JJJJJerome Ellis Shares New Single/Video “Stepney” From Upcoming LP & Book

Composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and poet JJJJJerome Ellis today shared “Stepney,” a new track and video from his forthcoming 2xLP and book The Clearing—a conceptual and musical tour de force that explores how stuttering, blackness, and music can be practices of refusal against hegemonic governance of time, speech, and encounter.

“Stepney” was “written as an offering to the ancestors,” says Ellis. The track begins with him vocalizing over a hip-hop beat with rumbling 808s and swirling processed saxophones. Then, Ellis sings the names of African-descended, fugitive enslaved persons (e.g. Stepney) who spoke with stutters or other speech impediments. Ellis encountered these names in newspaper archives of so-called “fugitive slave advertisements” from the 18th and 19th century. After this ceremonial invocation of ancestors, Ellis’ mentor and friend Milta Vega-Cardona reads an email she wrote to him in 2019: “I am moved to believe that your so-called stutter is a space where you transcend the limitations of lineal white-time. And how in the space of that holdtime you create a non-lineal time continuum, and access to the ancestors, both for you and the listener.” The track builds to a climax with arpeggiated synths, galloping hi-hats, and Ellis’ saxophone overdubbed in rising swells.

Find more information, read the full bio and preorder The Clearing here.

[Photo Credit: Marc J. Franklin]

Dear Laika Announces ‘Pluperfect Mind’ out 10/29 🕊

Dear Laika (the 23-year-old UK-based musician Isabelle “Izzy” Thorn) today announced her new album and label debut, Pluperfect Mind, will be released October 29, 2021 via NNA Tapes and Memorials of Distinction. Pluperfect Mind is an extraordinary creation—a beautiful and singular oddity which exists in the liminal space between dreamworlds and a blurry, watercoloured version of reality. It is a reflection on the past few years of Izzy’s life, during which she sought solitude in the North Wessex Downs while beginning her gender transition.

Alongside the announcement, Dear Laika has shared the emotional zenith of the album, “Black Moon, Lilith”, a song about desire, its reckoning and its actualization from a trans lesbian perspective. “There’s a common experience among gay people of seeing someone of the same gender and questioning if you’re attracted to them or if you want to look like them. This is a psychological and emotional quandary that must be resolved,” says Izzy. Utilizing angelic vocal harmonies, slowly blossoming piano and the distinctive warmth of the Roland Juno 106s, Dear Laika poetically expresses the over-thinking and over-feeling associated with this phenomenon in an otherworldly art pop gem evocative of Kate Bush.

A consistent theme of Pluperfect Mind is isolation, both from other people and from parts of herself, and the intention to overcome anxieties and reconnect. Pluperfect Mind also chronicles aspects of Izzy’s own transgender experience, from the painful tedium of waiting for hormone treatment, to the elation of finally inhabiting a body that feels right. It captures the sense of being cast adrift between an uncomfortable past and an uncertain future, living outside of heteronormativity and caught in “queer time”. Izzy’s mercurial songwriting aims to suspend the perception of time, allowing the listener to inhabit an immersive half-lit world of mystical landscapes, volatile atmospheres and shifting rhythms.

Having grown up singing in church choirs and listening to classical music, those influences can still be heard in Izzy’s music now. Although she rarely listens to classical music nowadays, the rich harmonies of composers such as Messiaen, Finzi and Ravel have left an indelible mark on her own writing, and she freely mutates samples of Bach and Beethoven beyond recognition. During her transition, making the shift from baritone to alto, she was captivated and inspired by the expressive intensity of Vashti Bunyan, Kristin Hayter and FKA twigs; her own clear, keening vocals soar throughout Pluperfect Mind, breathy and otherworldly. She whispers French poetry and lilts over lines about warped memories, exploring her inner world with gentle ruminations on love, hormone therapy and dreams.

Pluperfect Mind is a beguiling collection of vivid lyrics and celestial song, built around piano (sometimes prepared with screws), strings, choirs and synths, and bound together with digital glitch and field recordings. Comparisons can be made to Björk, Tim Hecker or Bat For Lashes, but ultimately, Dear Laika’s exploration of the experimental and the mystical builds something intricate and intimate that is truly original and bewitching.

Pluperfect Mind is out October 29, 2021 via Memorials of Distinction (UK) & NNA Tapes (ROW). Read the full bio and preorder the album on digital / cassette / vinyl here.

JJJJJerome Ellis Announces 2xLP ‘The Clearing’ Out November 5

Today, New York based composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and poet JJJJJerome Ellis announces The Clearing, an ambitious and visionary double album releasing November 5th, 2021 via NNA Tapes, co-produced with the Poetry Project and released in tandem with a book published by Wendy’s SubwayThe Clearing is a conceptual and musical tour de force that combines Jazz with the narratives of enslaved Africans, experimental electronics with historical accounts of Black rebellion. The album centers speech but uses it as a starting point to not only depathologize dysfluent speech but to build new tools to critique anti-Blackness, linear time, culture, and power in our society.

Loops of Retreat“, the lead album preview out today and the first track on The Clearing, opens with processed saxophones leading us into a kind of sonic forest: dense, mysterious, and dynamic. Over the soundscape, Ellis speaks: “My thesis is that blackness, dysfluency [i.e. stuttering and other forms of disabled or non-normative speech], and music are forces that open time.” As Ellis reads, the forest grows into the pauses in his stuttered speech. A trap-inspired beat with stuttering hi-hats, crisp snares, and beefy kicks gradually builds as we move deeper into the forest. The track’s title references the “loophole of retreat” Harriet Jacobs describes in her book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. On this track, and on the album as a whole, Ellis suggests that the looping sounds of Black music, and the looping syllables and silences of the Black stutterer, resist linear time and offer new ways of being. The track ends with fire running through the forest, clearing ground for further growth.

JJJJJerome Ellis is a blk disabled animal, stutterer, and artist. Through music, literature, performance, and video, he explores blkness, disabled speech, and music as forces of refusal, possibility, reparation, and healing. His diverse body of work includes contemplative soundscapes using saxophone, flute, dulcimer, electronics, and vocals; scores for plays and podcasts; albums combining spoken word with ambient and jazz textures; theatrical explorations involving live music and storytelling; and music-video-poems that seek to transfigure historical archives. JJJJJerome’s solo and collaborative work has been presented by Lincoln Center, The Poetry Project, and ISSUE Project Room (New York); MASS MoCA (North Adams, Massachusetts); REDCAT (Los Angeles); Arraymusic (Toronto); and the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), among others. His work has been covered by This American Life, Artforum, Black Enso, and Christian Science Monitor.

Find more information and preorder The Clearing here.


♥️ Kalbells’ ‘Max Heart’ is out today! ♥️

Kalbells’ new album Max Heart is out today! NNA Tapes is thrilled to release this colorful, magical album into the world on ‘Salty Pickle’ green vinyl, standard black vinyl, CD, and digital formats. ‘Red Marker’ red vinyl is also available—exclusively from indie record stores!

BUST Magazine describes the album as “psychedelic in the most mind freeing, soothing, yellow-smiley-face sense of the word—elastic funk and fluid synth-pop blurring the lines between sensual and surreal, complete with hyper-pictorial lyrics delivered so smoothly…” while Bandcamp says it “wends its way through lushly painted, fantastical worlds as an exercise in both escapism and world-building for self-care.”

Max Heart is an illustration of death and rebirth; letting go of what doesn’t serve us in order to leave space for the blessings that do. The album is the band’s most collaborative release to date, and the vibrancy of the collective is truly captured here. Read more about Max Heart, at Bandcamp.

Pre-order Kalbells’s Sophomore LP ‘Max Heart’ ♥️ out March 26

Incredibly happy to announce ‘Max Heart’ — the sophomore album from Kalbells, aka Kalmia Traver (of Rubblebucket), Angelica Bess (Body Language), Zoë Brecher (Hushpuppy, Sad13), & Sarah Pedinotti (Lip Talk) — out March 26 on NNA Tapes.

‘Max Heart’ is available to pre-order on standard black 🖤 & “Salty Pickle” green vinyl 💚 as well as on compact disc & digital formats. The album will be available on “Red Marker” red vinyl exclusively from local indie record stores.

‘Max Heart’ explores what happens when we let go of what doesn’t serve us in order to leave space for the blessings that do. The album’s ten vibrant and subtly layered tracks of mesmerizing psychedelic synth pop (co-engineered with Luke Temple) were birthed from the band’s practice of listening and accountability, rejoicing in their queerness, and promoting each other to be their most genuine selves. ‘Max Heart’ is a portrait of badass women harnessing their improvisational magic.

The effervescent lead single “Purplepink” is out today, and the video, conceptualized and directed by Lisa Schatz, features 3D animated rocket ships, faceless furry creatures, a 30 foot glittery hologram of Maddie Rice (Jon Batiste’s Stay Human, Saturday Night Live Band) shredding on guitar, and Kalbells as warrior space queens. 🚀

Pre-save/add/order here! > https://fanlink.to/maxheart

The Cradle’s New Album ‘Laughing In My Sleep’ is Out Now 🌙

The Cradle
Laughing In My Sleep
By: Paco Cathcart

I recorded Laughing In My Sleep two years ago, Spring 2018, and the songs really come out of experiences in 2017 and early ‘18, which was a dense time with some healthy personal upheaval and a lot of traveling. April ’17’s month long Megabus/Greyhound tour was crucial and left me enamored with the idea that I could do a full solo tour without a car, and with the act itself of traveling around by bus (the song “Society of Men” came directly out of a bus station experience from that tour). That September we got pushed out of our house on Prospect Place in Crown Heights where we’d been consistently putting on shows for a few years (as a venue it was called “Bottom Bell”), and where a ton of music was written, practiced and recorded, (including every Cradle album from “Basketball is Beautiful” through “Bag of Holding”).

I was considering not settling back down in New York, thinking about moving or trying to tour and travel indefinitely, but ultimately I got lucky and found a room in November around the corner with friends. I think a lot of this album comes out of that happy coincidence that allowed me to keep living and making music in Brooklyn. The perspective of wonder and curiosity in songs like “End of the Day” or “Children” is involved with a kind of renewed, deepening appreciation for the breadth and wondrousness of the city I grew up in.

Early ’18 saw more traveling and also slowly detangling a longtime romance, and there are admittedly some pained anti-love songs on this album like “Eyes So Clear” and “One Too Many Times”. Hopefully these bluesier feelings are balanced out by the celebration and joy in songs like “Parasite” or “I’ll Walk”, songs about letting go and feeling free.

Form-wise, Laughing in my Sleep was supposed to be a summary album of sorts that would give someone listening to my music for the first time a little taste of everything. Previously, I had been particular when recording about making each project it’s own coherent and distinct sound-world, either through consistent instrumentation or a consistent recording process, but Laughing in My Sleep was the opposite. The drum-machine songs (“I’ll walk” or “See if it Lasts Longer”, for example), were recorded lo-fi on cassette, while the acoustic-guitar ballads were recorded hi(er)-fi on half-inch tape. Some of the songs are voice memos recorded on a cell phone that were supposed to be turned into proper songs later, but which, in retrospect, contained so much feeling and sense of place that I never rerecorded them. I wanted the album to give something different on each listen and give something different to each listener. I wanted there to be many landscapes, some near and some far, and many lenses to see them through, some blurry, and some clear.

— Paco Cathcart

The Cradle Shares “Eyes So Clear” ~ ‘Laughing In My Sleep’ out Aug. 21

The Cradle, aka Paco Cathcart, is sharing his new single “Eyes So Clear,” today, the final single to be released from his upcoming album, Laughing In My Sleep, out August 21st on standard black & cream vinyl, compact disc, and digital formats.

On “Eyes So Clear,” Cathcart is joined by Lily Konigsberg (of Palberta) on backing vocals. Driven by plodding piano chords and strummed guitar, the song’s narrator wrestles with feeling distrustful and bitter toward friends who have a clear-eyed, less solipsistic perspective on life. Recalling the philosophical and reflective duets from artists such as Simon & Garfunkel and Sufjan Stevens, “Eyes So Clear” feels timeless.

Pre-save ‘Laughing In My Sleep’ here, and pre-order it at Bandcamp or from our shop.

The Cradle Shares “End of the Day” From New LP ‘Laughing In My Sleep’

The Cradle, aka singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paco Cathcart (Big Neck Police, Eyes of Love, Shimmer), has shared “End of the Day,” today — the second single from his upcoming, 21-track album Laughing In My Sleep, out August 21 on standard black and limited edition cream vinyl, compact disc, and digital formats. The first 50 vinyl pre-orders will ship with a chapbook handmade by Paco.

“End of the Day” has been a staple in The Cradle’s acoustic live sets over the past couple of years. It is also a song that bucks easy categorization: “It’s a repetitious lullaby; a series of images at greater or lesser distance; an ode-poem to Brooklyn; the daily splendid and heartbreaking minutia of city life; a first-person account of events of questionable significance; a dream that goes both towards nostalgia and out towards adventure,” Paco says. “End of the Day” follows “One Too Many Times,” and both singles feature backing vocals from Lily Konigsberg (of Palberta).

Laughing In My Sleep is available to pre-order from our shop & on Bandcamp. Pre-save the album to your preferred streaming service by clicking here.

Horse Lords’ 2014 LP ‘Hidden Cities’ is Back in Stock

Horse Lords’ 2014 LP ‘Hidden Cities’ is back in stock! Available from our shop and on Bandcamp.

On opening track “Outer East” the band showcases its considerable range and sick chops: over a low-slung motorik groove, Andrew Bernstein spins a smoky web of sax-into-delay that recalls Terry Riley’s “Reed Streams”. The song turns an unexpected corner five minutes in as guitarist Owen Gardner—who has structurally altered his frets into a just intonation tuning system—carves beguiling arabesque figures on top of Max Eilbacher’s insistently funky bass. Sam Haberman then breaks in with a fierce drum solo, from which the whole band erupts into a relentless forward moving ecstatic riff that blurs the difference between prog, no-wave and minimalism. It’s a compressed lesson in the effortless eclecticism and muscular playing that makes this band so mesmerizing live. Following “Outer East” with barely a pause,  “Life Without Dead Time” rides a mutating polyrhythmic grid that showcases the synthesizer and signal processing chops of Eilbacher (whose solo LP “Red Anxiety Tracers” came out to critical acclaim on Spectrum Spools last year).

A gradually building ramp built of field recordings, tape manipulation and modular synthesis, “Tent City” introduces the second long-form composition on the album, “Macaw”. A floor burner at their live shows, “Macaw” builds rhythmic tension and release before coalescing into a unison burst of festivity and abandon. Bernstein’s woodblock figure pulls away from Haberman’s steady beat and the resulting groove plays out like a krautrock duel-in-the-sand between two offset patterns competing for dominance in a vivid strobe effect. By the ten-minute mark, Gardner’s guitar hits a Bo-Diddley-meets-Group-Doueh sweet spot and the track lifts off in a final spiral of ensemble unison hammering. A coda for extremist signal processing, “All That Is Solid” manipulates and processes the record’s preceding riffs into liquid pools of unrecognizably alien new forms, setting you down on the other side of “Hidden Cities” at once startled and becalmed. It’s vital, thrilling, and utterly transcends its many influences to arrive at a new place on the map for forward-thinking American rock music.

The Cradle Announces ‘Laughing In My Sleep,’ Shares “One Too Many Times”

Truly beyond excited to announce ‘Laughing In My Sleep’ — the new 21-track album from singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paco Cathcart, aka The Cradle.

Available August 21 on standard black and limited edition cream vinyl, compact disc, and digital formats. ⭐️ The first 50 physical pre-orders will receive a chapbook handmade by Paco. Order from our shop & on Bandcamp.

Check out the lead single “One Too Many Times,” featuring Lily Konigsberg (of Palberta) on backing vocals. “It’s a lament about miscommunication, and the difficulties of being vulnerable and clear with one another,” Cathcart explains. “It’s about feeling desperately apart from the “vanguard,” that is, those who are fearless and true with their language, politically and personally.”


Out Now: [NNA123] TALsounds – Acquiesce ✨

Acquiesce, the fifth solo album from Chicago-based Lebanese-American electronic artist Natalie Chami (aka TALsounds), is out today! The album is available from our shop and on Bandcamp on standard black and limited edition white vinyl, in addition to digital formats. The album is also available on transparent blue vinyl at select local indie record stores.

Bandcamp made Acquiesce Album of the Day last week, saying, “Chami continues exploring her penchant for slowly unfolding drones, her analog synthesizers and gentle whispers layered like silvery smoke hanging in a lamp-lit room.” Read more here.

The album’s lead single, “No Rise,” premiered exclusively at The FADER, and subsequent singles “Soar” and “Else” were featured on NPR’s Viking’s Choice playlists, and more.

Chami also recently made a FACT mix for FACT Magazine, featuring women from DIY music scenes in the US and beyond. Listen here.

Over the past decade Natalie has been at the forefront of Chicago’s DIY electronic music community. In addition to her solo work, Chami is one-third of Good Willsmith, half of ambient duo l’eternebre, and frequently collaborates with her peers—notably with Brett Nauke and Whitney Johnson (aka Matchess)—in the Windy City’s “post-band” scene.

To celebrate the release of Acquiesce, TALsounds will have a live-streamed record release show tonight, May 22, broadcasted on Twitch via Lumpen Radio.

TALsounds Shares “Soar” From Upcoming LP ‘Acquiesce’ out May 22nd

TALsounds (the solo project of Chicago-based electronic artist Natalie Chami) has shared a new track titled “Soar” from her upcoming full-length Acquiesce, out May 22nd.

♫ Listen: TALsounds – “Soar”

Made while meditating on a new love and relationship, “Soar” opens with a heavy, plodding bass line and works in layers of long tone swells and shimmering sequencer spirals amidst climbing synth and vocal melodies. As Chami explains: “This improvisation had me reflecting on my new relationship. Was he grounded enough for me? Were we living contradictory lifestyles? Would we be able to find balance together? Was our happiness just a facade? I think all of my uneasiness came out in this song in an ominous kind of way.”

“Soar” follows lead single “No Rise” which premiered with The Fader who praised Chami’s body of work as “an unpredictable discography that’s impossible to categorize. It is, by its nature, impulsive music, guided in the moment by Chami’s emotions and immediate sense of what should come next.”

Acquiesce is available from our shop and on Bandcamp, on standard black vinyl, limited edition white vinyl, and digital formats.

GRID Share “Cold Seep” from Sophomore LP ‘Decomposing Force’

GRID—the Brooklyn, NY noise-jazz trio comprised of Matt Nelson, Tim Dahl, and Nick Podgurski—just released “Cold Seep,” the second single from their upcoming sophomore LP Decomposing Force, out April 24.

♫ Listen: GRID – “Cold Seep”

The band describe the disquieting 12+ minute track: “In “Cold Seep”we have a bottom giving out at the moment of orientation. The fundament, all that has come before, is undone. Free-falling into dark new age we must face the terror of our nothingness.” The previous single “Brutal Kings” caught the attention of a wide array of publications, from the jazz publication Jazziz to the electronic focused outlet XLR8R.

Recorded live in one room with no overdubs and mixed to 1/2-inch tape, Decomposing Force will be GRID’s first release available on vinyl, which is available to pre-order from our shop.

Photo Credit: Dominika Michalowska


Kalbells’s sophomore album Max Heart (NNA Tapes, 2021) opens with the process of regeneration. “I’m rotting and I’m never coming back the way you knew me then,” Kalmia Traver sings with a combination of buoyancy and resilience on the opener “Red Marker.” From the beginning, Max Heart is an illustration of death and rebirth; letting go of what doesn’t serve us in order to leave space for the blessings that do. With Max Heart as their next chapter, central to Kalbells work is the process of creativity giving space for vulnerability and radicalism–continually practicing decolonization work and fighting against white supremacist, heternormative, and patriarchal models. Take their pre-show vocal improv practice of tintinnabulation (introduced by sometimes-drummer and honorary member Dandy McDowell) which Traver explains is “more about listening than it is about vocalizing; it’s more about creating that ecosystem together of trust and respect and interplay and play and joy. I think that that practice is definitely at the center of our work together.” Angelica Bess, Zoë Brecher, Sarah Pedinotti and Traver used this collection of ten tracks to embody prosperity and reciprocity.

Kalbells began as a side project for Traver, who also contributes to the joyous, rocking chaos of Rubblebucket. Three years after the debut album Ten Flowers, a more ambient invocation of untapped self-creativity, the sophomore LP was designed to maximize the synergy that Bess, Brecher, Pedinotti, and Traver manifest. Over the course of 2019, Traver planned several week-long intervals of writing a song a day, and, surprising herself, she was writing a lot of love songs. That year she experienced acute heartbreak, but her heart organ “felt bigger than it had ever been.” Similar to energy conservation, it seems that the lost love that influenced Traver’s writing was transferred elsewhere. Rather she invested in the formidable love with her touring band turned bandmates, and they birthed songs that capture the vibrancy of their collective.

A prime example of Kalbells furthering their sum energies is the effervescent funk of “Purplepink.” Co-written between Bess, Pedinotti, and Traver, a hyper synth bass darts around elongated keyboard sighs. Although the three recorded their vocals in their bedrooms between 2019 and 2020, Bess remembers the day when the lyrics and rhythm came in sync. “I came over to Kal’s house with my bass, she had a cluster of lyrics scattered. I sort of mushed them together and came up with a melodic hook for the verse. The chorus we wrote was based off a run Kal took that day. I also remember coming up with a part of the chorus bass line and Kal took the bass from me and finished it. We kinda just came in there and boom a song was made.”

At the beginning of 2020, the band escaped to Outlier Inn for two weeks in upstate New York to record songs with the studio assistance of the prolific Luke Temple. Kalbells crafted and co-produced ten bright, layered tracks of psychedelic synth-pop. It was also Traver’s first time mixing an album. The result is a prismatic display of experimental pop. From the soft flute touches on opener “Red Marker” to the fluttering saxophone on “Flute Windows Open In The Rain,” each song holds a delicate surprise. Brooklyn-based rapper and multimedia artist Miss Eaves hops on “Pickles” for witty wordplay. On the elastic closer “Max Heart,” sprinkles of piano and bouncing percussion lock into each other. Brecher reveals that the band was grooving so hard that she felt like she wasn’t even drumming. “I was just watching us move along with the beat. It was kind of trance-like. Of all the songs on the album, this, to me, was the most fun to record.”

Traver’s visual songwriting is part of what gives Max Heart its whimsy.  On “Bubbles,” Traver envisions that one’s fears  “take flight on a destination vacation” where later they’re fed peaches beside a fire.  Later, we’re invited into her subconscious on “Diagram Of Me Sleeping.” Her voice is low and sleepy with sand as she sings, “I woke up with a fishtank in my hips/tropical clouds of neon floating little dreamy fish.” Traver’s image-focused lyricism is a way of tapping into her emotions. “I feel like the visual for me is really generative,” she says.  “That’s just a way to get me talking about my feelings more, and I think it can be hard to talk about your feelings. The little visual things are little entry points.”

Max Heart is a portrait of these badass women harnessing their improvisational magic. They dispel any sexist assumption about jamming. “When we play grooves together it’s like some spiritual experience. It’s really empowering,” Traver says. “I think, there’s an unspoken thing that women don’t groove. That men groove and women are the singers and that our groove would be not viable or not as cool,” Traver explains. “Once we’re all together it’s like frickin sparks fly.” Common groove language is a rare medicine to happen across, which is why, as a group, playing with each other has been not only exciting, but restorative. “Kalbells is a living, breathing, healing, grooving movement,” Pedinotti beams. Max Heart harnesses this magnetic power for a collection of songs that are packed with inspired tension and daring surreality.