Picked to Click 2013

The 23rd installment of Picked to Click, or when the rappers took over

"It's the same as skateboarding, really," says Absent, regarding their collaborations. He also illustrates under his given name, Andres Guzman, for the Steakmob art collective. "Someone does a trick, the other person watches and then they answer to it. Isn't that kind of how everything is?"

Sloslylove has his own comparison: "It's more like Street Fighter for me. You've been playing Ryu for years, and you just discover the Hadouken, that's like new technology. You're still using the same character, it's just different moves."

Not the most descriptive of answers, but they reflect the trio's laissez-faire music-making approach. The producers have revolved around one another socially and musically for years, releasing a string of mixes for the Steakmob website individually and collectively. Lady Midnight's role as lead singer of the traditional and acoustic Afro-Cuban band Malamanya seems like a different world from Vandaam's spacey futurism, but she shrugs off the divide and breaks all her music down to simply voicing compatible sounds.

"I think a label can be somewhat limiting," she says. "To marry yourself to one particular thing is dangerous. The moments that I've enjoyed playing with Vandaam the most have been very spiritual and connected. Unlikely circumstances, but destined outcomes."

The group's profile has risen in the past year thanks to word of mouth and an increasing number of invites from bands and venues, and with good reason. It's easy to lose yourself in Lady Midnight's reverberated vocals floating above her bandmates' knob-twiddling and bass-heavy production. Vandaam's self-titled debut album ranges from the Miami Vice slap-bass of "Fashion Week" to the stuttering drums and skeletal synth-wipes of "Loop2." It's a collection that suggests they're hesitant to define the band in terms of genre or their process.

The record makes for a powerful, subtly visceral listening experience. After several spins, the connection between Vandaam's atmospheric sound and skateboarding slowly begins to makes sense. Making the practiced seem like second nature seems to be at the core of both. "People don't give error enough credit," says Absent. "People experience one error and give up. The best things come when you wait for them."

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