In the classic children’s game of coordination and chance, certain laws were instilled in our youthful minds: rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats rock. EarthRise SoundSystem’s second full-length album, Rock Beats Paper (Yoga Organix Records/Black Swan Sounds), flips the script by acting as a wake-up call to the consequences of allowing material gain to be more important than the earth that’s given birth to us.
“For so long the paper of money has been beating out rock—the elements, the resources of this planet—and that’s all changing,” says producer/percussionist David "Duke Mushroom" Schommer. “The time has come for that to be revalued. The game has been rigged all along, as the lyric says. Clearly our planet’s resources are worth more than our paper money.”
After reaching #5 on the iTunes World chart and receiving accolades from the NY Times, Boston Globe, Yoga Journal, MTV and NBCs Weekend Today with their debut, The Yoga Sessions, Schommer and Derek Beres return with hard-hitting, percussion-driven rhythms tempered by a wide range of melodic influences, from India, Pakistan, Jamaica, Brazil, Peru and America.
“The first album was specifically designed to match the arc of a flow yoga class,” says Beres, a Los Angeles-based yoga instructor and DJ. “With this album, we decided to pay homage to the dance floor as well as the yoga studio. Duke really lets his percussive versatility shine throughout all eleven songs; as a DJ, I’m thrilled to go this route.”
The album’s two lead singles, ‘Let’s Get Together’ and ‘In Love,’ feature NY-based emcee Srikala, whose Srikalogy project is rapidly giving this young artist a reputation as a skillful producer and vocalist. The bass-fueled vibes feature dynamic soul vocalist C.C. White (her unique soul twist to mantra is all over her debut, This IS Soul Kirtan!), and Verve recording artist Lucy Woodward, who has been featured on popular soundtracks (Ice Princess, Accepted), and is currently on tour as Rod Stewart’s lead back-up singer. Woodward was also featured on EarthRise’s debut, singing on ‘Daylight as Sunset.’
Beats are the most prominent feature throughout, especially on ‘Shiva’s Dance Hall,’ a capoeira-inspired cruiser with heavy dancehall flavor. Forro in the Dark vocalist and capoerista Davi Vieira raps in Portuguese while longtime EarthRise collaborator MC Yogi chants a mantra devoted to the Indian lord of destruction and rebirth over a bass-driven soundscape of Brazilian berimbau and percussion.
Dancehall vibes continue on ‘You Lovin’ Me,’ also featuring berimbau with a Jamaican twist via Camille Armstrong, who Schommer met while they performed together in the groundbreaking production, STOMP. Armstrong brings serious patois while Srikala returns for his third verse and Ramin Sakurai of Supreme Beings of Leisure adds his signature Rhodes. The anthemic ‘Earth to the Sun’ features Karsh Kale front man Vishal Vaid. His ethereal Ghazal vocals soar above the punchy rhythm and live santur from pioneering performer, Max ZT, who was called the ‘Jimi Hendrix of Hammered Dulcimer’ by NPR.
The album’s title track, ‘Rock Beats Paper,’ features singer and actor Kevin Mambo, who played Fela Kuti in the Broadway musical Fela! and also toured with The Book of Mormon. Having performed with EarthRise in the past on saxophone, Mambo was the perfect choice for this politically-leaning Afrobeat jam. C.C. White lends her voice on the hook of this powerful and timely song, while Shahar Mintz of NYC reggae outfit Meta and the Cornerstones adds searing guitars to the mix.
‘Canamo Medico’ is a remarkable blend of styles featuring Mesta Meni and Chonon Quena chanting Shipibo icaros of the Peruvian rain forest over a rootsy cumbia beat driven by flutes and drums.
“Over the past three years I’ve focused on integrating what I’m hearing in my head from all different world music influences and the rhythmic backgrounds that I come from,” says Schommer. “With this record, they have become more galvanized and refined. We asked ourselves, what if we just took the gloves off and played heavier, while being more playful? We wanted rhythms that make us dance and celebrate our bodies.”
As high energy as this album is, spaciousness proves equally important. Marti Nikko, collaborator and wife of DJ Drez, steps in to sing on the sensual, soulful ‘Massage My Mind,’ while folk singer Renata Younglood croons over the delightfully chill ‘Always.’
Fully aware of the community that supported their debut, any EarthRise record would not be complete without a nod to the yoga community. ‘Bhavani’ features Sheela Bringi on vocals, flutes and harmonium, as well as cellist Dave Eggar on strings (who also plays throughout the record). The album’s closer, ‘Caravan Dream,’ is fueled by Schommer’s percussion and Go-Ray’s elegant sitar performance; the nearly seven-minute instrumental journey is perfect for the studio, or whatever flow you find yourself partaking in.
“I borrowed the EarthRise title from Joseph Campbell’s work,” says Beres, musing over the larger scope of the project. “When the astronauts took the first picture of the ‘earthrise’ over the moon’s horizon, we had a visual representation of the unity of our planet. That’s what we’re striving to achieve with all of our music. By exploring the sounds of the world, we’re linking back to a common source we all share: the love of rhythm and melody.”
1.) Let's Get Together (feat. Srikala & C.C. White) -3:53
2.) Rock Beats Paper (feat. Kevin Mambo) -6:22
3.) Canamo Medico (feat. Metsa Meni & Chonon Quena) -5:34
4.) In Love (feat. Srikala & Lucy Woodward) -3:32
5.) Bhavani (feat. Sheela Bringi & Dave Eggar) -5:29
6.) Shiva's Dance Hall (feat. Davi Vieira & MC Yogi) -4:45
7.) Massage My Mind (feat. Marti Nikko) -6:29
8.) Earth to the Sun (feat. Vishal Vaid & Max ZT) -5:25
9.) You Lovin' Me (feat. Camille Armstrong & Srikala) -4:43
10.) Always (feat. Renata Youngblood & Dave Eggar) -4:41
11.) Caravan Dream (feat. Go-Ray & Duke) -6:40