Daily Postings
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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music : interview

75 Dollar Bill

by Cal Lyall

Melody, improvisation, and a plywood box.

Stepping into 75 Dollar Bill's practice space in Greenpoint is a bit forbidding at first. The building has a hermetic, industrial flavor compounded by the taste of wet paint. The elevator ride lands you in a bald hallway that echoes your words as you step out. Their studio, like the other rooms in the building, is guarded by a thick and anonymous metal door.

The other side of this door serves up a marked contrast—a snug den of strewn percussion instruments, keyboards in various states of disrepair, a makeshift recording studio with some fine trimmings, an old Japanese guitar, and a large plywood box. This is where Che Chen and Rick Brown, the two halves of 75 Dollar Bill, shape their sound.

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music : interview

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix

by Tobias Carroll

Guillaume de Machaut meets Bone Thugs-N-Harmony through black metal.

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is fond of discussing his music on a theoretical level. Said music, most frequently heard in the band Liturgy, has, in the past, fallen within the realm of black metal, with harshly screamed vocals and shredding, unholy guitars. Liturgy’s 2011 album, Aesthethica, prompted heated debates in black metal circles, while attracting no small amount of critical acclaim.

Since then, Liturgy has contracted to a two-piece, then expanded back out to the same lineup that recorded Aesthethica. Their new album, The Ark Work, finds them shifting toward a host of new styles. For one, Hunt-Hendrix’s vocals have shifted toward more melodic territory. And, while the group’s sound remains magnificently heavy, that heaviness is less traditionally metal; Hunt-Hendrix has cited both hip-hop and centuries-old compositions as influences.

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music : interview

Jana Hunter

by Gary Canino

Synths, nostalgia, and anti-artist capitalist ideology.

On her band Lower Dens's new album, Escape from Evil, singer and songwriter Jana Hunter has carefully considered the history of the use—across a broad spectrum of popular culture—of synthesizers to elicit a dramatic emotional response in the listener. Escape from Evil is an album about the “big” themes: Human connection, suicide, romance, death, love, addiction, you name it. “I Am The Earth” features some of the same sounds as Vangelis’s famous Blade Runner soundtrack, and “Electric Current” buzzes with some of the same jilted defensiveness of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.”

Though the band’s work has always evoked a 1980s aesthetic, this new album is a distinct left-turn from previous, more shoe-gaze based efforts, Twin-Hand Movement and Nootropics. In the first single, “To Die in LA” (name-checking the William Friedkin film of the same name) Hunter proclaims, “I wish I could count on you to be mine.” It’s a song about falling for the exploding-yellow-roman-candle type. When the anxious deep freeze of the verse’s synth line melts into the highway race of the chorus, the tragedy has already passed the song’s muse by, much like William Petersen’s character in the Friedkin film. I spoke with Jana Hunter about this new direction, her updated opinions on Spotify, and the future.

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music : interview

Frederick Michael St. Jude

by Gary Canino

Reflecting on a lost, post-apocalyptic, maximalist masterpiece of a concept album.

Frederick Michael St. Jude is a renaissance man. In addition to producing a handful of world-class rock albums, he’s appeared on Miami Vice, written a sci-fi horror novel called Dark and Insidious, and toured in a variety of road bands. He’s even written children’s books. Here Am I, an album of material from the late 1970s, was released on Drag City in 2013. A collection of eclectic songs running the gamut of late ’70s styles and a showcase for the Florida native’s idiosyncratic voice, the record features a vocal delivery worthy of Aladdin Sane, backed up by a disco-era Wrecking Crew.

But then the ’80s came along, and nothing could have prepared the world for St. Jude’s second album Gang War, an all-out FM radio assault. Indeed, the world was not prepared. The record was never released, and sank into oblivion. Two tracks nearly hit or eclipse the ten-minute mark, double guitar leads squeal in the spirit of Moore and Gorham, and Gary Redente’s powerhouse drumming propels the jams like a fan powering an airboat through the gator-infested Everglades. The sheer insanity of the sound makes it easy to over look the fact that Gang War is a concept album about rebuilding the world in a post-apocalyptic Brooklyn, with nothing but a Rolling Stones record to guide society. Luckily, Drag City has melted away the carbonite in which Gang War was so carefully encased, and sent St. Jude’s maximalist masterpiece back into a world that had become better prepared to grapple with it.

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music : interview

Simon Joyner

by Tobias Carroll

Omaha, autobiography, and songcraft.

For over twenty years, Simon Joyner has carved out a very particular space for his own strain of music and storytelling. Among his fans are the likes of Gillian Welch and his fellow Omaha musician Conor Oberst, and it isn’t hard to see the appeal of Joyner’s songs. He’s equally adept at channeling characters living with the long-term consequences of quotidian decisions and getting inside the head of those in darker territory.

Musically, Joyner’s work ranges from stark and meditative to more ragged and loose. His latest album, Grass, Branch & Bone, is his first for Woodsist–though the news that he’d found a home on a label known for artists who venture into the more surreal corners of Americana came as no surprise.

Our conversation, conducted over the phone on a winter evening, touched on everything from the evolution of Omaha’s music scene over time to the contrasting sounds of Joyner’s albums to his occasional forays into collaboration.

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music : interview

Ryley Walker

by Andrew Cedermark

Into the mystic with the Chicago-based guitarist and songwriter.

Ryley Walker is a left-handed guitar player from Rockford, Illinois, who plays righty and can only hear out of one ear. Following a series of tours, limited-run releases, and collaborations with neo-American primitivists such as Daniel Bachman, Walker released his celebrated debut LP All Kinds of You last August on Tompkins Square Records. This month, his second album, titled Primrose Green—for a cocktail of whiskey and morning glory seeds—is out on Dead Oceans, and he will hit the road with Kevin Morby to support it.

Toggling between Burt Jansch-inspired Anglo-folk and expansive, jazzy freak-outs, Primrose Green features performances from some of Chicago’s top players, whose improvisational jams are marbled through with Walker’s almost supernatural fingerpicking. His style has attracted two classes of admirers: Guitar Player Magazine subscribers who love to hear him shred, and admirers of ’60s and ’70s UK folk, who cherish the renovations Walker is making to the music they love. Beyond its broad appeal, what I find most striking about the record is how it achieves a sense of controlled chaos that few today do; listening to Walker lead this band on Primrose Green is like watching moths caught in a lampshade.

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music : interview

Peter Burr, Luke Fischbeck, & Seabat

by John Also Bennett

Tarkovsky, aural illusions, and cultivating transcendent spaces.

“The Zone” from Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece Stalker remains one of the most compelling physical and mental spaces in cinema. Its strength may lie in its vagueness—a meteorite, or perhaps something else, landed there decades ago, and the Zone is now abandoned and forbidden. Strange things tend to happen there, and it’d be extremely dangerous to go in without a Stalker, who cautiously guides seekers of the Zone through its reaches toward the Room, where one’s deepest desires may be granted. Whatever the Zone is, it seems to have a strong effect on anybody who encounters it, though nobody seems to fully understand its power.

Peter Burr’s Special Effect takes direct inspiration from Stalker, with Burr commissioning a group of contemporary animators and video artists—including Brandon Blommaert, Jacob Ciocci, Billy Grant, Brenna Murphy, Yoshi Sodeoka, and Ola Vasiljeva—to create short pieces exploring the Zone. The project took the form of a live show in which Peter acted as the host, guiding the audience through the Zone, punctuated by commissioned animations, as well as that of a single channel film, composed primarily of Peter’s own work plus a few of the commissions. Peter asked me to compose music for his portion of the project, in which three warped digital characters wander through a lush landscape of overgrown, abandoned locations shot in upstate New York. I was already started on my own journey through the Zone when Peter approached me, so naturally I was thrilled to be given a reason to delve further. Lucky Dragons also composed a portion of the music, which ended up being used exclusively in the live show portion of Special Effect.

Years later, we’ve finally released the complete soundtrack to Special Effect as a split LP between Seabat and Lucky Dragons. I got together with Peter Burr, Luke Fischbeck of Lucky Dragons, and my Seabat collaborator Forest Christenson to talk about Special Effect and what it was like composing music exploring our own interpretations of the Zone.

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music : interview

Noveller

by Tobias Carroll

Sci-fi, Texas, and the business of sonic landscaping.

Guitarist Sarah Lipstate has been making music for a decade under the name Noveller, encompassing eerily serene sonic landscapes to textural explorations of noise. Fantastic Planet (2014), the latest Noveller album, is perhaps Lipstate’s most accessible work, but also her most sonically expansive. Over the years, Noveller’s music has grown to include some keyboard work alongside her memorable guitar playing. Lipstate’s creative work isn’t limited to music: she’s also a filmmaker, and occasionally brings both disciplines together in live performances.

In the time since Noveller’s debut release, the landscape for experimental, boundary-eluding music has shifted somewhat. Lipstate has made excellent use of services like Bandcamp, creating a centralized point for fans of her music to seek out releases both large and small. Our conversation encompassed everything from Lipstate’s work in film music to the experimental scene in Austin to the influence of science fiction on her music. The cover to Fantastic Planet features Lipstate gazing off at something unknown in the distance. That look at something beyond description serves as a fine shorthand for her musical aesthetic.

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music : interview

The Go-Betweens

by Gary Canino

Robert Forster on his group's nearly flawless decade.

Brisbane, Australia’s finest, the Go-Betweens, had a pretty much flawless run from 1977 to 1989, the first half of which was recently reissued in a new box set, G Stands For Go-Betweens, Volume One. The box includes their first three albums Send Me a Lullaby (1982), Before Hollywood (1983), and Spring Hill Fair (1984), alongside a live album, a collection of early singles, and three(!) discs of rarities. Thanks to the dual-genius partnership of founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, the Go-Betweens made consistently great records that transcended the ersatz “genres” of folk, pop, or indie rock altogether, mastering their own idiosyncratic songwriting craft along the way. 16 Lovers Lane, their 1988 swan song, is arguably their best album, encompassing their biggest hit, “Streets of Your Town,” the Commonwealth lullaby “The Devil’s Eye,” and the barnstorming “Love Goes On!” After a 1989 breakup, the band reunited in 2000 and released a string of low-key albums of finely-cut pop gems until McLennan's untimely and tragic death in 2006 brought the band to an end.

I was lucky enough to speak with Robert Forster about the band’s destitute beginnings, paying the bills, and what it’s like to have a bridge named after your band.

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music : interview

The Home of Easy Credit

by Whitney Curry Wimbish

Duo improvisation for loop pedal, upright bass, and child.

Musicians Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen and Tom Blancarte are wartime comrades, a bulwark of two against the armies of consumerism and conformity.

There is Louise now, removing the mouthpiece from her saxophone to play a sputtering song on the bare tube that sounds like a half-seen memory. The scene changes and she’s screaming into the mic, her voice full of rage and longing. Tom fills the room with an ominous drone as he tunes down his bass. He slaps the fingerboard and the brain registers a fist on piano keys, not a bow on strings. Tom again, after the scream, thrums a melody I don’t hear until it’s stopped.

The two met in 2008, each already an established participant in the avant-garde music scene, and married the next year. Performing as The Home of Easy Credit, they’ve toured across Europe and the US nearly nonstop, pausing last year after the birth of their first child, Freyja, then setting out again two months later. Their bases are New York and Denmark, Louise’s home country, but they stay in neither for long. The battle awaits.

This conversation took place in late October over Skype, shortly after the pair returned to Denmark from a nine-show tour through seven European countries.

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music : interview

Ariel Kalma

by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma Maxwell August Croy

Harmony in chaos, and the eternal now.

Never one to eschew opportunity, French-born Ariel Kalma has been following serendipitous roads to productive musical and spiritual beginnings since the 1970s. Rarely remaining in one place for long, Ariel's nomadic existence led him to encounters with the Dagar Brothers in India, Pierre Henry's INA-GRM in France, Don Cherry and The Arica School in New York, and finally, to Australia where he currently resides with his family. From playing sax in 1960s Parisian rock 'n' roll and jazz bands, crashing in the catacombs of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1970s New York, or fashioning his own Dream House (despite having never experienced La Monte Young's MELA Foundation installation) in a tiny flat in Paris, Ariel's brush strokes across the canvas of experimental music are wide, deep, and textured. His harmonic trajectory has given rise to a vast catalog of cacophonous glee and psychedelic excursions devoid of pretense. As if guided by cosmic forces, Ariel's evolution continues to into the present.

A compilation of Ariel's archival work, An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings: 1972 – 1979) was released by RVNG Intl. in late November, 2014. A collaborative record with Robert A.A. Lowe, also known as Lichens, was recently announced and is forthcoming from RVNG this spring.

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music : interview

Weyes Blood

by Tobias Carroll

Landscapes, lo-fi, and the uncanny.

The music made by Natalie Mering adds a sense of unease to the familiar. The Innocents, the second album from her project Weyes Blood, abounds with melodies that hearken back to folk-rock, if not to even earlier forms (sometimes by centuries—the way “Some Winters” unfolds is the definition of timeless). But she also keeps a foot in experimentation: Weyes Blood’s 2011 album The Outside Room featured six sprawling pieces that retained a melodic core but spliced in noisier elements. Her new album, The Innocents, was released by Mexican Summer in late 2014, and is an elaboration and expansion on those same approaches to song. This new record has a new directness and polish, and is even, occasionally, “rocking.”

Regardless of the context, Mering’s voice is a haunting one, channeling personal demons and summoning up landscapes familiar and foreign. Not long after watching Mering play a show with a four-piece band at the Brooklyn venue St. Vitus, I spoke to her about everything from Beat poets to jellyfish, East Coast suburbs to string arrangements. It was a wide-ranging chat, but given the depth and breadth of Mering’s music, that wasn’t at all surprising.

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music : interview

Peter Jefferies

by Tobias Carroll

A return to live performance after a decade-long absence.

This interview was supposed to happen very differently. News came earlier this year that the New Zealand-based musician Peter Jefferies would be playing his first shows in the United States in twenty years. A short tour was announced, and I bought my ticket to see him at Brooklyn’s ISSUE Project Room. That Jefferies was playing out wasn’t a complete shock: last year, De Stijl reissued his 1991 album Last Great Challenge For a Dull World. That was followed, earlier this year, by Superior Viaduct re-releasing his second album, 1994’s Electricity. A few days before the Issue Project Room show, however, word came that visa issues had prompted the cancellation of Jefferies’s tour, and instead we conducted this interview via email over the course of several weeks.

The attraction of Jefferies’s music comes from the way in which it moves from contrast to contrast. Some of his songs evoke a stark sense of melancholy; others arrive at a hard-won sense of mystery and revelation. His unpredictability and his penchant for dense, allusive lyrics allow make for a sound that eludes easy comparisons. Though some have offered up comparisons to the likes of John Cale and Nick Drake, Jefferies’s iconoclasm ultimately means that he sounds little like anyone save himself. Thankfully, through these reissues, an entirely new generation of listeners will be able to learn exactly what that means.

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music : interview

Ariel Pink

by Gary Canino

Chaotic performances, live recordings, and Generation Tween.

Ariel Pink’s unpredictable career continues to go down the rabbit hole. This time around, if he’s not under attack (again) for statements mocking Madonna and Grimes, he’s appearing on Fox News, or collaborating with the controversial and questionable Azealia Banks, and his recent “Tantalizing Tinsel Town Takeover” of LA featured nail painting, donuts, and limousines—all pink. In 2014, Pink is somewhere between the Fool card, Einstein, and Yahoo Serious.

Three quarters of the way through Ariel Pink’s overstuffed, sprawling, tasteless, and brilliant double album Pom Pom, there’s an already infamous skit about a grandfather taking his grandson to a strip club. Almost six minutes of Animotion meets The Human League meets Rodney Dangerfield give way to the crude skit interlude. It’s at the end of Side N (Sides P, I, N, and K, correlate to 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively), and it’s only relieved by the dreamier Side K, three longer dreamier songs that send off a classic double album. K contains the highlight “Picture Me Gone,” which manages to encapsulate the omnipotent feeling of FOMO while also mocking the times that have created the phrase. We discussed the ugly nature of performing, his method of creating an album, and how recording is a rip-off.

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music : interview

Maher Shalal Hash Baz

by Keith Connolly

Nostalgia, rhythm, and synchronicity.

Great Master Ma is unwell. (This guy has broken down quite a bit. He’s dragging in other people.) The temple superintendent asked him, “Teacher, how are you these days?” (Four-hundred four diseases break out all at once. They’ll be lucky if they’re not seeing off a dead monk in three days. This is in the course of human duty.) The great master said “Sun Face Buddha, Moon Face Buddha.” (How fresh and new! Sustenance for his fledgling.)

—from The Blue Cliff Record

Led by Tori Kudo, the group Maher Shalal Hash Baz (Isaiah 8:1, “hasten to the spoils,” or according to Tori, “quick spoil, speedy booty”) has existed in permutation in Japan since the mid ’80s, playing a kind of shambolic congregational music that at times veers into poignant simplicity. By employing a simultaneous rigor and spontaneity (players will often perform a score having not seen it prior), Tori has crafted a unique musical space. What results as often conjures the infamous Portsmouth Sinfonia interpreting the Ventures as it does the prescient doomed neo-romanticism of the Only Ones’ Peter Perrett (Tori’s hero), and always with a certain laconic charm that is unmistakably Maher.

We sat down after Maher’s concert at ISSUE Project Room in NYC to discuss the blues, misunderstanding as an imperialistic prerogative, unwittingly embodying the herd, and the end of the world.

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music : interview

Richard Dawson

by Cian Nugent

On being nothing, looking outward, and the obstinant relevance of that popular art form, song.

Richard Dawson is a force of nature. Even though that’s been said about many people, I really mean it this time. Ask anyone lucky enough to have seen him in the past few years and I doubt you will find any argument. His sets leave people with a confused throat-lump laugh. For example, I recently insisted a friend of mine—who maintains music has no real emotional impact—come and see Richard the first time he played in Dublin, and even he had to admit that after the gig, he shed a tear or two.

His music is familiar and unsettling, like some half-remembered childhood moment that comes up in the midst of a god-awful hangover, crippling in its sweetness. His music has a brutal nostalgia to it, often drawing on moments from his formative years but stripped of any saccharine nostalgia. He regularly brings us back to the sober present with a bang through his savage commitment to the idea that his songs be about real life, not some fantasy of what a song should be about. His songs mention WHSmith, Asda, Anadin Extra, Newcastle United: places and things that hover around the margins of the average UK consciousness, and that most of us are not used to hearing sung about at all. They are songs about our everyday life to enhance our everyday life. In the process of songwriting, these moments become kaleidoscopic, transcend the everyday reality they come from and become a sort of hallucination of Richard’s life, taking on a new strength in the process. Similarly, Richard’s guitar playing is always towing the line between dissonance and sweet melody, and is catchy in the strangest way—you'll find yourself humming his melodies long after hearing the songs, but straining to get the notes right. And his voice is fucking powerful. Never had I heard a man with a thick Newcastle accent roar his head off in a way that touched me so until I saw Richard. Don't take it from me, go see him and see for yourself.

I had the pleasure of asking Richard about all these things and much more, including his new album, Nothing Important, over Skype and some wine.

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music : interview

Itasca

by Andrew Aylward

Splash Mountain, LA, and the definition of "psychedelic."

Kayla Cohen is a Los Angeles-based singer and guitarist whose mesmerizing work is released under the name Itasca. Her latest release, Unmoored By The Wind, comes via the New Images Ltd. label and follows her 2012 debut full-length album Grace Riders on The Road. Cohen’s songs have the uncanny ability to create an atmosphere all their own, transporting the listener directly to the Californian landscapes that inspired the current collection. Cohen’s voice is at once haunting and enchanting, and it rests at least in part in the lineage of Sibylle Baier and Linda Perhacs. Psychedelic drones linger in the sound field on Unmoored By The Wind, lending an air of acid folk that might be induced by a mind-altering substance or merely by the West Coast sunlight filtering through the evening. Or maybe it comes from the rough-hewn, home-made quality of the recordings.

Cohen offers more than just a heavy vibe on Unmoored however, with songwriting on standout tracks like “Nature’s Gift" that shows a mature writer with a firm grip on form as well as atmosphere. I spoke with Cohen—who lives in LA but was visiting her parents in Westchester County, New York—about musical development, her “fanbase,” and, you know, the artistic process.

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music : interview

Will Oldham

by Gary Canino

Performance, reinvention, and alternate realities.

It might seem mysterious that Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues, the latest album from the ever-prolific and confounding Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, shares nine of its eleven songs with his 2011 release, Wolfroy Goes To Town. Bonny's eleventh album, released last month by longtime label Drag City, is neither a remake nor a rehash, but more of a recreation, an attempt to build an alternative reality around the framework of this collection of songs, from the ground up.

Reinterpretation is certainly not a new approach for Will Oldham, the singer-songwriter, performer, and occasional actor. Oldham, who went by variations on Palace and Palace Brothers in the ’90s, has been known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy—a sort of manifestation of Oldham’s more performative impulses—since the release of the now-classic I See a Darkness in 1999. In the intervening years, Oldham has made a practice of building complete worlds around each release, and frequently revisits and updates older material. On the 2004 album Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music, Oldham revisited, with slicked-up Nashville studio musicians, the “greatest hits” of his lo-fi Palace years. Oldham’s work often foregrounds the layers of character and performance that other artists present as “authenticity,” while never sacrificing a core of emotional truth. In this sense, he follows in the footsteps of American songwriters from W.C. Handy to James Brown to Carol King to Bob Dylan to R. Kelly, investing his work with equal elements of poetry and theater.

Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, produced by Nashville-based Mark Nevers (who has worked with everyone from Billy Ray Cyrus to the Silver Jews) presents an alternate reality view of the Wolfroy material, classic country arrangements and all. The album allows equal space for prominent pedal steel and gospel back-up vocals by the McCrary sisters, but the songs themselves stand out, more than structurally sound enough to handle a rebuild. The album also continues Oldhams’s fruitful collaboration with guitarist Emmet Kelly, who has appeared on almost all of his records since 2006’s The Letting Go. One of the few exceptions was the self-released album Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, a collection of new songs, performed solo with Oldham on voice and guitar. The album is available from Oldham’s Palace Records and was, notably, not released digitally.

The 2012 book-length interview by Alan Licht Will Oldham on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy—modeled on Cassavettes on Cassavettes—explores the development of Oldham’s various personas over the course of his career. It was also meant to ensure that Oldham would never have to do another interview. However, he happily agreed to talk on the phone about this new record, what makes a recording “definitive,” and Dick Cheney, and was a joy to talk to.

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Music : Interview

Kim Hiorthøy

by Melanie Bonajo

Scandinavian forests, psychedelic brews, and stolen Wi-Fi.

Kim Hiorthøy is an artist, graphic designer, cinematographer, and musician whose new album Dogs was released in September on the label Smalltown Supersound. In his music, Kim Hiorthøy mixes everything from folk, free-jazz, lo-fi electronics, and acid house to instrumental hip-hop and field recordings. Dogs is a beautiful, minimal departure and consists mostly of piano and ambient noise, with occasional interjections of electronic beats and synths.

Melanie Bonajo is an artist, performer and musician who, together with Joseph Marzolla, plays in ZaZaZoZo, a space, folk, tribal pop music project. In 2013, the duo released their album Inua on Tsunami-Addiction, which was recorded during the winter, in an isolated Arctic village of East Greenland. Their music and performances are inspired by places unpierced by human thoughts, erosion of the ethno-spheres, absence of history, tri-genderism, suburban rituals, magic in the space age and unrevealed yet perceivable parallel universes, like the spirit of Inua.

The two spoke over Skype about Kim Hiorthøy’s new album, the creative process, and the Internet (of course).

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Music : Interview

Chris Forsyth

by Andrew Aylward

Love, devotion, surrender, and the Phillies.

Philadelphia guitarist and composer Chris Forsyth gained initial recognition as an experimental artist with noted noise act Peeesseye. His latest effort with his Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost, arrives October 28, via No Quarter Records. As a performer under his own name, Forsyth has merged art rock with American blues and folk guitar idioms, all under the tent of free improvisation. The resulting music is energetic and free in its treatment of form and harmony.

Forsyth's recent, full band, records read as much as paeans to Robert Quine and Television at their most lucid, as they do tributes to Popol Vuh, the Grateful Dead, or Fairport Convention’s “A Sailor’s Life”. At its most compelling, Intensity Ghost manages to reconcile and even marry the grand, swelling gestures of the most boundary-pushing rock and roll of the ‘60s and ’70s with the melodic composition of instrumentalists such as Sandy Bull or, dare I say it, the spiritual shreddage of John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana's Love Devotion Surrender, minus the virtuosic cheese.

For Intensity Ghost, Forsyth enlisted drummer Mike Pride, bass guitarist Peter Kerlin, and organ/keyboard/piano man Shawn Hansen as the current incarnation of the Solar Motel Band.

Forsyth, who was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2011, talks here about his earliest musical experiences, taking guitar lessons with Richard Lloyd of Television, and how he captures his band's intense live dynamic on record.

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