New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Last month, Cassowary, the moniker of the 25-year-old artist and multi-instrumentalist Miles Shannon, announced the release of his self-titled debut album on April 24th via Fat Possum with a highly memorable video for the track "Belt Notch!" He's since made waves with his refreshing twist on vibey, Los Angeles beat-tinged jazz, tilting the ears of the likes of Hypebeast, the Los Angeles Times, The Fader and beyond. Today, he releases the third single on the album, "Moth".
As chill as it is animated, the minimalist instrumental track weaves traditional jazz elements in with winding cosmic sounds, building slowly into a winding saxophone run that keeps the listener suspended in sonic air-
"'Moth' is an experimentation with time and groove," says Shannon on the track. "It was inspired by the sporadic movements of a moth in flight, going towards light. With this in mind, the song is also meant to harmonically represent drastic ascension following a lower point."
On his self-titled debut, Cassowary evokes everything from the loping electronics of the Low End Theory
"beat scene" to the freewheeling chops of the jazz fusion resurgence, from the murky textures of Odd Future's genre-hopping basement rap to the vintage funk revisionism of labels like Stones Throw. It's an artistic statement that's as beautiful and strange as the flightless bird that shares its name.
For Cassowary, Shannon's first solo vision, he spent two years hopping between the Valley's professional recording studios and friends' home rigs. It is produced, composed, arranged and even funded by Shannon, who scratched together cash from months of playing pick-up gigs, washing dishes, waiting tables and selling weed. A pair of high school friends - bassist Aidan McDonough and drummer Sean Tavella - round out the album's core ensemble. Emerging MC Tyler Cole provides an emotive guest rap.
Textures move between twisted post-disco haze ("She Funked Me"), blunted soul ballads ("Price Went Up"), Glass-inspired minimalist fusion ("Moth"), and head-boggling polyrhythmic jazz experiments ("Roach"). "We're actually using a 15 over 3 time signature," says Shannon of the lurching "Roach". "It's, to date, our hardest tune. Whenever we get a new instrumentalist, we teach them that one first. It's never easy."
Holding the album together is the three-parts "114°" series, excerpts from a single take of a funky, simmering jazz instrumental performed alongside McDonough and Tavella during 2018's record-breaking heat wave. Explains Shannon, "It was 114 degrees in the studio 'cause the A/C was fed. In fact, it was hotter in the studio - 114 outside."
Shannon's recording debut was nothing short of playing piano on childhood friend Earl Sweatshirt's landmark 2015 album I Don't Like s, I Don't Go Outside, and the two spent hours bumping austere, lyrical rappers like Mobb Deep, MF Doom, Talib Kweli
and Juelz Santana, with the video for his breakthrough 2010 video "Earl" being partially filmed in Shannon's home.
Studying under tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, Shannon was given the opportunity to play alongside greats like Gary Smulyan, Eric Reed, Gerald Clayton and Terrell Stafford. After graduating in 2012, he opted not to attend any of the esteemed music colleges that had accepted him, instead moving to New York to hit the club circuit. Embedded in New York's local jazz scene for a few months, he promptly grew frustrated by its competitive one-upmanship and its focus on half-century-old standards.
Instead, Shannon retreated to the places he was crashing at and played guitar. He had received a powerful jazz education at LACHSA, but had also met classmates that had opened his ears to the classic rock canon he had once shunned - bands like the Beatles, the Who and Pink Floyd. He was getting into the hypnotic rhythms of composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. He returned to California with a new vision, an armload of new compositions and a dream.
That dream is fulfilled on Cassowary, an unclassifiable 38 minutes that seamlessly weaves through jazz, R&B, hip-hop, funk, minimalism, avant-garde electronic music and more.
"I really wanted to make a record that I would listen to," Shannon says. "I want people to listen like a musician, with that intent. It's clearly not just a pop album with pop songs. I wanted to challenge people, sonically. I want people to go in there and be surprised."