Readers of this column know we’re big fans of Austin afrobeat collective Hard Proof. What you don’t know is Hard Proof booked several dates with local hip-hop, jazz-fusion act Magna Carda. They’ve also featured Magna Carda MC Megz Kelli on stage with them in a scenario similar to BADBADNOTGOOD’s collaborations with Ghostface Killah or Brownout with Wu Tang’s GZA. The pairing of Hard Proof and Magna Carda works on a number of levels. Both bands are steeped in jazz influences, lean toward improvisational jams and are built on a foundation of exceptional professional musicians. They make music for musicians and true music fans. And they’re about to drop a killer debut record.
Not realizing Magna Carda are an exceptional band on their own, we mentally filed the group away for future listening. Catching them open for Hard Proof at The Mohawk during Free Week at the beginning of January was an eye-opener. They are musically superior to most live acts (not just hip hop) and Kelli has stage presence for days. Her flow is smooth, lyrics compelling and the band has her back, filling in the pauses between verses with free form, avant garde jazz, R n’ B, electronic and hip-hop sounds that recalls NYC’s DJ Guru circa 1993. It may sound strange but Magna Carda is both a throwback AND cutting edge act all in one neat, tidy package.
The inspiration for Magna Carda’s music comes from a mix of our common love for Rn’B/Jazz/Hip-Hop, everyone coming from different musical backgrounds and from seeing our favorite bands/artists perform live here in Austin. – Dougie Do
While the current lineup was not finalized until 2014, Kelli and producer Dougie Do met in 2012 while students at St. Edwards University in Austin. Eventually they found their groove with the current lineup. Critics and fans alike nationally have responded favorably to Magna Carda though Magna Carda in their current formation have only been around a couple years.
Austin fans have the opportunity for a sneak preview February 5 at The Belmont. There will be an art exhibit with work highlighting themes and ideas presented on the new album, listening stations to preview the record then Magna Carda will perform CirQlation front to back. Tickets are available online through the day of the performance. Two ticketing options include a CD of the new album. Officially the album drops February 9.
Speaking of new material, CirQlation is a great listen. With guest vocalists, a myriad of jazz and RnB styles and Megz killing it on the mic we’re confident this record will feature heavy in our playlist this year after giving it a couple listens.
The album begins with a sound effects laden jazzy intro that segues into a hard beat backed by keys, heavy bass, effects and Megz’ cutting flow. That track is Southern Ether. It is great potential lead single. The song packs a wallop. Others have taken note of the band. Hard Proof’s saxophonist, Jason Frey is convinced the group is going places, telling us before his Free Week show he thinks they’re a likely breakout act. Agreed.
Next track Angela Bassett features an organ, electronic effects and another session of verbal gymnastics with Megz. Though different than the opening song, it’s no less compelling. They Watchin Me, YKWTII and The Root are notable. The audio production is first rate with recording done at Estuary Recording Facility and mixed at 5th Street Studios by Nick Joswick. A vinyl version of the record will be available in March.
Magna Carda are set to tour the Pacific Northwest following SXSW playing Treefort Festival in Boise along with dates in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and possibly Denver. If you live in one of those places, you owe it yourself to check out the act Mashable compared to the The Roots.
Magna Carda are:
Megz Kelli – New Orleans, LA
Dougie Do – Houston, TX/London, UK
Eric Nikolaides – Cincinnati, OH
Derek Van Wagner – Chicago, IL
Michael Gonzales – Brownsville, TX