On Tuesday night, Philly rapper Lushlife (aka Raj Haldar) appeared on the WXPN Philly Local Show to premiere his new Toynbee Suite, an eleven-minute, four-movement hiphop symphony based on the mysterious Toynbee tiles around Philadelphia and around the world. Below, listen to an archive of his interview on the show, and get a free download the track – the latest from Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series.
To dig deeper, read Marc Snitzer’s interview with Haldar here, and watch the Shaking Through documentary about the song after the jump. Continue reading →
Toynbee tiles- those clandestine, ceramic squares marked with crudely scrawled chunks of some lost conspiracy manifesto- are everywhere. Ever walk past one? They’re all over Philadelphia. And Chicago. And Buenos Ares. Hundreds of tiles have been placed around the world over the past 20 years by an anonymous tile-placer, more often than not stepped over, torn apart by civic management or otherwise weathered by two decades of simply existing. The tiles don’t draw too much attention to themselves; there’s no Banksy-level gawking involved, but they have left many folks simply puzzled.
“They’re definitely esoteric. They’re cryptic,” says a puzzled Raj Haldar, i.e. Lushlife, between sips of coffee and behind sunglasses in a sleepy South Philly café. (It’s 6 p.m. in November, by the way.) He’s explaining what about the Toynbee tiles drew him to write an 11-minute, multi-movement rap song called the Toynbee Suite.
“I think, like a lot of people, they just piqued curiosity in me. I’ve been walking around town over the last decade and just had very much a passing interest in them,” he says. “That sense of unknown origin gave me a lot of scope to build a narrative of what was behind the tiles. That openness was fruitful for the creative process, rather than writing about a historical fact where you’re limited to structure.”
The Toynbee Suite has dragged Haldar out of his creative comfort zone in a handful of ways. Aside from fixating on a particular, tangible subject matter (“I usually don’t rap about something this specific. My rhymes are more stream of consciousness,” he says), the sheer scope of the project forced the 30-year-old hip-hop artist to work with a slew of outside musicians and producers (“With the Lushlife records, I do absolutely everything. It’s completely DIY”) in a pithy 48 hours (“A three-minute song usually takes me like five months to write and record”). It’s operatic in its construction, divided into four movements, each based on a line from the most seminal and ubiquitous of the Toynbee tiles, the one that reads something like:
IN KUBRICK’S 2001
ON PLANET JUPITER
Recorded at Miner Street Studios in Fishtown, the Toynbee Suite is the latest in a series of installments from Shaking Through, a project from Weathervane Music that challenges musicians to write and record a song in two days, documenting the process along the way. Haldar’s might be one of the most ambitious Shaking Through episodes to date, although he had written the bulk of the Toynbee Suite months in advance. “Even with all that planning, the 48 hours was just so packed,” he says. “The song, in the multi-track, has over 140 tracks. It’s unreal.”
Shaking Through‘s fall season is off to a tremendous start with their current episode from The So So Glos and an upcoming episode spearheaded by Lushlife. The Weathervane Music project, which brings bands and artists to Miner Street Recording in Fishtown to record a brand new song in two days, let the local hip hop artist loose in the studio and the result is a four-movement, eleven minute “rap epic” titled Toynbee Suite. The inspiration, as noted by the recording’s title, were the mysterious messages inlaid across the city and around the world known as “Toynbee Tiles.” From the press release:
…Toynbee Suite arcs across four dramatically different movements and features a tremendous cast of musicians. With key contributions from RJD2, Nightlands, Yikes the Zero, as well as orchestral arrangements from Joshua Stamper, Toynbee Suite is perhaps the most ambitious song from the already ambitious Shaking Through, which Pitchfork calls “an inspired recording project,” and IFC declares is “one of the best online music series.”
The episode premiere will take place at Art in the Age on November 7th, with appearances by Lushlife, Tim Meskers (formerly of Brown Recluse) and Bailiff. More information can be found here. Below, watch Lushlife’s video for “Magnolia,” followed by the trailer for the 2011 documentary on Toynbee Tiles called Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.
We’re pretty amped for The Deli Magazine‘s 5th anniversary throwdown this weekend at PhilaMOCA. It has a solid lineup of Literature, Night Panther and The Homophones; it has a costume contest, it has prizes. You can get all the details here, or you can listen to the Philly Local Show on WXPN tonight when The Deli’s editor Q.D. Tran joins me on the air during the 9:00 hour of the Philly Local Show to guest DJ, preview the concert and spin jams from some of his Philly faves. An advance peek at his playlist indicates Q is spinning some Spacin’, Lushlife and a cool track from Creepoid’s first LP that simply doesn’t get heard enough. Tune in at 9 p.m. at 88.5 FM or XPN.org. Below, check out The Deli’s Choice / Cuts video session with Lushlife for the song “Still I Hear the Word Progress.”
John Pfeffer of Capillary Action is a unique songwriter. Having dabbled in free-form avant-rock in the past with his band - which, as he acknowledges, has been more like a name he uses for whatever music he’s currently working on – he just released a new, very avant-garde track under his own name called “Bodega.” It features collaborations he’s done with a handful of fellow Philly artists, including Ricardo Lagomasino of Many Arms, Eric Slick of Dr. Dog, YIKES the ZERO,Lushlife, and Jeff Zeigler of Arc In Round. The track is wildly experimental, and largely instrumental until around the 7 minute mark (it’s 10 minutes in total). Check it out for yourself below, via Soundcloud.
Tomorrow is the Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing with a stellar lineup including Naughty By Nature, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Grimes, Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James, Gary Clark, Jr., Solange, Grimes, Robert Glasper, How To Dress Well, Philly’s Lushlife, DJ Premiere and others. The music starts at Noon; schedule is above. Being that’s it’s Funky Friday today, we bring you the Roots Picnic edition of Funky Friday with some of our favorite jams below. See you at the picnic!
In conjunction with Philly Tech Week, WXPN and Little Giant Media present The Intersection of Music and Technology at Underground Arts. The free event will feature live performances by Lushlife (pictured), Khari Mateen and POW POW (Chris Powell of Man Man), DJ sets by DJ PHSH and Making Time’s Dave Pianka and a panel discussion / Q&A with Questlove and XPN’s Bruce Warren. More information for free 21+ event can be found here. Below, watch Lushlife’s video for “Magnolia.”
At World Cafe Live, it’s An Evening with Kaki King. The guitar virtuoso has embarked on a retrospective tour, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the release of her debut album Everybody Loves You. Recently, King released Glow, an instrumental record on which she collaborated with string quartet ETHEL. Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show can be found here. Below, watch her video for “Glow” and revisit her set at the 2012 XPoNential Music Festival via Archive.org here.
Buried Beds headline Kung Fu Necktie tonight with support from Auctioneer and Great American Canyon Band. Bridging the gap between their most recent release Small Stories and an upcoming as-yet untitled release, local indie pop band Buried Beds have been detailing their recording experience with video clips and updates, including this one in which the members filmed a “huge drums” session. Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show can be found here. Below, watch Auctioneer’s Shaking Through episode.