Friday, March 27, 2015

Jizzly Bear - April Fool's Day Premiere

Theatrical release at the Main Art


Hysterical, surreal, irreverent… These words get thrown around too willy nilly.
You have to experience this film... And man... It's a weird one. And a fun one... Well... there are a lot of adjectives you could throw at it...


But the first feature film from a local production company, A Casket Full Of RoughDrafts, is a tripped-out, horrorshow of a screwball comedy. It’s a fever-dream frolic into absurdity that almost dares you to laugh, with zaney lines delivers sa serious-as-a-heart-attack with our three wide-eyed heroes, in the middle, trying to fathom the terror(s) that they've unleashed


 Now, if I tell you that this film is titled Jizzly Bear, then your imagination is going to run more rampant than a greased-up, jet-pack-fired Tasmanian devil down an icy luge track. Is there a bear in this film? Yes. Are there certain bodily emissions?  Considerable amounts, yes. But what’s it about?

“I think it’s about friendship…, but there is A LOT of other stuff happening,” said Eric Kozlowski, who plays Burt. “I think you’d have to see it to understand it.”



Jizzly Bear is a vaudevillian fumble-dance through a beautifully nightmare-ish vision of the rural woods of Michigan where a lovable loser winds up unintentionally warping the laws of both biology and zoology, to one day let loose a murderous supernatural new species onto his unsuspecting neighbors (who all thought he was kind of a weirdo, anyway…)  

“It is a truly original comedy-adventure-abstract-real life-animation,” said Allison Laakko, who plays the lead role, Sam. The multifaceted actress, singer and artist donned a collared shirt, slacks and a mustache to transform into the socially-anxious Sam.


Imagine if the Marx Brothers were raised inside the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and met up with a script that was equal parts David Lynch - John Waters with the confetti giggle of Rip Taylor... or if David Cronenberg made a more saccharine Saturday Morning Cartoon... 
That's Jizzly Bear

The film was written and directed by Norman DePlume and produced by Lee Drexel and also stars Jason Glasgow. Jizzly Bear began filming in early summer of last year, in various locations around the state, as far north as the Upper Peninsula and as close by as the end of the street where Laakko lives in metro Detroit.

“I would describe this film as an endearing, comedic, artistic masterpiece…” said Glasgow, who plays Allan, the third friend and fellow hunter of the trio at the center of the film’s escapades. “It’s very easy to fall in love with Sam and Allan and Burt. It’s like the movie Easy Money but with extra inappropriate hilarious content.”

The trio embodies your everymen-type, blue-collar-ish, beer-drinking, heavy-rock music digging dudes who recreationally camp and hunt and fish and experiment with strange new fashion trends from time to time. Sam is the black sheep of the group, geeky yet endearing, just trying not to step on anyone’s toes, let alone an angry grizzly bear’s claws. Allan’s kinda the action-man of the group, the one who might just shoot first, keeping his ear to the ground with a ready-for-anything-intensity. Burt’s a bit more laid back, a little more swagger yet sagely at the same time. I bet he’s into meditation when he’s not hunting bears, but that’s for another movie…

The center of the film is Sam and his predicament with this “Jizzly Bear…”


To be blunt, it's a bit of a trip....  

There are a lot of breathtakingly beguiling sequences in this film, strange non-sequiturs and seemingly anarchic bits exuberantly take over a scene from time to time, with explosive, bawdy and just downright trippy results… But DePlume’s script and direction always brings it back to the focal points, that being the bond between our three main characters and, particularly, the rubber-faced, theatrics of Laako’s impressionistic performance.

As Laakko describes it, back in the spring of 2014, DePlume and fellow filmmaker James Hall were discussing “that age old question…” of what was one’s weirdest masturbation location they could recall? The pair of them started snickering and shouting “Jizz Bear” to everyone within earshot (…since, the film wound up centering around a character pleasuring oneself inside a deerblind out in the woods, with a precocious grizzly bear near the proverbial splash zone). “I was immediately thrilled at the notion of making a bear suit,” Laakko recalls.



Tell us more about the initial reactions you had to this script…
Laakko:
Well, once Norm has his hooks in a ripe idea there's no turning back-the very next night there came all at once a whirlwind of poo and jizz where he sat at his dining room table, and no more than three hours later- when the chaos finally settled down and the crazed laughter and shouts subsided - I knew then that he had really done it this time! A truly original potty humor masterpiece. We read it over and over- we laugh- we cried- we danced tribal dances around his house..it was a glorious sight to behold.

I hadn't originally planned on playing the main character- just peripherals, the bear, the role of prop-maker-art-department-extraordinaire, but after more than a month had gone by and they still hadn't found the main character, I was asked and happily took on the challenge to play Sam.

Glasgow: I’ve never read a book or story the first time and thought it was as funny as Jizzly Bear. Early on, I had no idea I’d be playing Allan and when Norm asked me if I would play him he said to me, “You’ll be playing Allan, the guy who wears the…….”   You’ll have to see the movie because I can’t give out the secret.   After that day, I read the script countless time trying to be the best Allan I could be.
 
Kozlowski: The script only took (DePlume) a few days to write. It started as a joke. I read it in one night and couldn’t stop laughing. I was blown away that (DePlume) took one drunken joke and turned it into an entire movie.



Tell us about the experience of making your own movie, your first movie? How DIY was it, actually?
Kozlowski: Shooting was insane! None of us had ever shot a movie before but that didn’t stop us; we were going to make a feature one way or another. Our good friend Scott West, who films events for a living, helped us a lot. He shot the first scene, which was the biggest help because we got to see him work. It was very DIY and (Laakko) was fantastic in that department. Nobody working on this movie only had one job.
 
Laakko: I was very excited at the challenge of making a bear suit, and a half-man half-bear-suit right from the start, but had absolutely no experience in the field of elaborate animal costume making.
[After some Googling, Laako was able to learn integral aspects from the works of “Furies,” passionate folk who create elaborate homemade animal costumes for quirky, communal conventions].

I was able to find a couple of tutorials that I loosely followed to make my suit, along with trial and error and a continuous viewing of the documentary, "Bears". I first figured out how to make a plaster cast of my head, to ensure the costume fit perfectly, (which took a whole month and a room covered with plaster to get right) and loosely formed the body around a mannequin we conveniently picked up on a whim many months back. All in all it took the duration of the summer to make the suit; using fake fur, upholstery foam, miles of hot glue, and various types of paint. After that I made another man-bear head with a latex cast of my face surrounded by fur…

I don't think there's a single work of art that I've put more time into and I fully intend to make more suits soon - strictly for movie making, not Furry conventions.

I also happily took on the roll of mad scientist in the kitchen until I had the perfect formulas for all of the prop bodily excretions (all vegan of course: mostly cocoa powder, flour and some other fun grains and such for texture). I made Allan's hairpiece with this chocolately dough- and painted Burt's portrait with brownie mix.

I had a lot of help making the cave in our basement. It's amazing how many unorthodox art supplies you can find at the hardware store

Glasgow: As far as the sets and the costumes and all of the accessories, we have to give a big thank you to Allison Lakko.  She made the bear, by hand!  The last scene of the movie, the cave- yea Allison did that too.  We helped obviously, but she did 90% of it- which when you see the movie, you would have no idea where it was shot.  A truly amazing experience, not only to do this, but it was all made by hand.  Check out the Psychic scene, all done by Allison as well.




Allison, can you talk about playing a boy?
Laakko:
It's extremely liberating playing a boy- to only think about being funny, not worrying at all about looking "Good" in front of a camera the way someone might when the character is more of a representation of their true self. I'm very comfortable in my own skin and virtually unaffected by the idea of "making a fool of myself" in daily life, but putting on the man-suit made it even easier to be utterly ridiculous in any scenario.

I've always been a character, I suppose you could say- head in clouds- recorded my own language on a cassette recorder when I was 7 and ran around singing pretend opera all day long, dress-up was a regular routine and the Lawrence Welk Show and Nick at Night were big influences on my childhood. (DePlume) likes to compare my antics to Lucile Ball, which is only fitting considering that she was an idol of mine growing up.



What was the strangest or funniest experience from making this film?
Kozlowski: Everything! …I have heard these jokes a thousand times and still laugh. One scene sticks out: we were in the forest. Our friends Theresa and Kristi came out to help. I never thought I would see my friends throwing fake poo at me while someone filmed it.

Glasgow:
In the woods, we were approached by a park ranger asking what we were actually doing and luckily he happened to pop up on us before we were all covered in a …messy situation. The most fun scenes to film were the deerblind and then in the cave…

Laakko:
Have you been out in the woods with a group of your closest friends and all of a sudden, in broad daylight, decided to completely soak three of them in buckets and buckets of brown stuff? How about getting a huge bowl of white stuff dumped all over your body while donning balloons for boobs in a black, fog-filled room streaked with rainbow strobe-lights, while a life-sized penguin looked on from one corner of the room and an old man with a long white beard gazed from the other corner? Some would call that their worst nightmare, some the best dream they ever had and others, still, would compare it to their worst acid trip. For us, it was just another day on the set of Jizzly Bear!


This being everyone’s first film, what, then was the most fulfilling or rewarding moment for you? When did you realize that this was actually going to come together?
Kozlowski: I think some of our friends that knew we were doing this just thought it wasn’t going to happen. Just, something we were going to joke around with and not complete. (DePlume), Allison, Jay and myself knew from the beginning this was going to be made.

Laakko:
I never had any doubt that we would finish the thing, but Norm’s decision to do the editing himself was a wonderful surprise to us all that really quickened the pace and made it all the more exciting, surprising, and fulfilling to see what we had done, an actual movie we made together. Finishing an actual full length real, great, hilarious movie together. There has been nothing more rewarding and nothing more motivating for me than that. Finishing a real work of art as a team and having the time of our lives doing it.

Glasgow:
I routinely examined and practiced every scene and every line at home in order to be ready for shooting.  I was super concerned with just not screwing up my lines, but I took this very seriously. 




The circumstances of the plot, the action, the dialogue, are crazy funny, yet everyone delivers their lines with such sincerity…
Laakko: First of all, when you take something like this at face value- I mean really believe and understand where Norm was going with the script - it becomes less of a challenge and more of an attempt to make the pages come to life-  it was all right there in this masterfully written script. It's really what fueled the whole project in my opinion. 

Secondly, I don't have years of theater experience under my belt, but the acting classes that I took at OCC were perhaps the most valuable, enlightening, and useful classes that I've ever taken. I would recommend that EVERYBODY take acting classes at some point in there lives whether or not they ever have a desire to act; not because you'll learned some technique on how to project your voice to a crowd, but because you will learn techniques that may help you to FEARLESSLY EMBRACE your voice, to be ok with it being heard in the first place.

Theater, acting, this type of make-believe, this type of "playing" - it's such a release: it is the most incredible therapy for anyone involved because it forces you to confront vulnerability, to express yourself in deeply emotional ways, big and small, to be the center of attention- all in front of a group of peers doing to same thing right after you.

The number one fear of all people is presenting in front of a group, and I overcame that in a huge way because of acting classes.  Also! Laughter is maybe the best reward of it all-I'll never forget a specific moment when I was acting out a made up scene in front of class. I was a (male) art teacher doing some exaggerated character work and my teacher laughed out loud at some faces I made. I'll never forget the feeling that gave me. Being the cause of laughter, creating that sound because you meant to-it's such a joyful feeling! I don't know if I ever said it, but (thank you Diane Hill! Your gift teaching theater has been invaluable to my life.)I hope she can make it to the movie!

Glasgow:
I never once thought during the entire process of the movie that I was an actor or acted like an actor. I wanted to portray the vision in my head as I saw it from reading the script. Looking back on it now I equate it to a form of tunnel vision, such as your favorite guitarist taking you on a journey or a pitcher throwing a no hitter- autopilot to say. That's how ALLAN felt to me, a person with lines to deliver- put them all together and it tells a story. That story was written by Norm. I'm excited for what's next, and even if I only have 4 lines in the next one-  guaranteed it will deliver an awesome story. For the love of art.

Kozlowski: I think us being good friends in real life really helped the sincerity of these characters come across on screen.  I am very happy with the way the casting happened.

Laakko: I feel that if a person is passionate, committed, and serious about what they're creating, there's no way to fail at it short of giving up. BUT! the outcome may not always be what you expected. It's a natural progression for the artist- you have the idea: what you picture it looking like in the end, the execution of said Idea: actually making the damn thing, and the final outcome: the finished product.

The more time, effort, and attempts made towards that idea, A: the closer the finished product may mirror the initial idea, and B: the more that initial idea will morph into something greater than you ever expected it could become. I feel that that is exactly what happened with this movie for everyone involved- the final outcome could have never been predicted and was greater than any of us could have imagined. We had no idea what to expect, yet we pushed forward with progress fueled momentum until the last scene was filmed.

Norm taught us all about the importance of self propulsion through setting phantom deadlines. I don't think we would have ever finished without him making sure we stuck to timeline we originally planned on for the most part.

Then after we celebrated filming the final scene, Norm surprised us and saved the day once again by making the decision to blindly tackle editing the movie himself with nothing to go on but a natural knack for creating an amazing  rhythm with sound and vision; and a detail oriented precision that only years of creating in other fields could have taught him.





Laakko: None of us could have imagined the end result - funnier than we had even realized, yet also carrying with it an austerity and an earnestness that couldn't have been written in, even though the script was very precisely followed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Junglefowl (Debut EP)

Damn… Ya know, I could’ve caught Ypsi-duo JUNGLEFOWL two weeks ago during the Hamtramck Music Festival. Granted, there were more than a hundred bands to see in less than 48 hours… But still…



Check out this frenetic, fired up single they released earlier this month. Scintillating psyche-blues with pummeling garage-rocked drum slams, shifting tempos from a strutting pop-hook in its opening verses to a Sleater-Kinney-esque yowled-out, wall-punching chorus, only to slow it down for a bluesy, slithering solo.


As the lyrics suggest, the duo of Melissa Coppola on drums and Stefan Carr on guitar/bass, are certainly showing their teeth on this track, with the electrified-urgency implied when “…the show’s about to go, now!”

JUNGLEFOWL’s debut EP Strut, (produced by the essential Mr. Jim Roll,) comes out this Saturday (March 28th), with a release party at the Crossroads bar in Ypsilanti. (8 PM / $5) 


Tanager, The Eres and White Bee are opening the show. All proceeds will benefit a new non profit called Girls Rock Detroit, a community organization fostering girls’ creative expression, positive self-esteem and awareness through rock music education and performance: http://on.fb.me/1H5CN6I

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Crappy Future - "Internet Caché

Call it what you will: fuzz-gnarled electro-psyche and funkified space-rock...

Crappy Future - Internet Caché









I think it's form of a form of folk music, anthems for a people put upon by an exasperating, corrupted and idle system, transmitted to us from a not-so-far-off Future that we're just not ready to love, yet...or from a parallel dimension we're certainly not ready to understand... 

That doesn't mean you can't vibe with this:


The melodies are playful and wobbily, the choruses (once you decipher through the vocoders and reverb) are anthemic and easy to singalong-with, the guitars sound cool and have some hooky riffs and then there's those dazzling saxophones purring and synthesizers oscillating over hand-clappable drum beats. 

Crappy Future's a Detroit-based quartet (Ben Audette, Scotty Iulianelli, Jeff Spatafora, Justin Walsh) that are hear to wake you up to how crappy this supposedly advanced civilization we've couched ourselves into really is...and warn us, melodically with furious synth/guitar intonations, of how crappy the future could yet become if we don't start opening our eyes... 

Until then, "Keep Working..."
 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Passalacqua - At The Party

Passalacqua
"At The Party"



That warbling synth slaloming over the beats and through the wheezy flutes, it clasps together in an aural evocation of all the busy background noises and half-deciphered/over-your-shoulder shushes, gasps and outbursts one traffics through when they wend their way through a smoky, loud, crowded house, creaky floors and chipped paint, records spinning under luminescence of a lava lamp and....hey, what's that smell?




With fine production from Dr. B, one of Detroit's premier hip-hop projects, the Passalacqua, come back to the stage with this single, a smooth, subtle and sinuous provocation that follows up the roof-raising soul-eruption of last summer's Church. 


MC's Blaksmith and Mister have mastered the art of introspective/observational raps, 1 part self-deprecating/charismatic humor and 3 parts soul-staring self-contemplation; the weary-eyed attendant whose in the mix and moving to the beats but stewing through the knottier worries on his  mind as he finds a quiet second to cut to the chase of: what are we doing here... The poetry that picks apart another wasted night and implores the thinkers and the writers and the doers and those who can still give a care to not just willfully lose yourself to the empty pageantry of "...the party..." Where we wear a mask, sometimes or where we don't even know majority of the attendees. Social stress, man... Modern day anxie-ty at the party.... "Go dumb...at the party..." To live your life for the party?

Passalacqua's Banglatown EP comes out on April 14th.
https://www.facebook.com/passalacquamusic
For more, check out Detroit Music Magazine's premier. 

photo by Mikel O.D. 

Maraj - Move On It

The multifaceted, genre-defiant collective from Kalamazoo, Maraj, are traveling to Detroit next weekend. Call it soul, funk and/or hip-hop, call it all of that all at once... Throw in some electronica and R&B...



Live bass, looped beats, sampler, synth, dual hook singers and dual MCs; a seven-piece out of Kzoo brandishing "Pine Desert Soul." Everything I've heard has had a freshness, a frenetic riff, a propulsive, intricately arranged beat and an enticing overall energy, a mini hip-hop orchestra with its own graceful, grooving flux.



Maraj joins Red Pill at The Majestic Cafe on Friday, March 27th. Nortroniks and MC Friendly, both from Grand Rapids, will also be performing. (Doors 8 PM / Music 9 PM / $5 - http://on.fb.me/1xeezUH) 

Red Pill, meanwhile, has had quite a 2015, so far, having signed onto Mello Music Group for the forthcoming release of Look What This World Did To Us (April 7). Red Pill (aka Chris Orrick) has spent the last five years distinguishing himself with his memoir-esque rap poetry pouring out confessional bars heavy with contemplative relays and gut-punched imagery. The lead single for his album is streaming below.



Joining Red Pill for this event is the exceptional DJ/producer Hir-O, with whom he released "The Kick" back in 2013. Check it out

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ancient Language - Totem

Detroit-based trip-hop/ambient house producer Chris Jarvis, a.k.a. Ancient Language started streaming his latest single, "Totem," this week via Soundcloud. Listeners can pick up a new record by Ancient Language (on 7" vinyl from New Fortune Records), later on in May.


https://soundcloud.com/ancientlanguage/totem

Celestial synths sigh their way into the track, like a meditative exercise before the danceable beat kicks in... Not that this is any raging rave of a track; it feels more like a montage, or a poem that shifts into several stanzas (only, as an instrumental composition, its Jarvis wending and weaving of wintry-tones and and a cascade of spaced-out warbles and chimes from seraphic synths that sing for him). 

The mid-tempo beat, bolstered by an arched-shouldered, fuzzed-out bass, keeps something more akin to a pulse rather than an overt instigation to dance, its more a cerebral stride, a walk to nowhere or to anywhere under an uncannily luminescent night-sky... But the track continues to build, introducing three more looping synth arrangements onto the soundscape somehow finding a way to suture each added element into a new and balanced harmony every eighth measure, or so... 

The swell of tones and graceful dance of dueling melodies evokes that certain transcendence inherent to techno - that moment where it nearly overwhelms the ears and the beat takes you over and your only recourse is to close your eyes and let the music take your mind where it will... No, I'm not on drugs as I write this - I'm only listening to "Totem..."

More info: https://soundcloud.com/ancientlanguage/totem  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mac Starr - Teenage Dreams

Whether through previous collaborations like Nightbeast or Double Weirdo, Ypsi-based song maker Mac Starr has continually demonstrated a proclivity towards the nice and naïve-sounding melodies of bubblegum pop. But he’s not so much reviving or throwing-back to the early 60’s sound with that fx-shrouded shimmy-bop affectation to his excitable half-doo-wopped croon, so much as he’s applying his own signature mutation to a classic rock n’ roll sound, dousing a bit of distortion over the whole thing and keeping his riffs raw. 



It makes sense, then, that Mac would dub these keyed-up blemish-baring lo-fi boogies to be “Teenage Dreams,” since rock n’ roll itself was the voice of/for/and by the youth. It also makes sense that this album would be picked up by Wiener Records, since it’s a subsidiary of California-based Burger Records; this kind of caustic charisma is their bed & butter.


There’s passion, awkwardness, standoffishness, there’s enthusiasm, there’s angst and there’s heartbreak – all of the myriad emotions, notions and commotions we all experienced as a teenager slumping towards adulthood. These songs span steam-blowing throttlers like “Please Stop,” gritty, atonal-yowls and smoldering psychedelia like “Why Can’t It Be? (Are We?)” and surfy/soaring synth-enhanced grooves like “Specific Locations” (this writer’s particular favorite). 




Once you get through this EP, (his first as a solo artist,) you realize that Mac Starr’s take on pop/rock is similar to True Romance’s take on the boy-meets-girl genre… It’s a boy baring his heart and exorcising a few demons from his teenage days, days that aren’t so far away from him that he can’t tap back into their fun, fantastic fretfulness…  “Bin Diggers” might be the integral track; erratic time signatures, driving beats, howling chorus, expressing individuality through nostalgia for a certain kind of beautiful noise… And a xylophone. Why not?

http://www.wienerrecords.org/
Mac Starr 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fred Thomas: All Are Saved



I’ve written half a’ thousand album reviews in the last 10 years and very few of them found me speechless to begin.

Fred Thomas – “Bad Blood” (from All Are Saved)

Fred Thomas, a Michigan musical mainstay all too familiar to Arbor/Ypsi crowds (Saturday Looks Good To Me, Swimsuit, City Center, Life Like Tapes,) has released his eighth proper solo album (All Are Saved via Polyvinyl) and I don’t know where to begin.



Perhaps I’m just driving myself crazy over dissecting every tone, timbre and sonic element he’s mingling together here, some crowded jungle of audionic curiae thrumming with an organic harmony (and a few bits of cathartic disharmony) be it a droning synth under the shush of a dragging cymbal, or the understated mellow murmur of a guitar strumming way down in the mix beneath the curious chirping sample flitted through the aesthetically purposeful fog of tape hiss. Or the brass? The haunting off-mic vocal howls?

Or should I zero in on just his voice, (his multi-tracked voices, rather,) beautifully obscured by delay or distortion like vibrant turquoise water color paintings smooshed up against a frosted glass pane, hitting a high creaky register when he really gets into it or a low and captivating whoosh of anxious ache varyingly spattered in a poet’s speak-sing style or crooned in a hummy sort of splay.

There are no distinct edges to anything, no crisp snap of one sound against the next, it all bleeds and merges, be it one reverberation of an electric guitar into the woozy throb of a babbling synth. This is an album that can glow even brighter with its mysterious melds when one wears headphones. There is no beat to dance to and no chorus can be (easily) memorized and yet it consistently captivates. There is plenty of caustic noise curtained into an aural ambiance and nervous rancor wrung from the calmly seethed vocals of his most emotive vocals and yet it keeps you, calms you. It can be some techno-tribal cacophony fitfully clicking its rhythms under a climbing guitar riff being gently divebombed by a whirring synthesizer only to crash into the baroque charms of a brass section.

This album defies categorization. You can’t sit down to write a review about it. You can only warn your fellow travelers who are about to traverse the same sonic trails from whence you’ve just returned that you’re going to need way more than boots, you might need some rope, a machete maybe…and a heart that’s twice as open as your mind… The high school journal, the tour diary, the old tapes on his shelf and the out of tune instruments in his attic and everything he’s been thinking lately and all of those muddled-together music memories, all of it crashing and tumbling together in a contemplative tornado that blows both hot and cold, curdled and content to finally let loose these expressions, not overtly autobiographical but more like actualized pronouncements from the crinkled pages of a dream log. 

Fred Thomas’ All Are Saved is available via Polynvinyl Records. http://bit.ly/1LuOqDX




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Honeyblood



Honeyblood perform next Wednesday  (Mar 4)  at the UFO Factory  (2110 Trumbull St, Detroit)
with  2:54  - -
9 pm  /  $10
More info








Towards the end of 2014, Glasgow duo Honeyblood lingered at the top of my weekly playlists. Sometimes they get shunted into the whole "OMG the 90's are back" ovation among the indie-rock fans across the Internet, charmed, no doubt, by their blend of sweetened tones, tight harmonies and jangly guitars with some poetically vitriolic lyrics and considerably aggressive percussive rushes under just the right amount of distorting fuzz.

But their vocal strengths, sensibilities for a surefire hook and laidback poise present something that should be taken on its own terms and not lazily compared to a bunch of established bands. Much less than reminding me of my favorite singles of the 90's, Honeyblood songs like "Killer Bangs" and "Fall Forever" are getting so assuredly stuck in my head, with their relentless and swift jolt and punch under sunny, soaring vocalizations that they start to drown out any worn-out Breeders or Throwing Muses jam still rattling around up there. Bring on a new sound of bittersweet pop, of irresistible melodic hooks and breezy guitar bursts, one where we don't have to drop any names to legitimize it...

And check it out for yourself, next week, when they join 2:54 at the UFO Factory.
Honeyblood's debut full length is available through Fat Cat Records.

Here's a new song by Honeyblood - "No Big Deal"


2:54 released The Other And I (Bella Union) towards the end of 2014. Streaming below is the brooding and beautiful lead single "In The Mirror."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Of Montreal - Aureate Gloom

You tell me what an Of Montreal album sounds like...




Kevin Barnes' episodic sonic odyssey unveils an altogether new realm distinct from the several records preceding it; with one shared characteristic sustained - that the listener will need a dictionary for every other verse's erudite effulgence, with the Athens-bred songsmith masterfully tetris-ing tough and terrific two dollar words into melodic cadences over guitar-centric arrangements that evoke a rainbow-lightning struck dimension where he mellifluously melds fluttering paisley psychedelia with rambunctious, reverb-smacked swagger of garage-rock.

That said, Of Montreal albums have also conjured gothic Americana twang, sexy, sweat-beaded funk raves and spooky nursery rhyme folk balladry. Of Montreal, that is to say, Barnes, has never settled on any one sonic or stylistic island long enough to be considered a native of any specific aesthetic. With Aureate Gloom, he's embracing the foot-stomping, yowl-it-out clang and clatter of garage rock, with crunched out guitars and rollicking rhythms, mean-sounding minor keys that growl and bend with a wall-punching catharsis exerted under Barne's voice, distorted or teased with fuzz or heavy echo effects.



Lead single "Bassem Sabry" kicks things off with one of the few reliably danceable beats, an enticing disco sway and snap under wicked funk riffs. It's a curious blend of baroque-styles and electronica, with a sleek synthesizer grooving along with maudlin violins, but of course Barnes finds a way to make this work - even charming you with the singalong-ability into a call & response that conjures witches and cellophane monstrosities. Because no matter how weird things get it's always catchy; no matter how muddy the mix gets, no matter how caustic the tones or how literate the lyrics, Barnes still maintains a sensibility for the purest pop structures, from British Invasion to Doo-Wop, Girl group swoons to Laurel Canyon poetry.

"Empyrean Abattoir" pulses with an aerobic beat and a nervy basslick jogging to keep up with tight cymbal taps. Here, Barnes exudes the whispery weariness in his voice that would tie into the "golden despondency" of the album's title. While each Of Montreal album sounds substantially distinct, among the few common elements is the phantasmagoric deluge of Barnes' verbiage, a sensational kalidoscope of emotions, each song like a hardened melodrama quirked with colorful intonations and dreamlike/nightmare-ish recollections and longings... How could something so raw sound so divine? That's the magic of Of Montreal and it's on full dispaly with Aureate Gloom. 

And that magic, pure and peculiar, will usually transmit to the core of you, dear listener, with every gritty, riffy track, as long as you're willing to brave the unknowable wilds of a new Of Montreal album, foreign sonic terrain as it usually is, exotic and strange and comforting all at once; there is a poignant pop to be harvested here... But are you digging for gold or for gloom? If both, then bring two knapsacks.

Out March 3 via Polyvinyl 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rap Round Robin 2015


"I've found that this show is a magnet for musicians who want something new to happen."

Baltimore-based rapper Height Keech got involved in Rap Round Robin tours and concerts back in 2007 during the boom days of that scene's eccentric game-changing Wham City art collective. His friends inside Wham City had already toured this same format (with the audience in the middle of a performance space encircled by 3-5 groups performing one song each in a clockwise roulette) and it was a success with groups like Future Islands and Dan Deacon.

After eight years, Height has found that Rap Round Robin is a show for musicians "...who can envision the potential benefits of taking a risk and trying something different."
"I'm not sure what to anticipate," said Mister (a.k.a. Bryan Lackner) as he and Blaksmith (Brent Smith) prepare to join this year's tour as Passalacqua. "I prefer it that way. Let it unfold as it will..."

Height was one of the lesser-known acts to join that initial Wham City Round Robin tour. "But, still, I felt like an equal part of the show, not like an opening act. And so I came back wanting to try an all hip-hop round robin. Baltimore's hip-hop scene was still very small then, but I felt like our little corner of it was a hot-bed of interesting, far out and fun music that no one was really taking seriously. I wanted to give all that music it's own space."

Lackner said he appreciates the give-and-take aspect of Round Robins and how it can sharpen an MC's adaptability. "We'll be working with the energy of different performers every night, so each show will carry a unique weight. I'm looking forward to that..."

Detroit/Michigan dates in April


Here's how this will go down:
Three touring hip-hop acts, Height, Passalacqua and Eze Jackson, will embark on a two-month tour across the U.S., inviting three local acts based in each community they visit to join them. Three stages will be set up around the perimeter of the room and each act performs one song per "round" before passing it on to the next act in the circle.


And just as Height mentioned, there really is no headliner. You, listener, audience member, participant...are in the middle; non-stop action.

After organizing the first Rap Round Robin, Height saw how this show, with its unique set-up, could "...shatter the alienation one can feel at a local hip-hop show, and create that's moving and visceral."

As the years went on, its popularity grew and the scope of the tours expanded. "I felt like this was our way of building the bridge between Baltimore's various micro-hip-hop scenes and the larger music community," said Height.

By its fifth year, several Baltimore MC's were "...popping out of hte woordwork trying to get booked...feeling they just had to play (it)," recalls Height. Being the ringleader of a big rap extravaganza such as this can burn anyone out, Height included. With the pressure of organizing it and the anxiety over excluding anyone, he stepped back and put Rap Round Robin on hiatus.

But around 2013, friends and fans started suggesting to Height that he try an experiment with his upcoming tour and consider turning each of his dates into Round Robin affairs. "I tried it in Asheville, Pittsburgh and Detroit and I realized how feasible it could be as a touring show."
Height realized what a powerful tool Rap Round Robin could be for MC's to take control of the chaos that is DIY touring. "It felt like we brought a point to something that can feel pointless, and warmth to something that can be cold."

"The indie hip-hop world is half-full of people that are hungry to take things into their own hands," Height said. "And, it's half-full of lazy dudes that just want to get high. So, it's cool to see how the (Round Robin) concept attracts people that have a little moxie and smokes out the people that don't want to rock the boat."



The list of upcoming Rap Round Robin 2015 tour dates are below. Meanwhile, you can sample songs from Eze Jackson here, including last fall's L.I.V.E. N.O.W. ep


Passalacqua are currently finishing up a new album (their fourth full length) with producer Zach Shipps (whose worked with Electric Six and many more). The duo's taking a different approach for this one, writing the songs in the studio right along with Shipps beat production. Look for it later this year.

Height, meanwhile, has a new album called Talk Singer with guitar/piano-based songs that prove to be his most musical and "...least rappish" work todate. Talk Singer, Height says, "deals with rising above the doom and despiare that we, as struggling creative people, all feel inside."
2015 Rap Round Robin dates

B Rich (Ontario dates only)
PT Burnem (Northeast dates only)



3.06 - Baltimore, MD- The Crown
3.07 - Annapolis, MD - Metropolitan Kitchen
3.08 - Richmond, VA - Gallery 5
3.09 - Greenville, NC - Limelight
3.10 - Chapel Hill, NC - Zog's Poolhall
3.11 - Elon, NC - Fat Frogg
3.12 - Charlotte, NC - Milestone
3.13 - Columbia, SC - Conundrum
3.14 - Charleston, SC - Redux Contemporary Art Center
3.15 - Savannah, GA - Graveface Records
3.16 - Orlando, FL - The Space
3.17 - Camp Hill, AL - Sound Lounge
3.18 - Auburn, AL - Balcony Bar
3.21 - Asheville, NC - Odditorium
3.22 - Knoxville, TN - Pilotlight
3.23 - Nashville, TN - Cafe Coco
3.24 - Little Rock, AR - Houser House
3.25 - Houston, TX - Super Happy Fun Land
3.26 - Austin, TX - The Center Spot
3.28 - Los Angeles, CA - Los Globos
3.29 - San Francisco, CA- Milk Bar
3.30 - Portland, OR - Ash Street Saloon
3.31 - Olympia, WA - Deadbeat Records
4.01 - Seattle, WA - Vermillion
4.02 - Olympia, WA - Le Voyeur
4.03 - Missoula, MT - Stage 112
4.04 - Billings, MT - Railyard
4.06 - Denver, CO - Lost Lake
4.07 - Kansas City, KS - FOKL
4.10 - Grand Rapids, MI- Billy's
4.11 - Detroit, MI - PJ's Lager House
4.13 - Cleveland, OH - Pat's In The Flats
4.14 - Youngstown, OH - Knox
4.15 - Pittsburgh, PA - Howler's
4.16 - Buffalo, NY - Gypsy Parlor
4.19 - Kingston, ON - The Mansion +
4.20 - Ottawa, ON - Ritual +
4.21 - Dover, NH - Spun Records *
4.22 - Portland, ME - The Asylum*
4.23 - Providence, RI - AS220 *
4.26 - Manchester, NH- The Shaskeen *
4.27 - New Haven, CT - Crunch House *
4.29 - Brooklyn, NY - The Flat *
4.30 - Trenton, NJ - Champs *
5.01 - Philadelphia, PA - Magic Pictures*
5.02 - Baltimore, MD - Windup Space *

+ w/ B Rich
* w/ PT Burnem

Passalacqua 'THE BAPTISM' featuring SYBLYNG & Hygienic Dress League [Official] from The Right Brothers on Vimeo.





Rap Round Robin 2015