Saturday, August 19, 2017

Song Premiere: White Bee's "Beat State"



I've not yet been able to put my finger on the special kinda funk that's forged by White Bee. It's just something in the riffs, the sharp pull back of those hooks. Then there's those soulful vocals from Shannon Barnes that have a croony R&B curve to their suave intonations. The guitars and rhythms can have the cool shuffle-skid-stomp of jazz expeditions, throughout the verses, but everything can muscle-up for a more rock-n-rolling roil when the song necessitates it. Their versatility has made me say, on more than one occasion, that this is a band you should be watching, this year & next year!



This song's silkier, measured spills of synthesizer shimmers adds a bit of romantic new-wave swoon to the stew. But let it play and pulse into that invigorating chorus, where song's fuselage tightens up for this swift barrel-rolling groove. "Beat State" is just a taste of what's to come in the near (albeit indeterminate) future, when the Detroit-based band releases a follow-up to their 2015 EP. The goal is to make their next release a full-length.

Until then....
White Bee perform TONIGHT in Hamtramck, at the Korner Bar
ft. Oshwa, Growwing Pains, and Vnesswolfchild
Info

Single artwork by Carmel Liburdi

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Night with Estar Cohen



You might have your own ideas about jazz, but Estar Cohen can likely shake them up for you.
“Jazz has history, but it is not stuck in another time period,” the Ypsilanti-based
multidisciplinary musical artist said.

“(Jazz) is a living, breathing art form that continues to gain new interpreters, new composers and new fan bases.”

Cohen’s voice is a vibrant, spirited entity, able to melodically sprint in staccato bursts over a more frenetic composition with rapidity and agility, and then spread out her intonations into longer measures with a sweeping elegance.

This Saturday, Cohen has an ensemble backing up her original compositions for an intimate performance at Cultivate Coffee & Tap House.



“(Jazz) isn’t confined to the combo you hear that was hired to play background music for the restaurant, or, even the other end of the spectrum, say, Lincoln Center. It isn’t the Starbucks Compilation CD! What jazz IS…well, it’s hard to say, because as time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to put in a box. But that’s what I love about it. It’s a creative music.”

Cohen is still young but already seems like a jazz vet around the local scene. She got her degree in Jazz Performance in 2015 (Univ. of Toledo) where she honed her skills in improvisation and learned composition with esteemed jazz artists/instructors.

Also in 2015, along with putting out her first album and working on jazz clinics with her other quintet, Talking Ear, she was also chosen as a finalist in the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards. She taught songwriting with Earthwork Music for a couple seasons, part of their educational endeavors of their non-profit SEEDS. Currently, she teaches music around the Ann Arbor area.

Her real joy, is not just performing, but more so: composing. “Story is important,” she said, of starting out the lyrics of any arrangement. “I love personal stories; attempting to see a life through someone else’s eyes, and to relate my experience to others. My lyrics often focus on story, and I do my best to have the written music reflect that. I am so fortunate to work with musicians who also care deeply about this.”



Cohen’s dynamism springs from her strong sensibilities for improvisation. After a recent concert, someone from the audience asked how much of her performance was written, and how much was improvised, a question she often finds herself fielding. Her improvisation is blended, by design, into the composed material. That’s her signature approach; considering every instrumentalist or vocalist who could likely be joining her in bringing a fledgling work to life as it comes to be performed later down the line.

“Because their voices will be a huge part in how the song will actually take shape,” said Cohen. “IN any moment of one of my performances, someone will be, in some shape or form, improvising, because the music is meant to grow and change from performance to performance.”

Cohen was drawn to music from a young age. Her siblings (Ben/Sarah) are also songwriters and musicians. She said that she was exposed to the idea of supporting and experiencing local music from original songwriters at an early age. Her parents even crated and ran their own music venue called the Happy Badger.

When it came to her first encounter of jazz, back in high school during a concert at Murphy’s Place in Toledo, she may not have immediately grasped it, but nevertheless profoundly felt the energy of the music. From that point, she started listening to jazz as much as possible and eventually studying it.

“Going along with that, my whole journey leading up to this point has been shaped and elevated by the masters willing to pass on their knowledge to the “next generation.” At Murphy’s Place, pianist Claude Black, who is unfortunately no longer with us, and his musical partner bassist Clifford Murphy opened the stage to young musicians, allowing us the opportunity to play and learn from them  - a true instance of “learning by doing.” To be treated as an artist as a young person is motivating. It makes you start thinking as an artist. Then you begin to expect more of yourself!”

The Estar Cohen Project started six years ago; it’s featured different artists at different times and is designed to be flexible for allowing to do so as it evolves. While Cohen collaborates in other jazz groups, this band is where her compositions are the driving force.

Last week, the Estar Cohen Project (which features Dan Palmer on guitar, Josh Silver on piano, Ben Rolston on bass, and Travis Aukerman on drums), recorded a concert in front of an audience at Willis Sound, which will hopefully be released as a live album in the near future. She also just recorded an EP of stripped down duo songs with bassist/vocalist Maggie Hasspacher.
You can’t have your mind made up about jazz until you see Estar Cohen.



A Night with Estar Cohen
Saturday
Cultivate Coffee & Tap House
307 N. River St.,
Ypsilanti
MORE INFO

Monday, August 14, 2017

Friends of Dennis Wilson - Space Maintainer

It starts off ferocious, like a motorcycle belching fire. The cymbal hits seem like lane lines passing steadily into a blur. The chugging riff gets your head loose like a swivel. The vocals glide across this wavy melody and in the refrain, says: "Yeeaah...." And you're in. You're feeling it. Carried away...launched, even. This is neo-space rock. This is several strains of psychedelic all at once. This is shoegaze with a vantage point higher than a stage, more like from the stratosphere.



Friends of Dennis Wilson started up more than 10 years ago and were early satellites that started orbiting in what would become the "neo-psych" scene, (read: Thee Oh Sees, DIIV, Tame Impala, etc...) There wasn't really a word for what FODW were when they started up, and they were inevitably raked into the garage-rock category, more or less, as that cache was still lingering around Detroit in the post-White Stripes days.



What was going on in their tunes, even their surfier stuff, was something a bit more mystical, a bit more dark, a bit more of a dive into the unconscious where the regular worries of the every day disintegrate and your mind is freed to kaleidoscope through some new contemplations. The aura, the legacy, that they were continuing, was very much a, for lack of a better phrase, druggy kinda rock trip - but better put as a purposefully atmospheric layering of guitar, bass and drums dressed with lots of careful stitches of reverb, echo and distortion, so as to evoke an altering of your perceived reality.

"'Psych' is anything BUT the norm!" said Tony Thrush, lead singer/songwriter for FODW. "But then, 'the norm' is subjective too, we could debate that. I just feel that psychedelic music is anything htat's different. It's anything that makes you think!"

This fall, Friends of Dennis Wilson release 'Space Maintainer' on vinyl through a bigger label, a first for them, having done it all DIY up until now. There will be 50 limited edition thumb drives of the album (via Rocket Arm Records) available at upcoming shows. This is an early release of the album, with the 'space maintainer ignition unlock' via the thumbdrives.

Anyone boarding this vessel expecting typical shoegaze are going to be throttled a bit by how heavy this record can get... Not that it's metal, or hard-rock, but just that there's a lot of emotion and energy in the playing - like each instrument is forcefully trying to conjure something. The band's iconography and on-stage presence has tended to suggest something of an occult-like vibe, but I think the only possession going on is that of the trance-like influence that exertive, propulsive music such as these new tunes demonstrate, can have upon an opened mind.



"People can like what's comfortable-sounding to them, like something they already know. Don't get me wrong. I love bands going for more of a '60's garage' thing... But for me, there's never any direct influence, I just pick up a guitar and go...! People in other bands tell me how they feel that no one's understanding wat they're doing. But it's that it's not initially safe to their ears. It's gonna take a little while to catch on..."

Thrush and his band mates, Tim DoNesia, Sam Santuro, Space Bot Steve, and Brian have never waivered. Even when they weren't catching on with a clique or a scene, testing out those weird early new-century-psychedelic sounds. After 10+ years, Thrush said he's getting more feedback from fans and critics who have just now steadily realized that they've been chugging along, DIY-style, for so long. This is their first release on any label, and it's undoubtedly their most varied, fully realized work.

"It's about getting out there and doing your thing, and coming out your way, and you'll get respect for that," said Thrush. "Never waiver... and time will be good to what you're doing, in different ways."




'Space Maintainer' becomes a testament to perseverance. Maintaining momentum, occupying a space of their own. "No matter what you're doing, your art will eventually be translated and recognized in some way," said Thrush, speaking from 15-some-odd years of experience with eventual connections forged around the global music scene. "But, first, you gotta love what the fuck you're doing before anyone else can dig it!"

'Space Maintainer,' with its cathartis crescendos and vulnerable softer sides, also becomes a tribute to a fallen comrade. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Rabeah Ltief passed away recently, a leader of the band Electirc Lions Soundwave Expermient, and a potential future-member of Friends of Dennis Wilson. "That just broke me," Thrush said, recalling the day he found out, and inferring that Ltief, who contributed to the song "Just In Case Place," had intentions to join the band. That love for Ltief, that memory, maintains the space left behind by his absence...

"I feel like I've just got to get as much done as I possibly can," said Thrush, with what seems like amplified motivation in the face of what was a rough year of lost friends. He's also working on a book, and a feature film, which should be coming out in the next six months or so. 'Space Maintainer,' meanwhile, will be out later this fall!

More info

Coming up: FODW are performing at Chicago's Kaleidoscope Eye Psych Fest on Sept 8, followed by a very special Theater Bizarre headlining slot on October 21st.


Monday, August 7, 2017

UFO Factory


Benefit for UFO Factory tonight at El Club 

UFO Factory Employee Relief Fund

For more info
Follow on Facebook
or Instagram

Previously scheduled shows are being moved to new host locations. Stay tuned for updates

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Passalacqua's Tranquility Base

Passalacqua, performing at Lo & Behold for River Street Anthology
filmed by Mostly Midwest

It's been two years since we last got to hear a fine four song EP from Detroit duo Passalacqua, and it certainly feels like a lot has changed, politically, socially, culturally... Times are heavier, much more so than they were, back in the spring of 2015, when we heard Banglatown. Songs from that EP, like "At The Party," were about clearing ones head through a strategic detachment from debauchery that could then afford cogent contemplation. But songs on Peace Zone are not so much about a lateral shift, a shift that maybe takes you away from distracting noise, but instead yearns for elevation. 

Blaksmith and Mister have always been 360-degree surveyors of the society-as-ecosystem inside which they operated, using their duets of articulated, staccato hooked raps to consistently render clarity out of the anachronistic music-biz-game, the unpredictability of fame, the fickleness of acclaim... and tiding against any wave or trend of conjuring bellicosity in their rhymes and instead opting to galvanize a deeper wisdom by documenting their individual-and-shared paths through strings of words laying bare their concerns and anxieties. Not so much vulnerable. But very much empowering.

Even something as funky as "Joni" references finding "Inner Peace." It closes things out (with production by Zach Shipps), and is easily the most psychedelic we've ever heard Passalacqua. Heads are in the clouds, the stratosphere, the cosmic perspective gazing down and taking the long view... We all find our own way / There's always more to say... I mean..., it might be a song about pancakes that references parental consummation. But it's also about, yes... tranquility! A tranquility that nourishes your creativity....the same way pancakes might nourish your drowsy weekend mind.

While "Labour," (with a ferocious cameo by Nolan The Ninja), is a classic Passalacqua-putting-it-all-into-perspective joint that finds producer Native $ound effectively cutting out the beats for these cathartic and startling opportunities for deep gasps. "Labour" is a new millennium's manifesto on perseverance.

Then there's "Self-Satisfaction," with superb rhymes by Self Says and producer Blockhead, where the three of them hit their most kinetic cadences in delivery, diving into the strength of a day-by-day progression, a stride, a sensibility for accepting whatever comes and being ready for whatever's up tomorrow. But "Peace Zone," compared to "Self-Satisfaction," slows it down, with production by djkage bringing those pensive trumpets in, finds its meditative escapes and achieves the simple-yet-calming revelation that so much of the stress or pressure is a choice, in terms of whether you let it get to you... You can elevate!





Friday, August 4, 2017

Girls Rock Detroit Showcase

The Girls Rock Detroit Summer Camp comes to a crescendo on Saturday afternoon at the Majestic Theatre. After about a month of work-shopping with young girls (age 8-15) who were aspiring to try out various instruments and performance styles within the rock 'n' roll format, coordinators and instructors will present a showcase of nine bands who each prepared original music to perform.
The bands will be performing throughout the afternoon on Saturday from 12-4pm, with Miz Korona serving as Master of Ceremonies.  


The music community has an opportunity to celebrate the work of Girls Rock campers and be supportive of their ambition by way of providing an enthusiastic turnout and response, as many will be experiencing their first time playing music in front of an audience. I think you want to be in the audience for that special moment.

ALL AGES SHOWTICKETS....Advance: $10 (http://tinyurl.com/GRDCampShowcaseTix)
At the Door: $15 suggested donation/$5 kids
At the Door: $15 suggested donation/$5 kids
Girls Rock is partnering with the Majestic Theatre for this show. All proceeds from the showcase benefit Girls Rock Detroit, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that works, each year, to encourage girls to get involved in music. Led by several female and non-binary veteran/established musicians from the local scene who pass down their knowledge to this next generation, the Girls Rock summer camp creates a positive, encouraging and specifically noncompetitive environment for these new musicians. The showcase is designed to be an uplifting experience for the performers, one that underlines the benefits of teamwork.

Girls Rock's main goal is just encouraging the creative spirit of these young women by empowering them to challenge preconceived notions of what they're able to do, or to become, in a male-dominated music industry. But more than that, it also works to inspire them to become engaged members of their communities.

Read more about about Girls Rock Detroit at www.girlsrockdetroit.org

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remnose EP Release Party for What We See In Our Sleep

Take a second...
Slow down. You don't have to sit. Just... breathe.

Are you ready for the ambient country?


Remnose are a Detroit-area four-piece fusing folk warbles, country twang, ambient murmuring and psychedelic ponderings. Their new EP is a pulse-settler, a heart-swooner, a restorative hazy-summer-day's-breeze that kinda hugs its way around you as it carries crisp and rustic voices that bend together into a lilting melody over steady-stepped percussion.

I think hypnotic is an overused term when it comes to music, most of the time... But the arrangement of these drums, the almost tender-yet-forceful crash of those cymbals, and the way the drums cradle everything like a steady river's current, leads a listener into these steadied head nods as the instrumental elements build into thicker blooms, instilling a safe sense of letting your guard down.

The delicate echo of the guitars and the dynamics of the vocals, this full whisper, suggest a distance from the cities, a secluded sonic space where you would find more grass and mud than pavement and neon lights. This is getaway music. And it invites you to lay back for a sec, and let those reverberations really wrap around your head. Dizzy. Disarming. Meditative.

REMNOSE E.P. Release Party Friday Night
INFO



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UFO Factory

Your favorite club closes. It happens. There are the usual circumstances: often it's an economic ebb, something about finances..., or maybe it's a personal decision of the owner/manager...

You hate to see it close because of a calamity; something hazardous like a fire...

But you especially hate to see it close this way... 
The UFO Factory in Corktown is closed, albeit just indeterminately for now, because its north wall was debilitated by adjacent construction work that's ostensibly gentrifying a five-block space engulfing this modestly sized rock club with upper-scaled residential units and retail space.

Metro Times has the initial report, and will assuredly update you as this story develops.



Meanwhile, the UFO Factory will be closed for weeks, if not months...! This means that the staff are essentially out of a job for the foreseeable future. In a heartening gesture and a quick rallying of support, El Club is helping host a benefit party this Monday, with several UFO regulars DJ-ing throughout the night, along with a stacked merch table. MORE INFO

On the positive side of things, I have to commend everyone who hustled together the benefit show, in a considerably short time. That swift alignment of a solidarity effort is what I love most about the Detroit music scene; it's been demonstrated during similar circumstances in the past. And, that solidarity was vital in this case, as well, for the sake of the staff who work there, but also to offer an outlet for meager catharsis and needed commiseration for its regular patrons.

Even if it was an accident, it still hurts. It was already foreboding to have these new buildings encroaching on the discreet strip of Trumbull and promising to loom, a bit intimidatingly, over this gray and red slap of sonic and culinary splendors. But now? To now have a place that is a lot of folks' favorite rock club out of commission for months, with a full schedule's worth of local and national/touring bands' concerts needing to be rescheduled....? It hurts.

It hurts because a scene is nothing without its venues. I mean, sure..., we could always sustain ourselves on organized house-shows and gallery spaces... But there is substantial value to the arts and culture scene to have an independent performance venue that is going out of its way to support the scene by programming regular lineups of local (and national) groups that are cutting edge, both from the up-and-comers crop and the sagely vets. It keeps the creatives who live here healthy and happy - to have that outlet to perform, to have that secluded-feeling clubhouse-vibe to experience live music in a welcoming atmosphere.

Music, food, art, karaoke, movies... UFO did it all, and will continue too... (I hope). It did what all great venues do: provided a commons, a creative gymnasium, a mess hall for music. Just this weekend I said to a fellow attendee that I could just about nap in this place with my shoes kicked-off if it only had a sofa--cuz I felt that comfortable there...

Anyway. It hurts. So, let's get together on Monday! 

Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers - "Old Love"



I interviewed Joe Hertler (of The Rainbow Seekers) earlier this year, and I remember the conversation being dominated by how much more of a darker album they'd just produced. That was Pluto, and Hertler deemed it his most personal and even vulnerable batch of songs he'd ever written.

Whereas in the past, the band has been a burst of warmed and colorful burnishings set to bouyant rhythms, effervescent guitars and vibrant melodies, they turned the song creation process into a much more collaborative, careful cultivation that yielded more complex or eclectic arrangements and dimmed the sunshine from their previous records for something a bit more outwardly pensive or sometimes solemn. But a certain sweetness, a hopefulness, always sustains with The Rainbow Seekers' songs... Still..., the melodies may get light, but the subject matter is getting heavier.

This song, "Old Love," is based on an old Japanese folktale about two Samurai from opposing factions who fall in love. When they meet after a horrendous battle, they come to see the futility of war and set aside their differences... "is there really so much to fear / when we’re all just taking sides?" 

This video was directed by Paul Zito, who created more than 10,000 unique paper cut outs for this animation, which spanned four months worth of production.  



Rainbow Seekers' next show

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Imaginatron: It's a Very Nice Cult

Experience the Imaginatron Thursday at PJs Lager House


Regularity is overrated. Discomfort can be good. Cults can be nice.

Today I'm talking about The Imaginatron, and I'm not sure how to explain it to you. They have a new EP they're putting together, which will record fleetingly-finalized versions of songs that have, to this point, never sounded the same way (or been sung the same way) twice, ever.

The picture you're looking at up there is, ostensibly, of a band. That band features Steve Pivalsky on vocals and conjurings, Nik Landstrom on guitar, and Dan Patterson on drums. There's also a song "by" the Imaginatron, streaming below, which will give a taste of what's to come on their forthcoming EP, which the "band" just finished recording. This song, "Uninterpretive Dance," demonstrates their proclivities toward avant-gardist rock sails upon a sea of staticy-electronic synth drones and hyper-danceable rhythms, with post-punk-poetic vocals that sing-speak strange incantations.



You see..., "The Imaginatron" is sort of a parallel (or maybe perpendicular?) universe that can be attained both mentally and physically, and essentially utilized as a cosmic instrument to achieve a collective metaphysical harmony with not just the people in a room, but with energies across the globe, or even some other celestial netherfield...

Imaginatron is just what this band happens to be called, but they're named after the Imaginatron, said Pivalsky. "It's meant to point toward the entity that is the thing, that magical thing of perceivable nodes of energy that pulse ideas into our minds from other realities. It's the magical instrument that we play when we move around spaces outside of our comfort zones."

I talked to someone, recently, who recalled seeing The Imaginatron (the band) for the first time. When I told him that it's sort of, a bit, like a cult meeting..., he suddenly got it! Like he couldn't put a finger on it until I suggested the idea of a cult.

"Yeah, but it's a chill cult," Pivalsky clarifies. "I'm not crazy. It's a very nice cult. And there's no limitations or rules for you, in this cult!"

Back to no song, or no set, ever being the same...
These three are students of the ephemeral, of transitory moments, of consistently-refreshing with something that was weirder than what came before...
Their ceremonies find Patterson propelling everything, while Landstrom noodles out jazzy freakstorm lightning bolts on guitar. And finally, Pivalsky is a performer you'd rightfully describe as being "unleashed," when you observe him; some kind of high-adrenaline spirit freed to explore the entirety of a space. There is lots of symbology, and small crafts and structures, or vein-like strings and esoteric pamphlets all spilling about as Pivalsky continues to cavort his way into the crowd to accost and invite and inculcate and indoctrinate.

The Imaginatron gets you out of your comfort zone.

"It's not about being comfortable or discomforted; it's about challenging the boundaries of your comfort," said Pivalsky, who's singing style is often breathless, stratospheric ecstasy taking him into a trance. He might hug you. He might not even remember having hugged you. But he's probably going to come right up to you. There's lots of movement. There's lots of seemingly random movement, in fact. Something takes over. The Imaginatron takes over.

"It's about cognitive dissonance too," said Pivalsky, suggesting the benefits of an occasional detachments like this... "I feel like everyone wants to do that sometimes, but just doesn't know what the outlet for it could be. But I know I sign in kind of a punk rock intensity, but it isn't something that's crazy or aggressive. I don't have feelings of aggression. I do want to scream, but I want to hug you while I'm screaming..."

So it's all about channeling that energy. Pivalsky isn't a cult-leader, even if that beard and that boisterous, wild-eyed expression might suggest it... His band mates aren't being guided by him, is what I'm getting at--they're very much on their own trip, displaying, musically, their own relationship to & experience of: the Imaginatron.

It's a prime time to catch The Imaginatron. The "band" is as mystically attuned as ever; Pivalsky is back into the arts scene, after some time away between this band and his previous trip: Marco Polio & The New Vaccines. And, The Imaginatron are, as we said, finishing up recordings right now. And after that? The sound, the style, the energy-- could shift all over again.

"We gotta bring the weirdos back," Pivalsky said, with urgency. "That's one of our missions with The Imaginatron. We gotta bring more weirdos back. I need more of the freakout stuff, ya know? I'm a champion for that!"

I couldn't have put it better.

Thursday nightFeaturing the retro-techno trips of Lt. Bad, and the acid-spazz incantations of The Imaginatron
at PJ's Lager HouseJoining the party are Richard Album and Katy Albert:
Richard Album is a pop-star persona from Chicago premiering a funky musical about fame and misfortune. And Katy Albert makes performance-art that can be both funny and grotesque. She uses humor and audience interaction to lampoon artsy-fartsy power structures.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Balance of Being Dizzy: An Interview with Chris Bathgate

Chris Bathgate and I are talking about singing, but not about lyrics.

On his latest album, Dizzy Seas, the nationally renowned songwriter has ten songs that, abstruse as it may be to describe them in this way: are as dense as they are simple.

The experience of listening to this album is much like a session of mantra meditation; musical phrases are rounded, ambient boundaries are bled together, lyrics become wordless/melodic utterances, and the throb and slow spill of its tonality tornadoes tenderly around your ears to set in this subtle swarm of calming serotonin, almost to the point where you may tune out of the very record you're listening to.

"(Dizzy Seas) is paced and structured with the hope that people might forget that they're listening to music for a second," Bathgate says. "There's a moment where I feel like the lyrics stop, and the listener is able to either process those lyrics, or, if they weren't listening too hard, then they can go off into their own daydream, and think about what they're doing...."

"...I want the listener to literally be free to daydream during the song, and then maybe I can bring them back into the song later without them knowing it. So I was thinking about how much do I really need to say, in a song... How much space do I need to give my listeners, so that they can effectively drift off for a minute."

And in my head... I could hear that famous quote   "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." --Brian Eno 






Dizzy Seas is a tricky album to decipher. Or, rather, it's trickier if you encounter it with intentions of deciphering it. I don't think it's a record that will give you exact directions, like how many more blocks or how many left or right turns you'll need to make before you find the answer. It just kind of vaguely gestures toward a horizon for you and says: "that way...." It's that way.

"Some of the lyrics are totally cogent and make logical sense, others are fractured. I'm sure people are saying some of it makes no sense. Some songs are meant to be about something, but others are just images dropped in your life that circumspect what I'm interested in communicating. I learned that from (Emily) Dickinson.

I mention that this is an ambient record, even though Bathgate is still categorized as a folk singer. And he nods, yes, that's still where his roots are... But the thing with folk singers, is that we look to them as oracles, poetic pundits in a way. We are too inclined to zone in and suss out meaning from the words that are melodically metered out by a "folk singer." But this is the album of a "folk singer..." It's something else, not just tonally, but lyrically.

"Don't tell people what you want them to feel, just draw a big circle around it and let them exist in a little bubble... It's not something overt, but through circuitious messages, you can get your point across and leave a little discovery-after-the-fact. And, also! Who am I to say what a song is about?"


What stands out about Dizzy Seas is the way it affectingly simulates the sense of being on a body of water, or near a body of water--this sense of floating, or having these foggy tones sort of wash over you in a way that gives pause. It's an ebb and flow of harmonics and chords during songs like "Hide" and "Nicosia," while even the more traditional folk-rock rumblers seem to have something more dreamy aimed at in their designs.

"I felt that I'd demanded the outdoors for my life, more so than the outdoors influenced me. There came a point where –this is kind of how I live now– I was more and more uncomfortable when indoors, more than before. Working outside, being outside; it became a huge priority. I felt weird having ceilings over my head. I don't know, really, if I can put it into words, whether it affected (my music). I'm sure it did. But, it was just that I was locked into nature, from 6pm, til 6am, I was in the woods. I was wading in the Platt River and swimming in ponds, fishing and cooking my dinners..."

That sounds like a solace. Maybe we can dig into the ways in which the wilderness wound up influencing the way in which these emotions were expressed, or intoned. One of the major themes that's explored by Dizzy Seas is how much happiness can you, specifically you, can derive from YOUR environment.

"Why's it always gotta be heavy?"
Bathgate sings this lyric in "Beg," with a rushed marching cadence, almost audibly frustrated with himself. It's a matter of always losing your grip on whatever is: 'happiness...'

"I think that question, of: 'why's it always gotta be heavy...?' is just as much me asking myself, as, really, asking the world," Bathgate said. "How much of your own happiness comes from you or, vice versa, how much of your sadness comes from your environment, from the world as your perceiving it... How much of it comes entirely from you?"

Thinking back on the "oh's" of the song, "O(h)m," or the weary "aaaayyy's" of "Hide," and I think about how wordless melodic utterances can mirror the sounds of emotions, such as a wordless laugh, or a wordless cry, or a wordless sigh... We, as humans, sometimes just make noises.

“In college, for a class, I read an article called 'Soundtracking of America,' wherein the author presents this theory that music, alone, without any lyrical content, cannot express an idea in full.  I thought arduously about that ... I think you need to open your mind to the broadness of what an idea is, to fight that argument. If I sing a melody, you can't be like: 'Oh, well, you're singing about Detroit,' or 'You're singing about sparrows...' Or, 'about fresh fruits...' You won't have that solid factual thing to pin meaning to... But, I think music, and the way that people experience music, isn't so hard-and-fast. It's not a misnomer. It's just the correlation (of lyrics) is a little reductive, to 'what music communicates...' I think there are things other than ideas that are communicated, and I think ideas can be communicated in full without lyrical content, but rather just in the musical interplay."

As we wound up our conversation, I ask about how so many of the lyrics mention "the mind...," and he admits that, indeed, "the mind" has been on his mind.

"You have senses, and they give you information about the world, but the engine that puts that together is your mind. But your mind is never able to objectively perceive those things without the influence of emotions. So..., that's where I am! Dizzy Seas was really a question... There have been some write-ups tying it to this idea of: 'Are the seas dizzy? Or am I...?'

"So, which thing is out of balance? If you can even tell..."

Chris Bathgate
Dizzy Seas
Quite Scientific