NPR logo First Listen: 'Proximity One: Narrative Of A City'

First Listen: 'Proximity One: Narrative Of A City'

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Sahy Uhns' track "Fire Music" is featured on Proximal Records' compilation. Proximal Records hide caption

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Proximal Records

Sahy Uhns' track "Fire Music" is featured on Proximal Records' compilation.

Proximal Records

Ever since Cube was rollin' in a Benzo with Lorenzo, and Dre was bangin' with a gang of instrumentals, the west coast has been known for its hip hop beats. Counter to the more aggressive sounds coming out of the east coast, producers of the early G-funk (Gangsta-funk) sound used twangy synths, rich bass lines and funk samples in their productions, for grooves that bounced, leaned and swagged their way through the airwaves. Though that era is often considered to be the golden age of beat making in Los Angeles, the recent rise of local indie-labels centered around hip hop rooted instrumentals (such as Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder) has brought about a renaissance of the LA beat scene.

Proximal Records is a new independent label, devoted to promoting LA locals in the electronic music community. Their debut release, Proximity One, is a compilation of artists big and small that shines a light on the different facets of the city's sound. West coast hip hop is the root of much of the material, but the album is by no means pure hip hop. Rather, it's a snapshot of the splintering experimentation happening in pockets of the town.

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Staples of the LA scene, such as Dam Funk (pronounced Dame) and Daedalus, are featured here — the former with a keyboard-driven funk boogie and the latter with a dubstep groove that layers bending synths and strings. But it's up and comers such as Benedek, Lawrence Grey and Sahy Uhns that make the album so exciting. Sahy Uhns' "Fire Music" is a gritty, grimy banger that commands a head nod, while Grey's shifting tempos on "Peaches For The Baby" seamlessly works a range of rhythms together and Benedek's gem of slow roller just feels so…west coast.