Made In Heights
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank us later for introducing you to this cool, electro-beat vibed, synth-pop duo who currently make the freshest beats in the game. On Bandcamp, their tags include electronic, mythical, filth, pop, and Los Angeles. Get ready to discover the truth behind those tags and learn more about Made In Heights, as they should be becoming more popular as we go into the new year.
The group consists of two very talented individuals by the names of Alexei Saba Mohajerjasbi (Sabzi) and Kelsey Bulkin. Both members were apart and contributed to a few different musical projects before Made In Heights came into being. Currently based in Los Angeles, the two musicians began in New York City.
All the groups that Sabzi has been a part of in the past have also been duos. In both groups, he served as the DJ and the producer, which is his current role in Made In Heights. Beginning in 2002, when Sabzi was a student at the University of Washington, he and a friend named George Quibuyen (a.k.a., Geo, Prometheus Brown) started Blue Scholars. Since 2002, the hip-hop duo have released five full-length albums and four EPs. They have toured the States, staying predominantly in the Pacific Northwest and have opened for large acts such as Kanye West in 2006. Cinemetropolis was their last album released and done so entirely independently, through a Kickstarter project. That album has tracks which are very reminiscent of those by Made In Heights with a collection of deep synth sounds.
The other group that Sabzi has been a part of in the past was called Common Market. Sabzi was the DJ and producer while Ryan Abeo (RA Scion) was the MC. They were an active hip-hop group from 2005 to 2009. Something to take note of is religion, both RA Scion and Sabzi are members of the Baha’i Faith, and they connected through the religious community. Similar to Blue Scholar’s approach to music, their hip hop reflected political beliefs but also spiritual ones. Since the cease of Common Market’s existence in 2009, Sabzi has continued to work with Blue Scholars (there could be something in the works) and has put a great deal of work in to Made In Heights.
Representing the other half of the group is Kelsey Bulkin who’s also of the Baha’i Faith. She’s originally from the central region of Northern California and attended high school in Tuolumne, which borders Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevadas. Other than her work with Made In Heights, Kelsey uses her incredible voice to create covers in which she posts on her SoundCloud and YouTube. Some ones that I would highly recommend you listening to are her covers of “The Reeling” by Passion Pit and “Stacks” (titled “Staxx”) by Bon Iver. Kelsey has also been featured on a track by a West Coast emcee named THURZ, produced by Rahki.
Whilst Sabzi was working on producing Cinemetropolis for Blue Scholars, he and Kelsey were also producing their first EP titled Winter Pigeons (songs to raise your dead spirits). This one was released on December 24, 2010. The first track of this album is titled “Skylark Interabang?!” and samples “Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens. “All the Places” is the following track on the EP and starts off right where “Skylark Interabang?!” left off, the production is on point.
When producing, a commonality between songs is that Sabzi will start off with some light percussion then Kelsey’s voice will follow. From there on, this percussion will grow stronger, woodwinds will begin to beat in the background and the occasional synth will slap. The dynamic of the group is perfect, it seems as if neither artist takes the spotlight, they both get their time to shine.
Winter Pigeons was free to the public. On September 6th 2011, they released their 2nd EP titled Aporia: In These Streets. This album was also free to the public. The first six songs of the album were made by the duo while the following five were simply Sabzi doing instrumental versions. Each and every song on the album gives off either a magical, mythical, or dreamy vibe. “Viices” and “Holla Mears” are my personal two favorite that came off of this EP. On “Viices” It almost feels like you’re in a dream, walking through a garden filled with music boxes spinning on a clear starry night. “Holla Mears” gives off a similar vibe. Completely synth soothing. Sabzi is a fan of Sufjan Steven’s music, because “Holla Mears” uses a similar beat to that of “I Walked” by Stevens.
Following this EP release in 2011, Made In Heights released a self-titled full length album for purchase on November 5th, 2013. The nine songs included were a collection of those from Aporia: In These Streets and Winter Pigeons. Aside from the two EPs and one full length, Made In Heights have released numerous singles via their SoundCloud. These singles should all be very popular, even though the band has been around for a couple of years, they still aren’t recognized by many. Truly a hidden gem, so many people are missing out. Each single has its own unique album artwork, which ranges from a portrait of Sabzi to one of Kelsey with flowers on her face. Sometimes it is just their hands, and sometimes it's cats lol.
This past Wednesday, Made In Heights released a new single titled “Panther”. The album artwork for this one has Kelsey looking completely delirious with a bouquet of tiny orange marigolds in her mouth. It’s supposedly a track from their forthcoming album coming in the New Year. If you’re a fan of what you hear. I recommend that you give Marian Hill, Sylvan Esso, and Cathedrals a listen. They all are comparable. Little Dragon, Jessie Ware, and AlunaGeorge too. It should be exciting to watch this duo grow and hopefully to see them perform in the future.
By Ben Schechter