Daily Postings
music : interview

Josephine Foster

by Gary Canino

“It’s not a very academic approach, it’s just a part of what I like to do.”

Beyond the simple pleasure of an acoustic guitar, a voice, and the mingling spirit of the two, listening to Josephine Foster really gets at something specific. To these ears, the era her music recalls the most is that of post-war Europe in the mid-twentieth century: delicate folk music created just before the decade of lounge singers and the popularization of the electric guitar. The ambience of this album might also conjure up Angelica Huston slowly descending the staircase as “The Lass of Aughrim” solemnly plays in The Dead, the 1987 film adaptation of a story by James Joyce. But all reverie aside, Foster’s voice is sonorous, and—after just a single listen—I’m grateful this record exists.

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music : interview

Tortoise

by Jason LaFerrera

“Trying to describe it to somebody, like the concept, succinctly, is difficult… and always has been.”

Tortoise, a powerhouse of multi-instrumentalists celebrating their twenty-fifth year as a band, have just released a new full-length studio album—their first in nearly seven years. The Catastrophist is a blend of all the styles they have toyed with over their career, collaborations, and side projects: there’s post-rock, jazz, electronica, dub, and minimalism. Here, their maturity really shows through; sonic wanderings are tightened into songs, and all while that same core of experimental rock permeates everything, even as the synths blurt and percussion overtakes melody, melting into a wall of texture and sound. This new sort of cohesion suits Tortoise well, and the comparative brevity of the songs on this album might broaden their appeal beyond any one experimental niche.

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music : interview

John Corbett

by Andrew Lampert

“The records I don’t listen to are as important as the ones I do.”

I signed on as a John Corbett admirer for life around twenty years ago after burning through his crucial compendium of essays titled Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein. At the time—and even now, albeit to a lesser degree—there were so few books dealing with free, improvised, and experimental music that this collection became an instant classic for its deep insight and astute analysis of some of the most supposedly difficult music around. An invaluable critic, long-time teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and co-proprietor of art gallery/publisher/record label Corbett vs. Dempsey, the man definitely knows how to keep busy. Our conversation occurred shortly after the late 2015 release of his essential new anthology Microgoove: Forays Into Other Music (Duke University Press). This new book is a must for fans of out music. For those who don’t know how or where to start, his forthcoming volume A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation (available this February) will be a perfect point of departure.

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music : interview

Willie Thrasher

by Gary Canino

“I’m the kind of guy that’s trying to get people to work together and make the Earth green.”

At the forefront of the last year’s wondrous Light in the Attic compilation Native North America (Vol 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 is Willie Thrasher’s “Spirit Child.” Thrasher combines classic rock, folk, and the Inuit chanting of his heritage with a fierce intensity, asking a fatally compelling question along the way: “Spirit child, can I go with you?” The effect is unmistakably emblematic of a phantom rock ’n’ roll spirit that must have always been here, just as shaking as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s appropriation of the American swamp, and just as bewildering as the first time you hear Mick Jagger’s drawl on “Dead Flowers”—but keep in mind this is east of Alaska in the early 1980s.

Thrasher, born in Aklavik, the Inuvik region of the Northwest Territories, began his career playing drums in a rock ’n’ roll outfit called the Cordells, who quickly won over the town with their lively set of cover songs that got everyone dancing. Following the dissolution of the group, Thrasher endured a minimization of his Inuit culture while attending Canada’s Residential School System. Following years of loneliness in Ottawa, it came time to record solo music of his own, songs that could finally reflect his Inuit heritage. An apocryphal tale details an old Inuit man questioning Thrasher after a gig why his music didn’t more accurately represent his culture. Initially distributed by CBC Northern Broadcasting in 1981, his album Spirit Child has the sort of outsider feel of fellow Canadian Skip Spence’s masterwork, Oar, but multiplied by the rawness of CCR’s Cosmo’s Factory. “Wolves Don’t Live By the Rules” and “Forefathers” are classic rock in an alternate timeline, ultimately reflecting the sprawling and aching sadness of a subjugated Native America. The stark beauty of this record is clearly enduring given its attention this year, and I was lucky enough to speak with Thrasher himself.

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music : interview

Hieroglyphic Being

by Kevin Beasley

“Somebody takes an idea, then pushes it further. It elevates everybody.”

Jamal Moss and I met a little over a year ago in Vancouver, where we were both performing in the 14th New Forms Festival. This was the first festival I had participated in, given that my work is often realized within the museum and gallery context, but for a seasoned veteran like Jamal this was his playground and point of connection to the world. Since then we have sporadically kept in touch, reconnecting at a gig I helped organize in New York in the spring of 2015—and not even realizing that he was working intensely on the colossal album We Are Not The First, recently released under his Hieroglyphic Being moniker by RVNG Intl.

Not only does Moss continue to create densely layered sonic landscapes that push music composition to its edge, his wealth of knowledge about music pioneers and under-recognized philosophies about life, the cosmos, culture, and the music industry fuel his journey through the world as a cultural surveyor. As a DJ and producer since the early ’90s, Moss’s acumen on politics, social dynamics, and economic structures is channeled through his music and guided by his experience as both an “urban refugee”—a term Moss uses to describe his living situation in the Resident Advisor/SONOS Origins series video—and an academic with a focus in cultural anthropology and ethnographic film. He is constantly traversing the corners of a spiritual universe where the effect of these spaces is given form in his deep catalog of recordings and productions.

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music : interview

Áine O’Dwyer

by Keith Connolly

“As to the church organ itself, it seemed almost like a sample machine, like it could tap into sounds from different eras.”

Áine O’Dwyer is an Irish musician based in London whose recent double album of improvised organ music, Music for Church Cleaners vol. I & II, is a modern minimalist magnum opus of the highest order. With a background that combines Irish traditional music and contemporary performance, she has created a multi-layered, exploratory, and experiential work that begs questions of historicism and the social proximities of the everyday, as well as the presumed nature of records themselves. An erstwhile member of Irish free-folk band United Bible Studies, Áine recently travelled from London on her own (as she prefers) to perform a solo organ concert at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in downtown Brooklyn, courtesy of Issue Project Room. We met a few times during her stay in New York to discuss her work, touching on topics like Saturnalia and failed doomsday prophesies, punctuated along our way by Himalayan food and pay-what-you-wish spaghetti and beer.

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music : interview

Masaki Batoh

by Ben Chasny

“I still seek for eternity, which maybe is like a rainbow-colored butterfly flying away, suddenly in front of your face.”

Masaki Batoh currently leads The Silence, an unclassifiable band that blends folk, prog, drone, and heavy psych into a beautiful swarm. Batoh is probably most famous for leading the band Ghost (the original one, not the current metal one) for about thirty years until they recently broke up. Ghost was a band that had an immeasurable influence on my own music, particularly when I was recording the first Six Organs of Admittance records in the late twentieth century. I was lucky to be able to tour across North America with Ghost in 2005. Every night, Batoh and his band—including guitar wizard Michio Kurihara—would slay audiences left and right. Through touring, Batoh and I became friends. He is serious yet funny, always gives me great musical advice, and often shows a level of sensitivity to the people and things around him that I find inspiring. In this interview, his answers give some hint as to how this sensitivity runs through all the parts of his life.

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music : interview

Doug Hream Blunt

by Gary Canino

“When it came to music, I always saw myself playing a punching bag. That’s just what I do on the guitar.”

The intrigue behind the music of the mysterious Doug Hream Blunt is completely understandable after just one listen to his signature song, “Gentle Persuasion.” It’s music that completely escapes precise definition: both groovy and stiff, soulful and robotic, nimble and lumbering. It can be difficult to discern what era certain music is from just by listening to it, but “Gentle Persuasion” is downright impossible. It seems deeply embedded in the 1980s, like Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” but seduction has replaced paranoia. Add Blunt’s beautifully amateur vocal delivery and a two-minute guitar solo that sounds almost like a malfunctioning MIDI flute, and it’s timeless. It’s an off-kilter jam you can’t quite get out of your system once you hear it. After the almost seven minutes of “Gentle Persuasion” groove by, the listener is left with a lot of questions. Is this the sound of a real band playing, or a loop (or both)? When is this from? Why is he trying to “persuade ya to do the ninety-nine,” and what does that mean? And who the hell is this guy?

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music : interview

Cold Beat

by Gary Canino

“A big part of music for me has always been advocacy, and about having a space where people who feel marginalized by society can do things together.”

Singer and bassist Hannah Lew describes her band as being on “Planet Cold Beat in the San Francisco Galaxy,” which is pretty apt. Cold Beat, like a closed system in classical mechanics, doesn’t exchange matter with its surroundings, and their newest LP, Into the Air, is a distinctly isolated affair—with keyboards and drum machines opposing the dominant guitar-rock scene of San Francisco. It’s a disarming feeling to spend time on this planet: give it a chance and maybe your respiratory system will adjust to the whiplash pace of “Cracks,” which sets one of Lew’s trademark icy melodies against bleak synth oscillations that could erode Fisherman’s Wharf and send tourists on their rusty rented bicycles into the water. The same goes for “Spirals,” which sounds as if Kraftwerk, unsatisfied with Dusseldorf, sailed off to the New World. The final track, “Ashes,” bionically glides along to a grim conclusion, leaving us hanging in its aftermath. Into the Air is another fully realized effort from Cold Beat, a chilling open-ended reflection on the impending Singularity of the modern age.

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music : interview

Max Richter

by Tobias Carroll

“Everyone comes together, then they just go to sleep. It’s an anti-rave.”

As a musician and composer, Max Richter’s work has long been in the spotlight on both sides of the Atlantic. His first solo work, Memoryhouse, was released in 2002 (with a subsequent vinyl reissue in 2014). Since then, he has composed music for ballet and released a number of other albums—including a re-composition of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and The Blue Notebooks, which features Tilda Swinton reading from the works of Franz Kafka and Czesław Miłosz during the interludes.

His most recent work is Sleep, an eight-hour piece designed to be listened to while unconsciousness. The full-length was released by Deutsche Grammophon in September, simultaneously with a shorter, one-hour companion piece titled From Sleep.

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music : interview

Mind Over Mirrors

by Steve Gunn

Performance, improvisation, and chasing the perfect drone.

I met Jaime Fennelly, the man behind Mind over Mirrors, in 2007, when I shared a bill with his old band Peeesseye at a small venue in Brooklyn. At the time, we were both playing in improvisation-based trios and performing at various venues in NYC. I was impressed and drawn to what Jaime was doing in his band, providing an anchor of drones and soundscapes with harmonium and various effects. He told me that he was planning to leave the city, and I didn’t see him for a few years, until we reconnected at a venue in Chicago. Jaime was newly playing as Mind Over Mirrors. His playing on this new project still compelled me; now his music had a much more panoramic view, a sharper focus. I wondered if his time away from the city had affected his musical thinking, perhaps laying groundwork for a more deeply realized sound. It seems that a combination of different landscapes and a quest for a focused sound landed Jaime in a very nice place, producing expansive, satisfying sounds.

I spoke with Jaime about developing this sound, his collaborations with choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, and the new Mind Over Mirrors album, The Voice Calling, out September 18, 2015, featuring vocals from Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux.

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music : interview

Flying Saucer Attack

by David Keenan

“I do like feedback. It’s good for people. It is!”

Dave Pearce is Flying Saucer Attack, one of the most furtive and sporadically surfacing—but also certainly one the most influential—home-recording, psychedelic auteurs to come out of the underground of the ‘90s. Across a series of signal releases cut between the 1993 and 2000, Flying Saucer Attack minted what Pearce described as a form of “rural psychedelia,” a hazy, lo-fi amalgam of acoustic folk, underwater vocals, and grainy, freely-improvised noise. Coming out of Richard King’s Bristol-based Planet Records—the label that fostered Movietone, Crescent, and Third Eye Foundation—FSA soon began to make connections with like-minded souls like Bruce Russell of The Dead C, who was responsible for releasing the most beautiful cacophony in the FSA catalogue, In Search Of Spaces, on his New Zealand imprint Corpus Hermeticum in 1996. After a series of albums that incorporated beats and a slightly glossier production, which culminated in the release of 2000’s Mirror, Pearce dropped off the radar altogether, eventually retreating to his father’s house to lick his wounds. In the meantime, like his hero Syd Barrett, rumors surfaced about his reasons for walking away and the likelihood of any new Flying Saucer Attack material.

As such, the release earlier this year of Instrumentals 2015, a new solo album by Pearce under the FSA banner, came out of nowhere. It was all the more startling in that it seemed to take up exactly where Pearce had left off fifteen years earlier—namely, with a series of beautiful, out-of-focus instrumentals that trade clarity for depth and extend Pearce’s concept of rural psychedelia into ever more personal vectors of lo-fi magic. I caught up with Pearce on the telephone just after Instrumentals 2015 came out. It was the first time we had spoken in eighteen years.

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music : interview

Blank Realm

by Gary Canino

Drummer and vocalist Daniel Spencer on Brisbane, studio recording, and motorsports.

Blank Realm, a fearsome quartet from Brisbane, Australia, officially entered the misfit consciousness with their 2013 single, “Falling Down the Stairs,” which approximates the 1980s for Gen-Y unease. This late-summer feeling continues on their new record, Illegals in Heaven, which is a massive step up for the band, both in songwriting and production, as it marks their first time in an actual recording studio. Here they’ve managed to successfully marry that classic Flying Nun gin from the cellar of yore with a fresh Queensland tonic, and the potent combination is more than the sum of its parts. The single, “River of Longing,” has that specific vacuum-tube sound, a definite phantom hit on the pirate radio that only reveals itself if you park in the right spot. Elsewhere, the impossibly American-sounding “Palace of Love” has that sort of chugging train-off-the-rails quality, which gracefully swirls to a thunderous climax. The whole LP is a great listen. I recently chatted with Daniel Spencer about his band’s position in Australia, what it’s like to be both the singer and drummer, and his country’s racing scene.

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music : interview

Peacers

by Meg Remy

Meg Remy of US Girls talks to the former Sic Alp about anger, publicity, lyrics, and Roald Dahl.

I remember the first time I saw Mike Donovan in the flesh. I was living in Chicago and road my bike to a shitty loft to see Sic Alps play. I walked in and there he was setting up the tower of power, a huge stack of amps. I felt nervous in my belly—a good sign. Some months later, I actually met Mike in Montreal, where my band, US Girls, shared a bill with Sic Alps. We sat at the bar and dove right in. I told him we shared a mutual acquaintance who I thought was a complete asshole. He laughed and wasn't offended. He emitted such a tender and wise glow, but just a few hours later I witnessed him throw his guitar like a rag doll, grab the mic stand and beat a bowling-ball-sized hole into the stage, and fuck up his foot in the process. I was shocked and excited. He was an openly conflicted, multi-dimension man who sometimes sang in a falsetto! I knew I had found a friend for life.

Mike dissolved the Sic Alps a few years ago and released a puzzling acoustic album, Wot, under his given name in 2013. Just this summer he released his umpteenth record, but his first with a new band—Peacers. The record is self-titled, and it’s great. I called Mike from the mountains of Colorado, mid-family picnic. For the very first time, I was on the conducting side of an interview.

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music : interview

Mac DeMarco

by Gary Canino

"When I’m home, I’m completely alone. I get the creative bug, and if I’m sitting here long enough not working on music, it drives me insane."

Mac DeMarco’s latest record, Another One, is in his words, “just an EP,” supposedly a stopgap between Salad Days and his next full-length, but there’s been nothing understated about its rollout. Contrast the plaintive, light, hermetic spirit of this EP to the impromptu BBQ DeMarco held celebrating its release, which brought out over 800 kids armed with their millennial selfie-sticks. Another One is not the wild party that 2 was, and there’s nothing wrong with that: seven low-key love songs and one instrumental work their way through the pipeline before Mac invites you to his Far Rockaway home, address and all, and then that’s that. The tunes are mostly in the key of the early Beatles, a half-decade before “God (is just a concept)” or “Monkberry Moon Delight.” One could call it Spotlight on DeMarco (Mac is a huge Nilsson fan). It’s a more personal record than he’s ever made. The results, however, are still in 3D 75mm, particularly the unsettling chord progression and synth patch of “A Heart Like Hers,” or the introspective “Without Me,” which is like if Roy Orbison sang over the credits of Sixteen Candles instead of OMD. 

His pseudo-stardom can be mainly attributed to his goofy cult of public personality—unusually vulgar with wild abandon—but also to the broad appeal of 2. A recent comedic collaboration with Tyler, the Creator has also ensured a throng of young new fans. However, the stardom hasn’t gotten to DeMarco. This ostensibly wealthy young man records and engineers his own music for free at home, drives an ’87 Volvo, and shares a home with six of his friends. So it’s refreshing to hear him keep everything dialed down on this latest release, and between Another One and the instrumental album he released in early July, he’s managed to remain creative under the crush of fame.

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music : interview

Ben Zimmerman

by Sara Magenheimer

“I smear sounds the way you smudge paint.”

I met with Ben Zimmerman to talk about The Baltika Years, a collection of recordings created between 1992 and 2002 mostly using a Tandy DeskMate computer and just released this June on Daniel Lopatin’s Software Recording Co. label. Despite the instrumentation, this music feels oddly personal, almost like a diary, where one can write about whatever—the minutiae of everyday existence interspersed with moments of extreme drama, bizarre juxtapositions, and enormous gaps in narrative. Even the narrator’s voice can change according to whim. The operative motif is non-sequitur. There is no audience, therefore no need to follow any logic but one’s own. That’s how these recordings work. They don’t hold our hand, but they do pull back the curtain on Ben’s world.

The compilation of tracks, culled from a massive collection of tapes, opens with an epic swell. It is almost as if the soul of the computer is rising from the depths, a hydra-headed creature from an outmoded technology swamp, dragging with it a wide range of references to classical minimalism, the downtown New York ’90s avant-garde music scene, and hip-hop. The sounds we hear in that first minute are organic and warm, almost like a pump organ—corporeal, yet otherworldly at the same time. With these recordings as the backdrop, Ben and I found ourselves conversing about beats, nothingness, rhythm, and our mothers.

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music : interview

Little Wings

by Tobias Carroll

“Lil Wayne explains a blade of grass.”

Kyle Field is a busy guy. First and foremost, there’s his work as a musician under the name Little Wings, which first made an impact in the early 2000s with a number of albums released on K Records. Prior to that, Field was a member of the band Rodriguez along with M. Ward. Since then, his music has generally fallen into a sweet spot between easy-going folk pop and more idiosyncratic personal concerns—instantly familiar, yet difficult to pin down. Little Wings’s newest album, Explains, is his first for Woodsist Records. It’s a subdued, sometimes haunting album with tremendous restraint. Field’s crooning warble drifts over a series of melodically flowing compositions that veer from confessional to pastoral.

Field also makes visual art; a visit to his website turns up a host of surreal illustrations, some of which make impressive use of confined spaces. Field’s art and music are two sides of the same creative spark. Perhaps it’s a freeform characteristic that unites them, a dreamlike impetus yanked into the light of day.

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music : interview

Palmbomen

by Gary Canino

Musician Kai Hugo on conspiracy theorists, cassette tapes, and video confabulations.

Palmbomen II, the recent release on RVNG / Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space label, is the latest electronic incarnation of the LA-based musician Kai Hugo. The amorphous, shape-shifting collection of synths and rhythms could have soundtracked a dream you had dancing in a nachtclub in Zandaam around the time Ross Perot was running for president. And “lo-fi” it is not; one could easily picture these tunes accompanying a Neil DeGrasse Tyson narration at a planetarium, or perhaps an early ’80s Michael Mann film. An alternate introduction to this record could be the tracklist: oddly enough, each song is named for a faceless, incidental X-Files character (e.g., Peter Tanaka, Cindy Savalas, Lorraine Kelleher, Carina Sayles, etc.), and Hugo creates the tense and driving tunes through this array of anonymous characters, detaching them from their original context and creating them anew in a series of SVHS videos.

Palmbomen, or “palm trees” in Dutch, is actually a reference to the fake palm trees that Hugo would encounter in his youth in often freezing Holland, and this record mostly speaks to the longing for a romantic escape to warmer environs. With that in mind, Hugo’s relocation to Los Angeles can at first seem like a paradox, but upon further listening, the record couldn’t have been created anywhere else. There is a pervasive dry heat that runs through it, whether on a Venice Beach pier or in the lobby of the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition on Hollywood Boulevard. Palmbomen II is ultimately an entirely unique experience from start to finish. I chatted with Kai Hugo recently about this paradox, his interest in film, and the future of artificial intelligence.

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music : interview

Phill Niblock

by Natasha Kurchanova

Architectural space, intermedia, and the artistry of kinesis.

At eighty-one, Phill Niblock, minimalist composer, filmmaker, and a fixture of the New York avant-garde art scene since the 1960s, is one of the rare artists of his generation still active as a notable presence in the world of new music. If he is not touring or performing, he is making films, composing, recording new releases, or hosting performances at Experimental Intermedia, a foundation and performance space located in his Chinatown loft. Known primarily as a composer, Niblock prefers to be called an intermedia artist as he also makes films, which he frequently screens during performances of his music. Throughout his career, he has practiced photography, taking pictures of jazz musicians in the early 1960s and photographing New York from the late 1970s to early 1980s. At any point, he can search his computer and print out a multi-page single-spaced list of events, including awards, recent tours, new releases, and compositions. (He wrote fouteen new pieces from October 2, 2013 to October 2, 2014 alone!) The slow and deliberate manner with which Niblock moves and speaks belies his titanic productivity. Niblock describes his music as being “without rhythm or melody.” He records instrumental drones on multiple tracks—at times as many as thirty-two—and plays them simultaneously. The resulting sound is dense, uneven, and continuous. Drones do not develop in gradual progression in terms of their form, but instead have a cumulative effect that grows on the listener with every passing second. Slight variations in tone result in continuous oscillations of sound, which, at loud volumes, can be felt as a physical surge that carries the listener along in a wave of constant movement.

Soon after Niblock came to New York in 1958, he began frequenting jazz and new music concerts. As a result of his meeting Elaine Summers—the founder of Experimental Intermedia—in 1965, he joined a group of dancers at Judson Church as a technology specialist. Between 1968 and 1972, he staged four “environments,” a series of installations that included film and slide projections as well as dance interludes.

Niblock’s most monumental film production, The Movement of People Working, has taken over twenty years to complete, from 1973 to 1992. It is a series of more than twenty-five hours of 16mm films and videos made around the world, in such countries as Mexico, China, Hungary, Brazil, Indonesia, and others. In each film, the artist shows people doing manual labor: fishing, repairing boats, stacking hay, carrying heavy loads, and performing a wide variety of physically demanding chores required for survival in basic, pre-industrial conditions. The films are silent, and the workers show no awareness of the camera and the recording process. When projected, the films are accompanied by music that Niblock composes independently from the footage. According to the artist, there is no correlation between the filmed sequences and the music: they are made separately and combined arbitrarily. The connection is made by the continuous impact of the drone, which penetrates the listener’s body and correlates with the ceaseless physical movement of laboring bodies on screen.

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music : interview

Damon & Naomi

by Tobias Carroll

Silent film, Oulipian lyrics, and keeping it all together.

By any standard, the music made by Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang (as Damon & Naomi) has achieved a remarkably high level of consistency. From their 1992 debut More Sad Hits to this year’s Fortune, the duo has tapped into a beatific sense of melancholy, constantly finding new expressions and refinements of their sound. Throw in the work they did as two-thirds of Galaxie 500, and that winning streak extends even further back in time. The duo has also maintained Exact Change, a small press dedicated to surreal and experimental literature; they’ve also been running their own record label, 20|20|20, for the last ten years.

Both Krukowski and Yang also work in creative disciplines outside of music. Krukowski released several volumes of prose poetry and has written astutely about the current state of the music industry for the likes of Pitchfork. And Yang’s distinctive photography led her to work in film. She recently directed a series of music videos as well as the short film for which Fortune acts as a soundtrack.

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music : interview

Neil Michael Hagerty

by Gary Canino

Faux reunion shows, B-sides, new-age garage music, and packing albums to the brim.

Neil Michael Hagerty’s creative output over the past thirty years is a tangled and winding road, to say the least. If you were to divide it into three acts, you could start with his membership in the Washington DC scuzz-rock outfit Pussy Galore, famed for their own version of Exile on Main Street, in which they threw the Stones double album into a musical blender and produced a “covers” record that is a true descent into the maelstrom. It wasn’t Neil’s idea, nor was it his band. Then there was the undeniable, meteoric rock n’ roll odyssey that is Royal Trux, Hagerty’s partnership with Jennifer Herrema. The flagship Drag City band, they later signed an infamous multi-million dollar deal with Virgin in the wake of a post-Nirvana indie feeding frenzy. The Trux produced some of the most confrontational, beautiful, hot-shit rock n’ roll records ever committed to tape. Each record—whether the patterned chaos of Twin Infinitives, the roaming free-boogie of Cats and Dogs, or the “accessibility” of the post-major label Accelerator—demonstrated a complex and meticulous deconstruction of the American “rock” canon, if not the entire genre itself. And, against all odds, Royal Trux will return for at least one occasion this August in Los Angeles.

But, one must look to the future and live in the present. After the implosion of Royal Trux in 1999, Hagerty released the solo records Neil Michael Hagerty and Plays That Good Old Rock and Roll, two spiritually shaking albums in the mode of Link Wray’s Three Track Shack run. Breaking from the Trux mold, both albums cathartically diverge from the strange continuity Royal Trux had developed. They are something entirely new, and are all the more compelling for it. This paved the way for The Howling Hex, Hagerty’s main musical outfit for the past decade. In his own words, “Royal Trux is the long haul, and the Howling Hex is something that cannot be destroyed.” The Hex is just empirically there—records of harmolodic blitz were released at a lightning clip, with sporadic (and not-to-be-missed) live shows popping up across the US every year or so.

In the prolific decade since the inception of Howling Hex, Hagerty has also released full-length novels, comic books, narrated audio books, resurrected a recreation of “Royal Trux” with new band members, gone on extensive tours, produced records for Bill Callahan and Hebronix, and most recently, started other potent acts such as Dan’l Boone and the Hagerty-Toth Band.

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music : interview

Circuit des Yeux & Bitchin Bajas

Barbecues, Night Train, and La Monte Young.

Haley Fohr and I first met in the summer of 2010 in Chicago, where she played one of our “Bitchpork” festivals in Little Village. She kept coming back to the city to play and eventually moved here in the fall of 2012. We started hanging out more and have become close friends. I've had the pleasure of working with her on the Circuit Des Yeux records Portrait, Overdue, and In Plain Speech, out now. I've watched Haley grow in her music, personality, and spirit in the best way over the last few years. We recently met up during a beautiful Chicago sunset in Chinatown’s Ping Tom Park with a bottle of Chilean wine and a joint to talk about our upcoming shows, records, how long they can sometimes take, and making music like its a painting.

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music : interview

Sam Prekop & Zak Prekop

One billion tiny dots, a modular synthesizer, and Japanese ceramics.

A few months before its release, Sam and I listened to The Republic, his new solo album outside of his work with The Sea and Cake, as we drove in his car from Chicago to Sheboygan, Wisconsin to see our dad‘s exhibition of photographs at the Kohler Arts Center. He insisted that we listen to the music loud. We listened, chatted, and joked as we drove past tan, November farmland.

The Republic is a collection of flickering fields, shifting textures, and tone patterns that sound like a telephone dialed in a dream. It was made on an analog synthesizer that Sam has been assembling and customizing over the past few years. The first half, or side A, if you're listening to the record, was composed as a soundtrack to a video work, also called The Republic, by the artist David Hartt. The album is the latest instance of my older brother‘s influence over my own aesthetic education, which began with Christmas and birthday gifts of records and art books that continue to form the foundation of my interests.

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music : interview

C. Spencer Yeh

by Michael Barron

Smacking noises, violins, and skewed pop experiments.

At a recent show at New York City’s The Kitchen performance space, the artist, musician, and filmmaker C. (Chihfu) Spencer Yeh performed a set of violin and vocal work, the latter drawn largely from his newest record, Solo Voice I – X, out later this year from Primary Information. Yeh began by violently whipping his face back and forth, blowing into a mic as his lips passed by—producing a sound like a blade cutting through air—then following up with a rapid shaking of his head. The single sword had become many; I worried for his safety. The performance then settled into a flurry of looped smacking noises (also originating from his mouth, or more accurately, from behind the teeth) over which he tapped, taunted, and teased a violin with a bow.

The release of Solo Voice I – X isn't the only thing happening for Yeh this year. His video work was recently picked up for representation by Electronic Arts Intermix, which he celebrated by hosting an evening of his film shorts. In March, he performed in Cairo and Athens as part of an international contemporary art exhibition. And later this fall, Yeh will produce and show work as an artist-in-residence for the acclaimed time-based art organization ISSUE Project Room.

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music : interview

Joshua Abrams & Nathan Bowles

by Clinton Krute

Memory, texture, and tradition.

Joshua Abrams and Nathan Bowles have never played music together, to my knowledge, though they have played on the same bill. They don’t live in the same city, nor do they play the same instrument. They do, however, share a certain approach to music—one that both describe in pictorial, as opposed to narrative, terms. All of which to say, I thought they’d have much to discuss.

Joshua Abrams is a well-regarded jazz bassist best known in rock circles as one the founders of the Chicago-based band Town & Country, as well as the Sticks and Stones trio with Matana Roberts and Chad Taylor. He’s played with Jazz luminaries like Hamid Drake and John Tchicai, and—according to his label, Eremite records—he cites AACM, Don Cherry, Arnold Dryblatt, Hamza el Din, Popul Vuh, and Pharoah Sanders as influences. A fixture in the Chicago scene for that last decade and a half, he’s appeared on countless records by everyone from Bonny “Prince” Billy to Rhys Chatham, and from Loren Mazzacane Connors to The Roots. His current project is Natural Information Society, which has released two records to date: Natural Information in 2010, and Represencing in 2012. A new album, Magentoception, is out in May on Eremite. These albums all feature the guimbri—a Moroccan, camel-skinned, stringed instrument that both sounds and looks like a banjo crossed with a bass. Traditional gnawa musicians use it to create hypnotic, circular rhythms and bass lines. Here, the meditative thrum and buzz of Abrams’s guimbri is the centerpiece, around which swirls a wide range of sounds and textures—everything from electronic beats and samplers, to electric guitar, harmonium, and more. The result is a highly focused and beautiful tapestry—to borrow Abrams’s imagery—within which time seems to stand still.

Nathan Bowles’s recent solo record, Nansemond, was released by Paradise of Bachelors and is a haunting collection of compositions and improvisations by the banjo player and a handful of friends. The album is also a delving into memory, as the title is the name of the river in Virginia near where he grew up. It’s a beautiful, patient, and accomplished work with one foot in traditional American music and one in the contemporary experimental music world. His work with the long-lived, rural, experimental collective known as Pelt covers similar ground, but Nansemond is a truly solo record—the focused expression of an individual's vision. Bowles is also an accomplished drummer and currently plays in Steve Gunn’s band. He also plays banjo, percussion, and whatever else is needed with the Black Twig Pickers, who recently released an album with Gunn on Thrill Jockey titled Seasonal Hire.

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