Three Beats: Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut a folky fingerstyle duo | Three Beats | Chicago Reader

Three Beats: Jim Elkington and Nathan Salsburg debut a folky fingerstyle duo 

Plus: A first taste of Selva Oscura's sample-based electro-pop, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra does The Fellowship of the Ring at Ravinia

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click to enlarge Selva Oscura
  • Selva Oscura

ELECTRONIC | A first taste of Selva Oscura's sample-based electro-pop

Last week east-coast cassette label Chill Mega Chill released the debut EP from a sample-based electronic-pop act called Selva Oscura, aka 21-year-old Columbia College student Ray Levinson-Fort. He's been using the Selva Oscura name for three years, but As/Is/Was is his first formal solo release.

A native of Austin, Texas, Levinson-Fort began producing his own music at 16. In 2008, inspired by Panda Bear's solo work, he bought a Roland SP-404 digital sampler. "I was really into experimental stuff like that," he says. "I was using it with the idea of recording my guitar into it and making really weird noises."

Soon Levinson-Fort began to to dissect samples of other people's songs, a technique he brought into an electro-funk party band called Sip Sip, whose loosely defined lineup has as many as 17 members. Levinson-Fort wasn't in the group long before moving to Chicago in summer 2010 to study audio production, but he says the experience helped him make As/Is/Was.

Once here, Levinson-Fort focused on his solo work, employing what he refers to as J. Dilla's "weapon of choice," an Akai MPD32. "All the songs that I've sampled wouldn't have happened if it weren't for that machine," he says. He chops up, pitch shifts, and just generally fools around with those samples—Slowdive, R&B, vintage soul, Stevie Wonder, Fleet Foxes—which give an extra kick to the club grooves, sumptuous hip-hop, and lush, ambient pop on As/Is/Was.

Chill Mega Chill seeks out up-and-coming, indie-leaning electronic acts, and Selva Oscura qualifies on both counts. As/Is/Was is also a homecoming of sorts for Levinson-Fort: earlier this summer, the same label released the debut EP by Corduroi, aka his good friend and Sip Sip bandmate Cody Wilson.

—Leor Galil

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