The Apples new album Dragonz is the Society of Sound release for March. Though containing disparate influences, guests and production methods, Dragonz is undeniably The Apples and is possibly their most focused LP to date. Here they give us an insight into the making of the album.
Rather than rely on our usual full band, live performance, one-room live single recording session, the making of Dragonz has been a departure for The Apples.
A multi-studio project spanning three continents, we assembled new instrumental tracks based on loops created in the studio and presented them to a wide-ranging selection of vocal collaborators to help us complete the picture. We also applied this same method to the capturing of long standing live favourites as well.
The concept of a “vocal album” was implemented on instrumental songs as well, treating the omnipresent turntables’ sample work not as the central element to the music but rather as its frontman.
As well as being probably our most focused LP to date it is certainly our most middle-eastern. Elements of the region’s indigenous genres have always been present in our work, but never has the influence been as pronounced.
Wowee Al Zowee is, by name and by nature, an amalgam of Western exhilaration and the Arabic language definite article. A soul anthem with Arabic right in the middle. The creation of the track is a classic example of what we refer to as “an Apples moment” when a basic musical idea and the samples placed on the turntables fit perfectly. With no prior discussion or direction a song is instantly conceived. Wowee Al Zowee has remained unchanged since that first session and has gone on to become an audience favourite. It sets the tone for and embodies the spirit and sound of the album: A natural opener.
Working with the exciting vocal trio of sisters Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim was the first collaborative domino for Dragonz four years ago. The desert-born sisters’ initial live performances of profound, sparse, soul stirring authentic Yemeni traditional songs presented an irresistible opportunity for us. After a few sessions experimenting with different ideas for the track we had prepared, the sisters’ brother and repertoire chief Evyatar Haim selected the perfect vocal gem; a joyous invitation and praise of a beloved that fit perfectly with our concept of creating a true Middle Eastern Funk cut.
Blow! is a mardi-gras-saluting horn romp driven by a New-Orleans street beat / Middle Eastern Laf beat. The same accents makeup both cultures’ rhythms, with the only difference being where the pulse is felt, shown in the song by the downbeat vs upbeat clapping. Trumpeter Arthur Krasnobaev blows a scorching solo.
Dragonz feat iLLspokinn and Homeboy Sandman
An “Apples featuring rappers” track is at once obvious and long overdue. This collaboration featuring two of New York City’s very finest lyrical wizards is in fact over a decade in the making. iLLspokinn is the frontman for Spokinn Movement, a live hip hop quartet also featuring The Apples’ drummer, and Homeboy Sandman has been part of that New York underground scene and a regular live guest of Spokinn Movement for many years.
It’s our heaviest, most Boom-Bap beat yet (though typically skewed) and our most soaring chorus screech to date too. Dragonz came together in one intense and inspiring session in Brooklyn, with the two mcs writing and recording off of each other, their tight handoffs exemplifying the energy of NYC’s back-to-back freestyle cyphers.
The Kingdom Of Halva is yet another prime “Apples moment” wherein an electronica-inspired sketch was seamlessly laced with an anthemic melody and Saz and Pipes samples. This was also inspired by a retelling of an unprovoked violent incident in Jerusalem experienced by Apples founding member and former turntablist Ofer Tal, evoking the pressure pot that is sometimes this region.
California born – long time Berlin resident – now São Paulo based Jessie Evans recorded the perfect warm dry breeze over the thick humid double bass heavy oddtime beat from her home in Brazil, a week before her due date. Purified is a slow motion reckless abandon love song hovering over a multilayered track drawing from the Tunisian Malouf tradition, indigenous North American chants, and mid 20th century European electronic music.
The same prolific session that birthed Wowee Al Zowee began with a spinning of turntablist Erez Todres’ newly-delivered copy of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. Inspired by the epic use of brass on that classic album, we immediately created an uptempo blaring cinematic runaway track, completing it in about an hour. In tribute to the muse’s title, it was called At Amart Ma’ader, which translates from Hebrew (second person, female) as “You said a hoe”.
Temanesh, a hypnotic, stirring lament of a man pleading with his former love to stop haunting his dreams and tormenting his soul, was written by vocalist and saxophonist Abatte Barihun. The Apples first featured Barihun four years ago on our first-ever seated concert at the Tel Aviv brass and woodwinds festival. This is The Apples’ first recorded foray into ethiojazz, a genre we are very much inspired by, with more explorations to come…
Learn more about the vocal collaborators on Drazonz here: