Full disclosure, this post was originally written for L.A. label HW&W’s 1.5 day-long Bandcamp free for all. Although it’s ended, not all hope is lost–16 of the albums on their Bandcamp are still available for free while the others are affordable, with prices ranging from $3-$10. I’ve taken it upon myself to cycle through the free ones to make up for this semi-late PSA and to introduce one of my favorite labels, Huh What & Where.
After a modest PR push asking for 200 retweets on Wednesday, HW&W kept their word and changed their Bandcamp to “Name Your Price” from 8 a.m. EST Friday to 11 p.m. EST Saturday. But why would they give away 28 albums?
Well, citing their about page, “The focus obviously was and could only be the music, but what existed now, in essence indirectly as a result of constant collaborations & ideas bouncing between friends was this random grouping of talent and a motherfucking chance to save lives. The backbone to all this was the assurance between them that the focus could never be the money, not because they don’t like money, but because its [sic] not really the hip thing anymore, ya know?” It’s refreshing to see music collectives, big or small, remembering their roots as artistic entities as opposed to greedy, overcharging, money hounds, but I digress. HW&W’s dedication to their fans and their efforts to grow their audience-base are reflected in the number of word-of-mouth recommendations about their artists as well as their expanding horizons, with collaborations of every kind. It’s inspiring to see how far HW&W has come since CEO and Founder Keith Fujimoto hatched the idea in college.
HW&W has been transitioning from an emerging label to a rather established label, especially in attracting international talent to their West Coast homebase. Their overseas labelmates have been on the road, with transcontinental tours providing a platform for their infectious invasion of new countries and new listeners.
Artist Spotlight/Album Recommendations:
1. Ta-ku’s Songs To Break Up To: Blending instrumental and synthetic elements together into an incredibly evocative EP, this album is also my favorite album of 2013. Reggie Mathews a.k.a. genre killa a.k.a. Ta-ku is able to transmit the often overwhelming waves of emotion–whether it’s the dread of impending finality or nostalgic guilt for what used to be or the cautious relief of closure, Ta-ku makes you feel it if you let him. The tone of the album is wave-like, where the song pulls you back before rising in a bevy of samples and vocals until finally, the beat breaks and embraces the shore in peace. Best listened to in one go, ideally while in transit, where the recurring use of dragging chains, violin, and rumbling bass are reminiscent of a heartbeat, the album carries the listener from “Beggining To End.” “We Were In Love” transcends the listener’s state of mind with a powerful rework of Jhene’s Aiko’s rueful “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle).” Listen to Ta-ku talk about the inspiration and stream of consciousness that went into the production of Songs To Break Up To. Groove To: Every one of them, in order, in one sitting. Have tissues nearby.
2. *free* Stwo’s Liz: Pronounced like ‘stew,’ this Parisian’s jazzy yet electronic, hard-hitting yet relaxing singles have been well received. He’s been at the forefront of leading the French electro-R&B movement and selling out shows like crazy. He recently played with Tek.lun at Flash, D.C., in March. Stwo also has guest-starred on my radio staple, Diplo’s BBC Radio 1Xtra “Diplo and Friends,” where he showcased his own talents as well as those of associated acts from HW&W. Groove To: Liz and its remixes on Bandcamp, but “Lovin U” and his remix of “Middle Of Things, Beautiful Wife” by Sango feat. SPZRKT are also highly recommended from his Soundcloud.
3. Kaytranada’s Kaytra Todo: Montrill or Montreal? Either way, this cosmopolitan city’s emerging music scene has brought an infusion of trap and hip-hop elements that stand out in Kaytranada’s groovy beats. Kaytra Todo consists of 8 solid songs that are great for kicking back, driving, getting in the zone while on the Chilean metro, or pregaming. His genre is hard to pin down as he can go from discotheque in “At All” all the way to trap-heavy in “Killa Cats.” Kaytranada is slated to stop by D.C. in October at U Street Music Hall, get tickets here. Groove To: “Killa Cats,” “Club Bang,” and “All We Do” feat. JSMN.
4. Ta-ku’s Latenyc: 2011 Ta-ku is great, 2012 Ta-ku (re: J Dilla series) is great, but 2013 Ta-ku is glorious. Latenyc is his first release on HW&W and the idiosyncratic playfulness in his music begins here. He makes me feel like I’m playing in an arcade in the middle of Times Square with the bleeps & bloops, soaring synths, and melodies. Ta-ku tweaks Justin Bieber’s chorus from “One Time” and makes it work with the contrasting, baritone chorus of “hey”. He also partners with fellow Australian Chet Faker on “Mahal” in an audio aesthetic similar to Chet Faker x Flume’s Lockjaw. Groove to: “Low Battery,” “When I Met You,” and “Facelift.”
5. *free* The Celestics’ Supreme Laziness: Celestin brothers, Kevin and Louis-Philippe, took the blogosphere by storm with their May release of their debut album. Louie-P raps about Montreal, the flossy lifestyle, and their development as artists, while Kaytranada’s production provides the progressive beats in his trademark buzzy, trap-hop style. The brothers also enlisted the help of others with collabs; “Improved Fluxo” feat. Costa Joe pays tribute to their Haitian heritage with some verses in French. Groove To: “Charles Barkley,” “Arriba,” and “Uptempo.”
6.*free* Tek.lun’s Ridin’ Round: Only 20 years old, Tek.lun’s perseverance in making music and getting noticed has paid off. He first appeared in HW&W Vol. 1 in 2012 as their closing track and now in 2014, HW&W has released his beats tape, which is just itching for rap remixes. For those who wish to enjoy the relaxing tunes and their reverberating vocals in original purity, HW&W notes that, “This is to bump in your whip late night driving around smoking that good. Baltimore, stand up.” Groove To: “Cold Train” (adore the harp chords) and “Ridin’.” His Bandcamp features mostly free originals and remixes up for your perusal.
*All Free* honorable mention:
- The Dutch by 14 artists representing The Netherlands and its reputable range of music.
- Quadruple Entendre is Mike Gao’s first free-release album after seeing how labelmates reached more listeners. He also took a much more light-hearted approach, preferring a humorous approach to music making in lieu of showcasing his already well established production capabilities.
- Making a Move by Sweater Beats. Don’t let this single and remix fool you–he most recently opened for 2 nights of Flume’s sold out NYC shows.