MP3 Velella Velella - Atlantis Massif
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11 MP3 Songs in this album (44:20) !
Related styles: Electronic: Funk, Pop: with Electronic Production, Mood: Party Music
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Velella Velella is unique on a couple levels: they purvey indie funk thatâs actually cool, maybe because they are just as much inspired by Madlib-esque hip-hop and Stereolab electronica as they are by âindieâ or âfunkâ (I strongly believe that this is the kind of group that exposes !!! as a joke and Junior Senior as a piss-poor joke); they can name a track âThis Bread is Hard as Crackersâ and Iâll think thatâs good and fine. And I have a personal relationship with this music as Iâve heard most of these tracks in various demo forms, even discussing my thoughts with Andrew Means, one of Velella Velellaâs principal members. Somewhere in there some tiny impact may have been made on the finished product. Of course, I told him I was infatuated with this one slick banger I called âOoh Naniâ and that shit didnât make the record, which makes you wonder. The real question is, I guess, whether Atlantis Massif can do anything but sink under the weight of many best wishes.
Backstory: Velella Velellaâs Bay of Biscay (2005) is a record that Iâll always have underrated, not in my heart but in my percentagesâbecause I was striving for some modicum of objectivity. Fuck objectivity. That albumâs like an 85 and is one of the best, most underheard party records ever. Itâs a record you share and its warmth spills out and grows the more you do so. I play it a party and then Clay loves it; Clay plays it a party and then Dom loves it; Clay, Dom, and I love it and then CMGâs bound to dig it; CMG puts it in on our top 100 records of the decade and then maybe two or three of you will play it at a party someday and hear what weâre on about. This is the most we can hope for but itâs not as much as Velella Velella deserves. Thatâs why Iâm stuck now, caught between a faint wisp of disappointment and the recognition that I should be telling you how great this band isâor between the false aura of removal and the possibly just-as-false sense of my own involvement. But while this album doesnât have the lush sprawl that rendered Bay of Biscay a righteous odyssey, I guess I should find relief in how very good it still is.
Any small criticism of Velella Velella puts a foul taste in my mouth so let me get this out of the way: this record is eleven tracks, some of which are tight, and the general feeling is that Atlantis Massif is constructed with the intention of being something of a break-out recordâbut the pacing lets it down in this regard. The first half of Atlantis Massif is a stunner, rife with sinewy, live band beat-making thatâs acquired a new edge, a sharp-as-tack disposition. The first track is the only definite exception to that paradigm: as an opener I think âBBQ Claus I & IIâ endeavors to bring the party in much the same way that âDo Not Fold / Do Not Bendâ jump-started Bay of Biscay with infectious chanting, hand claps, and an avalanche of post-Bacharach arrangement. But, what ho, âendeavorsâ? Great parties arenât endeavors, theyâre happy accidents. âBBQ Claus I & IIâ feels a tad forced in comparison to the organic tangling, untangling, and blooming of its predecessorâthereâs a âSeñoritaâ moment close to the four minute mark where Means implores the crowd not to âstop the body rockâ and the intonation rises from sweaty to crotch-cupped. It still may prove effective in a party setting (donât know, havenât tried it yet) but it lacks the effortless transcendence that marked some of Velella Velellaâs earlier shit.
âBlack Stripe,â though, is an anvil-hit announcement of the bandâs potentialâyouâll be familiar if you listened to my October podcast. The wah-wah guitar line is a vibrating knife, the drums and bass chest-bursting, and as the track moves elegantly through its simple three-part composition thereâs a palpable tension that bespeaks an inevitable coda, and when that coda comes it bespeaks awesome. As the groove breaks then rebuilds a synth plateaus at a high pitch and holds form for almost four measures before a brief, revelatory chord deviation punctuated by an âahhh,â which really is an âahhhâ moment because thatâs what youâll feel as this music unfurls itself so gorgeously. Velella Velella know what they are doing. And they know to keep the hits coming, the record coasting through âGlower Powerâ starting loose before discovering a firmer progression to elevate into pop bliss-out that dissipates as âWeâll Getcha in Yeahâ surges statically on synth arpeggios and a thick, clipped bass riff (that in fact reminds me of that âOoh Naniâ demo I mentioned) before picking up the pace on the drums and overdriving everything recklessly, fantastically, bringing us to âThe Goose With Problems,â which is called âThe Goose With Problemsâ and yet is the fuckinâ jam. Basically, the first half of this record is incredible, a paring down of funk music and indie rock into some vital, combined essence that seethes and shimmies with utter efficiency. Itâs just about as good a first half as any other record this year.
Which is not trying to set up for some massive âbut,â butâ¦the rest of this record is mostly a pleasant drift on until its conclusion. âTime Machineâs a Bad Ideaâ isnât just a nice, down-tempo break, itâs prelude to a second act where dramatic tension is thrown out the window in favor of a purely colorful production. âMilk Snacksâ and âFine Corinthian Leatherâ just kind of do their thing for a combined eleven minutes, not grooving too hard and making sure to stuff themselves full with cool sounds here and there and fragments of pop, nothing ever colluding into potency (though âMilk Snacksâ does have a fly two-chord clavinet riff that comes in close to the three-minute mark). âRainbow Soxâ is a gem, for sure, kind of sounding like Sigur Ros on uppers and doing a videogame soundtrackâsome real Sonic Team-type shit, at thatâbut then âWhat the Heck is the Truthâ and âSplinters and Smokeâ bring the record to a not especially memorable end, basically comprising a one-two of pretty, percussive washes with wah-wah and pretty, non-percussive washes without wah-wah. Really, the second half feels like one long fade-out from the twisting vicissitudes of that vibrant opening stretch.
So while Bay of Biscay was a joyful journey through a maze of uncharted musical territory with plenty of stops at moments of wordless wonder, Atlantis Massif strikes me more as a glorious, focused punch to the face which then leaves us waiting for the stars to subside. The songs individually are polished but the record overall has a slight sense of incompletion, like itâs a long EP disguised as an LP or something. Still, the highlights are towering and the aesthetic throughout is warm, diverse, giddyâmarvelous, modern indie funk is a reality thanks almost solely to these guys. In a way Velella Velella are both unknown and unknowingly essential; I can only hope their community continues to grow and that community pushes them further and further. Oh, and I can hope âOoh Naniâ is on the next recordâwhen Velella Velella decide to bring the heat itâs like nothing else out there.
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