Los Angeles as well, and the unique position to be able to comment on the pros and cons of life both as an aspiring and professional recording artist informed and impacted by those communities.

Prior to their stage premiere at World Cafe last Fall, The Skull Eclipses had issued their first single, “Totality Piece,” featuring Philly native Mary Lattimore on harp, having timed it as a soundtrack for viewing the solar eclipse in August. This year, they’ve lined up international tour dates in support their upcoming record release, including a performance at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, March 9th. More information can be found here. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Deer Tick, Gospel Roots, Skull Eclipses, Beth Ditto and more

Beth Ditto | photo by Mary McCartney | courtesy of the artist

In like a lion, right? But the Philly concert calendar is like that all the time anyway — though, with another nor’easter poised to hit our region tomorrow, a handful shows in our weekly roundup are question marks. So here are 17 and maybe even 20 concerts you can see locally in the next seven days, from the kickoff of XPN’s Gospel Roots of Rock and Roll series to a set from legendary jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb at South, and beginning tonight with the farewell show from Philly indie rockers Callowhill. Continue reading →

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Slomo Sapiens to Skull Eclipses, Shannen Moser to Strand of Oaks: Scenes from the inaugural Philly Music Fest

Ceramic Animal | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

This past weekend, the inaugural Philly Music Fest touched down at World Cafe Live, filling the venue’s upstairs and downstairs stages with two nights of performances by local artists. Highlights included dazzling late-night performances by headliners Cayetana and Strand of Oaks, packed-floor upstairs sets by Harmony Woods and Ivy Sole, the live debut of Skull Eclipses — the experimental hiphop project of Lushlife and Botany — and much more.

In the mix were foodies, artists and crafters, musicians in the audience watching the musicians onstage, and a couple top-secret stripped down performances for VIP ticket holders. 26 artists performed in total, money was raised for LiveConnections, and you can take a look at scenes from the weekend care of ace Key photographer Rachel Del Sordo.To see more of her work, check out her website, and give her Instagram a follow.  Continue reading →

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Raj Haldar of Lushlife, the Eagles’ official stadium DJ, celebrates everything Philly with a War on Drugs remix

Lushlife | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

When he hasn’t been working on musical projects of one sort of another — the powerful 2017 Lushlife outing My Idols are Dead and My Enemies are in Power, the spaced-out Skull Eclipses record that drops later in 2018 with his collaborator Botany — Philly’s Raj Halder has held down a sweet gig as the official stadium DJ for the Philadelphia Eagles for the past few years.

This year in particular was a great one to have that job, and with the Eagles facing off against the New England Patriots this Sunday in the Super Bowl, Raj took a moment to celebrate Philadelphia underdogs of various sorts — both athletic and musical — with a remix of “In Chains” from The War on Drugs’ Grammy-award winning album A Deeper Understanding. Continue reading →

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Prep for Philly Music Fest with a loaded set-time schedule

Cayetana | photo by Emily Dubin | courtesy of the artist
Cayetana | photo by Emily Dubin | courtesy of the artist

The Philly Music Fest is fast approaching. On the weekend of September 22nd, a heaping of Philly’s most talented will descend upon World Cafe Live. In preparation for this event, we now have a trusted set time schedule.

And prepare we must, because there’s a whole lot of awesome local bands at this thing. I mean, the lineup’s more stacked than a can of Pringles. Continue reading →

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And now, music to score the solar eclipse care of Lushlife, Mary Lattimore and Botany

Lushlife
Lushlife | Photo by Ebru Yildiz ebruyildiz.net | courtesy of the artist

Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, the moon will cross the path of the sun in the skies above North America — and finding the right soundtrack for the total solar eclipse has become something of a cottage industry in the past week.

Playlists were crafted — check out WXPN’s here — viewing parties were planned, and in the case of Philadelphia’s Raj Haldar, a score was written. Continue reading →