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Talking hiphop symphonies and Shaking Through with Lushlife’s Raj Haldar (radio premiere of Toynbee Suite tonight)

Raj Haldar tracking piano for the 4th movement of Toynbee Suite | Photo by Phil Bradshaw
Raj Haldar tracking piano for the 4th movement of Toynbee Suite | Photo by Phil Bradshaw

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.”

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A Toynbee tile at 8th and Market | Photograph Larry DeMark

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:

TOYNBEE IDEA:

IN KUBRICK’S 2001

RESSURECT DEAD

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: Lushlife Preview from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

Working with anyone but himself – nevermind between 15 and 18 musicians at any given time during the two recording days – was new territory for Hadar. Continue reading →

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Join Lushlife and Weathervane Music for the premiere of a new Toynbee Tile-inspired Shaking Through Session at Art in the Age on 11/7

Photo via www.facebook.com/lushlifemedia
Photo via www.facebook.com/lushlifemedia

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 RJD2NightlandsYikes the Zero, as well as orchestral arrangements from Joshua StamperToynbee 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.

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Q.D. Tran from The Deli Magazine Philly guest DJs on tonight’s edition of XPN Philly Local

Photo by David Turcotte | thefullframe.org
Photo by David Turcotte | thefullframe.org

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.”

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Lushlife to play next Red Bull Sound Select event on 9/17 with Cuddle Magic, Heliotropes and Johnny Showcase

redbullsoundselect The next Philly Red Bull Sound Select show will be held on Tuesday, September 17th at a secret location TBA. Curated by Tayyib Smith of Little Giant Media, the showcase will feature Cuddle Magic, Heliotropes, Johnny Showcase and Lushlife. Tonight is the August edition of Red Bull Sound Select at The Blockley with Kilo Kish, Nico’s Gun, Mic Stewart & Joie. Go here for more information about tonight’s show, curated by Veteran Freshman. Below, listen to some tunes from Lushlife, Cuddle Magic and Johnny Showcase.

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John Pfeffer (of Capillary Action) released new track “Bodega”, co-starring a wide variety of fellow Philly artists

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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.

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Watch Dice Raw perform at Race Street Pier for BITBY (playing Third Thursdays Live and Local tonight)

diceraw

Local rapper / singer / all-around-showman Dice Raw recorded a short video for Bands in the Backyard, previewing the new free music series, Third Thursdays Live and Local, which happens at the Race Street Pier every month. In the video, Dice gives a short yet compelling performance of his song “1995″, and gives further info (sort of) about the upcoming show at the pier. The series, presented by Philebrity and in conjunction with Black Music Month Week, will kick off tonight with performances by Dice Raw, Lushlife, Jade Alston, and D’Vina. Find additional info here, and check out more videos from this week’s artists after the jump.

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Dice Raw, Lushlife kick off new music series at Race Street Pier on 6/20

Lushlife
Lushlife

There’s a new free concert series in town: Third Thursdays Live and Local kicks off this week at the Race Street Pier.  Presented by Philebrity and in conjunction with Black Music Month Week Philadelphia,  the evening concert will include performances by Dice Raw, Lushlife, Jade Alston, D’vina and DJ Benz.  The series has its focus set on pairing established local performers with up-and-coming acts and will feature a different genre each month.  More information for the show on Thursday, June 20th can be found here.  Watch videos from a few of this week’s artists below.

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