Time Spy, in reality Ryan Shah, is a rarity among electronica artists in that he is an actual musician, helping to destroy the negative stereotype that those in the genre can’t actually play their instruments. His album, Vol. 1, has been receiving its share of spins in the office with its tripped-out beats and mood-rotating atmospherics.

Julian Wilson: Time Spy is an intriguing name for your project. Does it have any significance to you or the music?

Ryan Shah: I’ve always felt that I would have liked to have been a secret agent or something along those lines if I hadn’t been a musician.  I used to dress in all black and run around my neighborhood late at night when I was as young as 10-years-old, hiding in shadows, spying on people through their windows, etc.  Just for fun, you know.  But being a drummer, I guess I feel that my music is rhythmically kind of like the vibe of a spy.  A good spy is never seen but sometimes his presence can be felt.  In my tracks, there’s a lot of subtle rhythmic things that aren’t always heard consciously but are picked up subconsciously by the listener.

Wilson: You’re different among most electronica artists in that you’ve had experience playing in “real” bands, namely rock and jazz acts. Of the three musical styles, which one has given you the most artistic freedom?

Shah: This is a difficult question but I guess I have to say being an ‘electronica artist’ since I am the one in total control of the entire creation.  ‘Artistic freedom’ is a questionable term though because I have
felt quite ‘free’ in one or two bands I have been in.  I think as long as an artist is challenged he is ‘free’ because he can grow. In music, stagnation is a prison.  And bands can provide that challenge (freedom) if
the other musicians are as skilled and courageous.  All said and done, though, being an electronica artist is probably the most freedom I have felt because of the absence of social politics.

Wilson: How did you become interested in electronic music?

Shah: The first track of electronic music I heard must have been Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit.”  Also, to me, hip-hop is a type of electronic music, and I’ve been into hip-hop since the days of Public Enemy and De La Soul.  In the late ’90s I heard some tracks by Artifacts B.C. while at a friend’s place in NYC.  I have been influenced by the compilations on the Quango label Brazilified and Lush Life; Jazzanova’s CD In Between; the compilation Brazilectro; the programming on Bebel Gilberto’s CDs.  And my biggest influenceas of this last year is Zero 7. Around 2002, I somehow got a demo copy of Fruity Loops and wrote some of the stuff on my CD Vol. 1 using it without a MIDI keyboard, just plugging notes with the mouse.

Wilson: Besides Time Spy, what else are you involved in?

Shah: I perform classical Indian music on tabla, accompanying a vocalist in Calcutta, India named Siddharth Chaudhuri.  I also play drums in a blues/rock/folk band called Humigalous Rex when I am here in states.  And I also play tabla with my drum set teacher Jeff Sipe. In my spare time, I practice martial arts like Aikido and Muay Thai Boran. I also study yoga and meditation.  I love movies as well.

Wilson: How do you feel Time Spy differentiates itself from other electronica projects?

Shah: Well, as far as lounge music goes, it doesn’t utilize any style or genre blatantly like say Brazilian or jazz or even Indian music but those elements are there. I don’t think anyone can really say that it’s “Funk
Lounge” or “Jazz Lounge” or “Brazilian” or even “Indian,” etc. I have a huge listening experience.  I was operating my folk’s stereo when I was 4 years old and have been listening to anything I could get my ears on since then.

http://www.timespy.net

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Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Mary Fakhoury/Universal Worlds

The Universal Worlds of Mary Fakhoury is probably referring to the stylish leaps on this five-track EP. Actually, Fakhoury does more than just hop from one style to another; it’s like she transforms into different artists completely, a chameleon who is even more unpredictable than David Bowie and Madonna. How so? Fakhoury opens the disc with a cover of the immortal “Someone to Watch Over Me”; personally, I’m burned out on this track, having heard it a million times and covered by just as many artists. However, I was captivated by Fakhoury’s vocal delivery. There is a prettiness to her longing that gives the moldy standard a fresh coat of polish. After the piano-laden French number “La Vie En Rose,” Fakhoury startles us with “El-Donia,” a Middle Eastern dance track with icy synthesizers and a spellbindingly ethereal beat. 

If the transition from American jazz to classic French pop to Arabic disco wasn’t jarring enough, Fakhoury enters the hip-hop field with “Playa in My Life.” It’s on “Playa on My Life” wherein Fakhoury seems a little uncomfortable; it rolls like an experiment, an artist seeing what she is and is not capable of doing. One can see why it was done, but Fakhoury excels when the words and arrangements match the loving craftsmanship in her singing.

http://cdbaby.com/cd/fakhoury2

Paris-born French-Italian Lea Jones may epitomize the traditional and exotic European beauty, but her musical heart is rooted in America. Her songs recapture what has been missing from U.S. pop music since the ’80s, the soulful depth that added a timeless quality to even the most innocuous lyrics. 
Julian Wilson: You have the features of a model. Do you do modeling work as well?
 
Lea Jones: I thought about it, but singing means so much more to me that I did not choose to.
 
Wilson: The song, “Lucky Boy,” embraces hip-hop, R&B, and even Adult Contemporary. Have you always been this eclectic in your musical styles?
 
Jones: Music is universal, even if I always have been influenced by soul, R&B, groovy sounds. This is who I am. French-Italian, living in the U.S. for so long, travelling, learning and trying to understand different cultures and styles. Studying piano, accordion, blues, opera singing, and now working with Ron Anderson, the most amazing voice teacher I have ever met.
 
Wilson: How much creative input do you have in your songs?
 
Jones: It depends on the songs. For the most part, I collaborated with Donna Wintergreen who knew how to put words on my ideas, melodies or words I had written. For “Lucky Boy,” Jean-Michel Soupraya (producer, composer, arranger) found the hook, then Frank Gelibert, his associate, came to help and arrange the song. In two days, it was done. This is real teamwork. And I would like to also thank Eddie Adams, who always believed in me. How much input I have does not really matter to me; it all becomes real thanks to an incredible team who worked together.
 
Wilson: How long have been in the music industry?
 
Jones: I have been singing, writing, and composing for as long as I can remember.
 
Wilson: Where were your born and what kind of music did you grow up on?
 
Jones: I was born in Paris, in Montmartre, next to the Moulin Rouge. It is a very creative and artistic area of Paris. I grew up listening to Edith Piaf, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones – any kind of music I could find, but mostly American.
 
Wilson: What can people expect from your full-length CD?

Jones: Surprise! A soulful adventure. It will probably talk a lot about life’s ups and downs, emotions. A very professional production and great lyrics, sounds, melodies, and even songs with an orchestra.

http://www.jmwestentertainment.com

 

Reviewed by Julian Wilson

M.C. Mars/Letz Cabalaborate

M.C. Mars is to San Francisco as Lou Reed is to New York. In other words, he belongs to the city, knows its every buried secret; after all, would you expect less from somebody who’s been a cab driver for 30 years? Mars has seen and heard it all. Like Reed, Mars writes unflinchingly of drugs and kinky sex and the damage done – in this case, the spectre of AIDS always hovering like a black cloud. Combining hysterically funny spoken-word segments with straightforward yet lyrically sharp hip-hop, Mars sounds nothing like a man who is pushing 60. Yes, you heard me; he’s no spring chicken.

But age brings experience, and Mars has lived a lifetime of memories to share with us all. The bitingly funny “Bob the Fertilizer Salesman” is about a businessman too cheap to pay for a decent hooker so Mars takes him to a crack neighborhood wherein twenty bucks can get you oral sex. Unfortunately, the drug-hungry whore is so ugly that Bob refuses to pay anything more than $5. When she’s insulted by his offer, he throws her out of the cab. You’ll find yourself laughing until it’s over, when you realize that Mars is making a statement about how society uses the sick and needy as garbage, abandoning them to their misery once we’ve gotten what we wanted. “I believe in the dignity of human life,” Mars says on “TV Humor.” Keep that in mind as you listen to the rest of the album, and you will feel the force of Mars’ socio-political messages.

 http://www.mcmars.net

 

Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Jam’g/Just (Because)

There can never be a shortage of rappers, and unfortunately many of them are awful. Ever since hip-hop became Big Business, everybody’s aunt and brother thinks they can slip on the gold chains and become the next MTV sensation. Once in a while, though, you will encounter an artist such as Jam’g who actually has an artistic vision clearly his own.

I’m hesitant to peg this into the “alternative rap” category because that would imply the music here is quirky and somewhat uncommercial. Nevertheless, much of Just (Because) wouldn’t be served on your hip-hop menu. For example, the deceptively titled “Let’s Party Tonight” attacks the misogyny often found in rap lyrics and in the scene as well. Imagine those video-vixen sisters getting together and coming up with a girl-power rant, letting the boys know that they aren’t just flesh but souls with a heart who ache for emotional fulfillment. Pretty brave stuff coming from a male hip-hop artist, if you ask me.

Jam’g combines messages of morality with the prequisite party tunes. “Life in San Quentin” shows the other side of crime, the price one pays for being caught doing the stupid shit that sadly kids get involved in. But there’s no preachiness here. The lyrics give you a dose of reality, showing that there’s more to hip-hop than guns, gold, and girls.

http://www.jamgproductions.com