Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Choose or Lose 2008 - Locksley at the Magic Stick 10 / 9

The power-pop revival we saw in the early 90’s meets the garage-revival we saw in the late 90’s, meets the indomitable Beatles-school-of-pop that we saw…well,... that’s never needed any kind of revival

…and Locksley’s sugary fuzz-rock and sunny harmonies and hand-clappable-hooks are a euphoric celebration of that unabashed embrace of Brit-pop.

The Brooklyn-based quartet is currently touring (not only in support of their recent release, Don’t Make Me Wait, on Feature Records) but also as part of MTV’s quad-annual Choose-Or-Lose Tour – to fight the good fight of mobilizing the citizenry to not only register—but to VOTE!

Locksley - “All Over Again”

“Why Can’t I Be You” live

The show is Thursday, October 9th at the Magic Stick and also serves to spread awareness of Veteran’s rights.

You can read more about the band and MTV’s political/community/activist Web site, “Think”


Or, the band’s site…

Register this week! Get your friends to register! Vote!


Coming Soon: The Deep Cutz - State of the Union

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview: Mason Proper's Jonathan Visger

This week on Deep Cutz...we explore the intriguing intricacies of the artistic experience, particularly in the heat of creation - examined here through the anecdotal regalings of Jonathan Visger, singer, guitarist and primary writer in Ann Arbor's Mason Proper.

In nostalgic, romantic reverence for the album-as-artform, we delve deep into the mental, physical and sometimes spiritual...(or...just dreamlike) journey of writing and recording Olly Oxen Free, the cerebral, rhythm-driven daydream odyssey that is the group's 2nd full-length. (Out now on Dovecoat Records - www.dovecoterecords.com/ - with reviews here - and, from Real Detroit--here.

Mason Proper--Jon Visger: The Deep Cutz Interview

Milo / DC: Can you describe the experience of creating the album? starting from when you got back from tour back in the early parts of the year? what were you going through, what did these songs mean for you?

Jon Visger: As soon as we got back from our tour, I disappeared to my secret hideout, hermited up, and tried to write as many songs as I possibly could. I just wrote and wrote and wrote. Usually I would get 1-2 fairly developed ideas out in a day, although some days I'd have burnout, and so I'd work on mixing the solo EP I released earlier thisyear, North South Pt. I.

We met up with Chris Coady, who works on the TV on the Radio records, and with Blonde Redhead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, tons of people... I sort of sat back and the band went through about 30 songs that I brought, and Chris made a list too, and we looked at what the crossreferences were, and other than piping in that I thought Safe for the Time Being had to be on the album, I didn't pick the songs. I was surprised and excited with what everybody chose. I was even a little scared at some of them... Shiny was just a 30 second fragment, and Alone was a similar sort of thing. Alone was so weird, I was surprised they chose it, but I was really happy that element would beon our record, which otherwise could seem a little too smooth or something.

After that 4 day session of getting our heads on straight, we rented an empty wooden house for 30 days, which was all the time we had if we wanted to be on schedule to release it this year instead of next January. I was out there every day trying to push forward somehow, and working with whoever else from the band was available that day...I would always just crank it up and go press my face to the window and watch all the cars going by... It was on a busy street. I'd listen to the music and try to pretend it wasn't us, and looked at the people in their cars and imagined myself as one of them, listening to this music, and I'd ask myself if the music would be doing what I would wish it was doing if I were just driving somewhere.

Whenever something would pop in that pulled me out of my daydream, I'd remove it. Sometimes it would leave a hole that something else had tofill, but more often than not it was fine without it. Most of the songs sounded cool with just the drums and bass alone, so we figured there was no reason to force anything else in that didn't absolutely need to be there.

Most of the lyrics reflect the sort of dark sense of humor we developed over the past few years, but especially last year. We just had some bad luck here and there, getting stranded again and again, equipment failures at key moments. We learned to laugh at our own troubles. It got a little out of hand there for a while, and I thinkI was reveling in bad things happening, and maybe inviting some of them to happen, but that subsided eventually.

Milo: So, in that house...can you tell more of the recording experience, the set up...

JV: Well, the house was just a very small wooden house with really high ceilings on an extremely busy corner. Traffic noise was just a fact of life on this album... though usually it was really low frequencies we could just filter out.

Our recording setup was modest... I used Logic 7, and we bought an Apogee Ensemble to use for the first 14 days, then returned it, and finished up using my less-high end Presonus Firestudio. We used pretty much the same Rode microphone for everything, except the drums. Most of the keyboards were reamped through a Vox AC15. We only had one external preamp/compressor. A lot of the sampling found it's way onto Matt's reel to reel tape machine to be screwed with and muddied up before coming back to digital.

We were really adamant about keeping anything we liked from the demo versions. In particular, the vocals from "Fog," "Point A to Point B,"and "Out Dragging the River" are all the demo vocals from the first day I made them up. I figured that you never get it more right than the way you sing it the day you wrote it. You know what you mean then. After that, you kind of start imitating your memory of that day. This was an afterthought though... I didn't tell Chris this, but the vocals on Fog were me singing into the internal microphone on my laptop... He turned them up and said, "These sound really noisy and thin." I was just like, "Yeah... they are pretty noisy, huh." It is a testament to his mixing skills that he got them to sound so good. Who needs a U87? Some of the guitar on Downpour is recorded through my laptop mic too, right when Brian made the part up in Zac's living room. You can hear the original drum loop I used for Point A to Point B coming through when the vocal harmonies come in. They phase and get weird, but I like it.

(photos 2 & 3 by: Cristina Mezuk)

Milo: How long have you been playing...and detail your experience in recording?

JV: Music has been my main hobby for a good 8 years or so. It's about the same for everybody in the band. We all sort of played together, or in different bands, in high school. I quick college after one semester to go to recording school at the Recording Institute of Detroit. I went through the whole program, all the classes, and all that was left was to get an internship at a recording studio. I never did that, because I didn't want to work at a studio. I just wanted the knowledge. Now I sort of wish I had. If anybody from the RID is reading this, you should give me an honorary certificate. I've recorded tons of stuff! GIMMIE THAT CERTIFICATE!

Zac's got a lot of recording experience too, doing his own stuff and his previous bands, and Matt has his own weird sound collage production style he brings to the party. I'm hoping to get more into recording and producing things for other people.

Milo: Words I often find others (and myself) using to describe your songs are:> restrained, dark, pensive...heavy... what is song creation like for you and what pushes you to create music?

JV: Song creation is just about the greatest thing in the world. I like it a lot more than performing. There are just so many elements at play, affecting different parts of people. The beat affects your body, the lyrics affect your conscious brain, the melodies and arrangement work with your emotions and your subconscious. It's unbelievably rewarding to try to figure out how to balance those things. So much of it is instinct. It's always hard for me to continually trust my instinct. You start out on instinct, then youget some bright idea, and you THINK it's all great, but your instinctis telling you it's wrong, but you don't want to admit that this idea that you love so much doesn't actually work and is messing everythingup.

It's very painful to kill that idea eventually and not look back, but at the end of the day you are always SO happy it's gone.

I think it's really painful and hard to make music, and art in general, when you're putting it out there for everybody to kick around. It's because it's a difficult thing that it ends up being so rewarding. People put things out there that they really love, and sometimes everybody hates it. Sometimes they hate it for what seems like the wrong reasons. If you change, somebody will hate it. If you stay the same, somebody will hate that. Somebody else will love you for both of those things. But nobody owes anything to an artist they don't like. Just because you worked hard on something, does not mean you are automatically entitled to anyone's respect. The harder you try to make something really good, the more it's going to hurt when somebody thinks it's no good. However, at least they thought aboutit. At least you communicated something out to the global culture, and it communicated back. It beats just hiding under your bed and hoping nobody finds you.

It's a cliche, but in the end, most things worth doing are hard. Making this album was hard. Surviving as a band, holding it together, is hard. But those are the two things I am most proud of in my life so far.





or, more Mason Proper in this week's issue of Real Detroit Weekly--or here

Saturday, September 27, 2008

John Sinclair - Poet in Residence at the Bo-House - October 2nd

Detroit's treasured poet, vital social leader, activist and all around enthusiast of the unifying and liberating powers of music and...marijuana, John Sinclair, turns 67 on October 2nd.

Concurrently, Detroit's haven for spritual celebrations of weirddom and wonder, for more intimate and uncompromisingly expressive acts, The Bohemian National Home, has been going through some transitions lately, with a refreshed mission to show an even greater support for the arts - you can learn more about The Bo-House, here

Utilizing a close relationship with artist-management Detroit Life, the Bo-House will host a ceremony to celebrate, not only Sinclair's birthday, but also to officially designate the former MC5 manager and founder of the Detroit Aritst's Workshop as offical Poet-In-Residence of the Bo-House.

On October 2nd - The Bo-House will present John with a key to an in-house apartment with a lifelong rent-free lease. And you are encouraged to come share in the celebration -

Music starts at 9pm with the great producer/drummer RJ Spangler, leading swing/jazz consortium Planet D Nonet (co-founded with James O’Donnell, who, with Spangler, were both mentored by Sinclair.)

at 10:30 p.m. there will be a live featurette with John performing and to close out the night, those in attendance will be treated to an always cerebral and psychedelic Pinkeye set - which will also feature John as the eye of the sound storm.

It should, indeed, be an insanely magical night.

More info here - http://www.myspace.com/locognosis

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ferndale - DIY

(words: Jeff Milo)

A belated recounting of the DIY STREET FAIR…as I was slowly working on some grandiose reflection on the whole summer’s worth of events, concerts, gatherings and great local music…but the rest of that may be for another day…

Meanwhile, looking back to September 20th and 21st…on Troy St. in Ferndale…

In any direction I looked I saw a smile – and anyone I talked to couldn’t help but remark on how groovy this thing was…how well it was going…the ideal set up, the ideal location, the great line up of bands…the great performances…the great art…the great beer….it was all just great.

“Or, to put it in your words,” my friend Tom offered, patting me on the shoulder at the edge of the stage as Deastro set up for the final set of the weekend, “…glorious.”

Yeah, it was – thanks greatly to Carey Gustafson and Chris Johnston, and the dedicated board who worked their asses off over the summer to organize this inaugural event. As each person I ran into continued their marvels at the smoothness of the fair, the flow of the band performances and the encouraging turn out, I continued to tell them – “just wait till next year!” And the year after that…as hopefully this year’s FERNDALE DIY STREET FAIR was only the first in what hopefully becomes a grand tradition.

Ferndale’s own signature celebration of art, music and camaraderie. And it is worth noting how great of a summer we really have had – thus that this solstice-set celebration closed it out with an appropriate amount of reflection, reverence and promise…

It was a block party really, for many of the Detroit regulars who call Ferndale home – like The Nice Device, Electric Fire Babies, Dutch Pink and the Hard Lessons – and for some eastsiders (the Muggs) and westsiders (the Pop Project) and in-between (Deastro, the High Strung.)

The Pop Project, the High Strung and the Nice Device brought their usual dependable live-vigor and dashing on-stage personality to the street, while the Muggs and Hard Lessons brought their characteristic passion in visceral rock-glorifying exhilaration. The Electric Fire Babies, having rapped a bit with WDET’s Craig Fahle on Detroit Today before the show, brought what some referred to as the most flavorful set, the most distinct sounding (funk/booty/rap-hybrid) with a comparably dynamic live-presence. Deastro, as he always does, showcased his pop propensity and his band’s indomitable spirit. Esquire shook up the suburbs with his sultry raps, Silverghost debuted some spectacular new-wave leaning material and Charlie Slick performed one of the best sets of his dance-ballad-belting-glitter-splattered-career…as he was the headliner for night one.

But, most importantly, kudos to the city of Ferndale for supporting DIY STREET FAIR—and many kudos to all the volunteers and artists who helped put it on.

See you all next year...

band links:




Dutch Pink photo by


Nice Device photo by
no trams to lime street

Coming up: Yeasayer, Deerhoof, Ted Leo + more
Currently: Of Montreal!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping...

Links: http://www.polyvinylrecords.com/artists/index.php?id=294


Of Montreal - "Id Engager"

I think Kevin Barnes is losing his mind. Or, at least, one of us is… locking yourself deep into the headphones for this nerve-jolting freakified dance-blitz, as psychopathic as it is psychedelic, can start making you feel a bit wound up. Long-time fans of the Athens, GA band (led indomitably by Barnes) will only find fragments of the characteristic 60’s harmony-heavy Brit-invasion conceptual rock-n’-psyche-folk as the shooting-star-flamboyancy of Barnes delves deep into the raunchy, dirty, frilly, animalistic gnaw-n-grab and strip-n-strut depths of dance floor infinities.

…weird and winding and sometimes blushing and erotic.

Just out there.

Yeah, at times I feel lunacy creeping in…not so much palpably in the mind of Barnes, (though at some junctures – "Had the mind to call your name, internally
Through my seventh sense that's hallucinating / Anyway we're artifacts of demigodly zero logic denizens…" one starts to wonder how much of the mentally-splintered iceberg we've chipped away at…) but no, that's all well and good, It is, as I said, a creeping lunacy, more in a haunting, possessive sort of way—into my own mind, and, hopefully, yours.

The lyrics lead you into labyrinths, the singer – who is, let us not forget, often speaking through the mouth and mannerisms of a newly invented (or born?...certainly not manufactured, but maybe conjured?) character, known as Georgie Fruit, who peaked his late-40's black, bisexual sex-change-ridden self out from the swirling hurricane of the 12-minute odyssey "The Past is a Grotesque Animal," in the middle of 2007's Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer—yes, the singer, be it Barnes or Fruit, often shakes its bony ass, cock-o-the-walk-ing over the frame and turns to face you, strutting backwards and leading you further and further down winding halls, coaxing you with a sticky solitary finger waving on and on toward the glossy lips of this fowl-mouthed f-bomb dropping narrator.

You're shouting to yourself, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE—but are somewhat arrested by the techno beats, as lights flash and strange warbles roar from invisible corners of melting rooms that have no windows—man, where am I getting all this junk, wait, what the fuck IS going on here?…beats, dance, electronica, wafts of the fun-n-fancy-free bizarre celebration born in Sunalndic Twins and further pulsated with Hissing Fauna, but used here only as a pretext for Barnes to really (and I mean really) open up the shiny golden gates of his purple-wavy-waterbed odyssey of a mind – a spinning circular room that he retreated into…a cerebral cage populated by a talented piano/acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriter (the shy Barnes we saw develop through the late 90's and early 00's) – sitting on some brain sofa, looking noticeably upset with varying synapses of sweet sugary ballads of inverted reflections of love and community now clouded in an alluring manner by Prince-like peacock spewing sultry dirty-talk of making you come 200 times a day – simultaneously naïve (perhaps out of irony?) and well-worn (that raunchy sort of back-alley transsexual prostitute rabble) in sexual drive and prowess.

Yes, and this is still an Of Montreal album – per se. It's more like an elaborate (sometimes overly so) self-exploration…where Barnes is singing to himself in the voice of Fruit, then singing back to Fruit as Barnes – but Fruit seems to win – or at least, Barnes wants him too…where we've gone from singing about living out in the country and beetle bugs and sleeping in the poppies and going on gay parades – now we want you to be our pleasure puss, how your ass is pumping, how Barnes (or Fruit?) is a mother-fucking headliner, bitch, you don't even know it…disco and glam and bisexual wandering and slip-sliding all through this orgiastic basement romp of sometimes-frightening psychological dissections and character revelations. Man…at some point here I need to wind down and talk about these songs…if that's possible…

You see, they flow, quite seamlessly at times, into each other, the back-end just ramming right into the next synth crescendo of the next track and spiraling up and back down in some weird graceful triple-Lutz – you feel a slight change in the air, like someone down the hall opened a window or the white noise buzz of a tv in the other room suddenly snaps off, but there isn't any two-second-span of silence out of the whole 58-minute burn of back-alley smokes and loft-party prancing or vicious gossip-galling flamboyancy or straight up huff-n-puff confessionals of gang bangs and having your ass up against the kitchen sink. The ultimate critic-wedgie – where I cannot get a rhythm, cannot get comfortable, cannot dissect each separate song because they are not separate 4-minute parts but one overwhelming body.

I'm not sure if it's precisely a matter of it being Barnes at one moment and Georgie Fruit taking over the next…but the album opens with an ornate, jangly bouncer serenaded in Barnes' more-recently-characteristic sunny poetics and Prince-like squeaked-n-horny enthusiasm as he places a new-found happiness, understanding and rejuvenation on the shoulders of a lover – after he thanks her (or him), perhaps Fruit takes over as the language gets more blunt, your not 'my lover' anymore, but now he's 'calling your ass up' to 'go get compromised…' and eventually leads to a visceral and violent drawn out end of cracking his sweet love (perhaps ending the relationship) and burning away any regret in an extended guitar trounce…

Fruit's definitely strutting through the place on "Wicked Wisdom," spilling drinks and stealing kisses and throwing winks and hip thrusts this way and that, shaking his finger over strange and new synth buzzes drowning out a still familiar luminous Of Montreal-esque guitar tone…"I'm a mother fuckin headliner…" he taunts, in a falsetto (with Barnes peaking his head out for just a moment to warn us, "…process it…" yeah, it's now or never, get used to the new raunchy Barnes/Fruit hybrid asap – cuz we've got a lot of album yet to go…) "Why is it white girls don't have any ideas?" he says, and soon identifies himself as a black shemale. And we get white-nerdy-rap-Hot Chip/with grandiose and winding-lyrics ala Dan Bejar hybrids, with hit-the-floor raps like: "When we get together / We're gonna hit / What you work with" into we-must-be-missing-something-here ramblings like: "I hear the toy ball bouncing on Jihad would do their elegant conceit…"

There is no turning back from the dance floor after For Our Elegant Caste – it's a pounding pogo of hot 1:30 a.m. dizziness…and it is where we learn more of this transformation from the sweet boy who sang of bumblebees and trips through England into the sex-erific philosopher: Our bodies became what has been him so really turned off
Became a freaky permutation
Something like Voltron
Then I was wrapped in discourse with the magazine reader
The mutual conclusion was I'm not worth knowing because I'm probably dead…"

So, who knows…Barnes may be dead at this point…conceptually and ethereally… He admits later in a short-solemn buzzing sonnet that he's not sure how long he can hold on…but also not sure if it's going to "be likes this forever…"……you mean the battling personalities? Or referencing more in-the-past type stuff like pre-Satanic Panic in the Attic? What will not be like what….forever?

Who needs a drink?

If you've heard the record, it will be no news to you, but at this point I think it's important to mention that songs often go through multiple time-signature-changes, with shifting instrumentations, shifting vibes, shifting melodies…sometimes carrying on only for a minute within a track…I mean, here on Skeletal Lamping—fuck tracks, basically…there will be no boundaries.

To speak shallowly and in terms more down to earth away from this mind-bending dissection – "Gallery Piece," with its building lyrics and communal rousing and wavy siren-balladry and ever-pounding techno beat, is probably the closest thing you'll get to the gorgeous essence of (side-1) Hissing Fauna. Comparatively only to Id Engager, (another tellingly psychoanalysis reference), it's one of the more straight-forward and steady moments on the album.

Then, things get spooky – the opening bars of Women's Studies Victims quite literally sound like the soundtrack to some knife-wielding wolf-like monster looming large down shadowy hallways in haunted houses – but, as described above, it's not long before it flows into a friendlier guitar-buzzing low-key groove, with Barnes channeling this detached monotone voice, almost taunting and disgusted in its recounting of a sexual encounter. This song grows sweet and, well, cherubic towards the end – but Barnes seems to step off-stage and find his friend Georgie to say in an affected and concerned tone, "They want to destroy us…" to which a deep voice booms back, "I know!" So, Barnes suggests "It's time to penetrate their fantasy…"

But, whose fantasy? Ours, I would guess. Are those 60's-pop-loving fans of Cocquelicot or Cherry Peel living a fantasy to keep you in one particular sound, one particular style…are the new 19-year-old all-ages-crowd fans that jumped on after Sunlandic that come to these crazy costumed vaudeville Of Montreal shows to dance to a veritably innocent and sweet indie-pop paradise soundtrack living a fantasy in their (mis)perceptions?

Maybe that's why the very next song and lyric has Barnes/Fruit rolling around on a piano in some smoky after-hours cabaret lounge where he bemoans in a beautiful falsetto, "I'm so sick of sucking the dick of this cruel, cruel city…"

So here we are around track-9…the vocals are getting more splintered and the actual source of singing is starting to become indiscernible between the two – as the chorus-like march of Triphallus, To Punctuate! (though it's rambling when you read it out, the brilliant writer that Barnes is can form a melody so catchy that it works so well): "guess I should be happy for you, for your success and all that, your fame ain't got nothing for us, I supported you kid back when no one else did…I waved your flag back when no one else did…"
"I just want things to be the way they used to be when you only set a place for me…"

And, I…really have no idea how to read this…when I hear it, it makes me think of the band, of former members, of longtime members…who have watched this strange and fascinating mutation of Barnes the writer, the performer, the human being, watched the transformation right alongside the pleased-yet-bewildered fan base…

But, damn it, things won't be the way they used to be…not after this record. Even if they go back to slightly more Of Montreal-ish sweet pop ditties – they will ever-be-effected by this…, this ominous dark night that is Skeletal Lamping, some kind of weird piano-pounding, synth-string-sawing danceable deflowering.

Musically, structurally, melodically – and considering all the new strange and beautiful instrumentations implemented in its construction – Skeletal Lamping is a triumph – oh yes, way beyond the stars, past fucking Pluto. Just staggering. But there is a lot to delve through here…and it becomes quite the journey for the listener. For example – my initial reactions to these new lascivious musings was that a.) it sounded like it wasn't really Barnes, or that it was some kind of put-on by him…and b.) it sounded like he, at times, was acting as his own therapist…as Hissing Fauna and it's devastated clenching and clawing and grotesque revelations must have blown the doors wide open…

It was only after I had these initial feelings that I learned that this was very much the truth!!! – that it Skeletal was planned to be the documentation of his melding with Georgie Fruit, and, as Barnes said in a recent interview, that it would act very much like a way for him to enter his own "skull" and lamp out any and all possible creatures to trap/study/capture or kill….

As I used the word triumph above – the 7-minute "Plastis Wafers" is a disco-groove into a tribal space trance into an experimental smoky obfuscation of echoing verse and shouts as a guitar riff simply rides up and down over tinny percussion. It is a musical triumph, indeed…but maddening to try and unpack all those lyrics.

Second-to-last track Mingusings holds more deep and intriguing confessions: "I feel like an accidental species
Some mutant love child, never meant to be…" (the dual-personality-hybrid?)

"No motion dancing
Feel like we're an impossibility…" (the want to move into more darker, experimental territory like Skeletal but still keep the electronica/dance vibe of Sunlandic…hmm…)

Tried to keep the heart in the head
But I was so down on the closing night…." (the depression that inspired Hissing Fauna?)
Couldn't even fake a smile
Wanted to fire all my friends…" (like when you reverted to just solo-creation for Satanic Panic in the Attic?)

Who knows, you could spin this six ways to Sunday and come up with whatever interpretation you like—but the point is, it is going to engage you and it is going to make you uncomfortable (mostly in a good way) and it is also going to make you dance…
It's going to make you wonder…It may not be straight up mindless dance fun – but it doesn't have to be…

Alright, maybe he's not losing his mind…maybe he's gone through this and wound up with a stronger hold on sanity. But, trying to chop my way through it certainly left me feeling a bit… "cracked." What is most striking in terms of feeding my this-sounds-like-sanity-melting-music, is when one remembers that Barnes has turned Of Montreal (as a project) into very much a solo-effort when it comes to recording – so, there's no dialogue or back and forth between other collaborating musicians. It's him in a room. Singing to—and-with—himself…

Just himself…drawing apart, exploding, bringing together and putting onto song—just himself.

"I can't help it if it's true, don't wanna be your man, just wanna play with you…" is the repeated chorus that leads to the slightly abrupt ending of album closer Id Engager: …a blurry ride of a synthy melody as a distant ringing phone grows slightly louder (with Barnes answering softly in the background…hello?)…and then a churning buzz-wave that grows only to crash suddenly…then……..

Thank you
Thank you
Thank you….

(words: jeff milo)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Deep Cutz - Album Reviews: Tobacco (Black Moth Super Rainbow); Stars Like Fleas; The Dead Science

hello all

3 album reviews - with a bit of sounds to sample

First, a personal favorite - Tobacco, (lead electro-percolator from Black Moth Super Rainbow)

and, two pleasant surprises - Stars Like Fleas and Villainaire

with more reviews on the way - including

Deerhoof - and - Of Montreal


Tobacco – Fucked Up Friends
A +

The beat. Every rotation, every corner, every fiber of this vibrant record throbs with insuppressible, arresting beats – looped diligently in some vaporous, spark-spurting basement laboratory, modestly armed with a reliable tape machine. Two steps away from tough-strut boom of a hip/hop record (with significantly less rapping) if not for the tubular synth chimes and melodically yowled 8-bit sirens and churning fiery-fuzz riffs, Tobacco, the key percolator within the Pittsburgh-based mysterious electronic-music operation known as Black Moth Super Rainbow, further develops his sense-stretching lightning fried musical visions of mostly instrumental, inter-dimensionally blurring, boundary-breaking galvanization of the amount of harmonic hallucinogenic vigor one can extract from an analog synth, tape machines, looped beats and a haunting, hypnotizing vocoder. If Salvador Dali was the God of an inverted Candyland where happy grinning lava monsters and tree wizards spoke in buzzy computer-harmonic dialects and biker gangs of Draculas enthusiastically stormed techno dance floors – then, we might be somewhat close to the world of Fucked Up Friends. The beat reigns – paired perfectly with the electrode flare of the synth symphonies. But, this music is not inherently trippy, or out there – this isn't 2 a.m. strung out hallucinogenic cerebral red eye music, there is something frighteningly familiar in the flow - the melodies are meditative, jettisoned delicately (or devastatingly) over these inescapable beats.

Tobacco - "Truck Sweat"

Stars Like Fleas – The Ken Burns Effect
B +

(Oldie but a goodie--apparently this one comes all the way back from 2007) Songs dwell on held notes and Gregorian-esque reverence where harmonies hover solemnly as clarinets blather and stammer through some squiggly Sun Ra noise rants and crescendos rise poignantly with steel pedals rolling percussions tumbling down the gravelly road in the dark woods that this Brooklyn-based septet dwells in…but then the fuzz-fucked feedback storms down like coarse asteroids showering devastation on suburban outskirts. These experimental woodsy rock?...folk?...what can we call it?... this outward-noise-freak-taunt of a record will sound familiar to the spastic left-turns of fellow sideways art operatives like Xiu Xiu or Grizzly Bear, but it still very much has it's own vibe and philosophy, still sounding fresh…but you gotta dig 'weird.'

Stars Like Fleas - "I Was Only Dancing"

Dead Science – Villainaires
B -

Such an imaginative, creeping, jolting sound; oblique and disorienting, like a tumble down the tangled stairs of an MC Escher painting, spiraling into the jagged depths of some 1920's color drained haunt-churned German impressionist film, then burning into some skuzzy 60's garage-pop basement pounding jam of blown out reckless abandon and reemerging with the soft rose pedal beauty of solemn orchestral baroque pop. All amped by vigorous rhythms, blowtorch violin saws, feedback roars, hallucinogenic harps and wavy, nervous shamanistic vocals. Classic Deerhoof detachment with fright-pop Xiu Xiu melodrama and a ruthless stretch of structure. Made extra intriguing by campy comic-themed titles: "Monster Island Czars;" "Throne of Blood (The Jump Off)."

The Dead Science - "Make Mine Marvel"

-words: milo

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Charges dropped in raid at the CAID - Employees not off the hook + footage from RNC in St. Paul

I have a fairly grand DIY STREET FAIR summary coming up...essentially, a summer wrap up and fall preview...

but in the meantime, since I and some of my friends were touched by the events of late May, at the CAID, I wanted to run a snippet....


Loitering charges have been dismissed against 116 people who were ticketed and detained in a controversial raid by Detroit police in May at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, the ACLU of Michigan said Monday.

The nonprofit organization said the City of Detroit agreed to the dismissal after the ACLU challenged a ticket against one of the patrons on the grounds that the city ordinance is vague and overly broad.

"The Detroit police went too far, and it is to the credit of the City of Detroit that they have agreed to drop the charges against these young people who did nothing illegal," Michigan ACLU Director Kary Moss said in a statement.

"For years, we have been alarmed by masked police officers in commando outfits and guns drawn needlessly storming peaceful gatherings in Detroit. We encourage the city to take the next step to fix this unconstitutional ordinance and put an end to this practice once and for all," Moss added.

Dennis Mazurek, Detroit's chief assistant corporation counsel, said city lawyers agreed to dismiss loitering tickets against the patrons, but the charges against a handful of art institute employees who served alcohol or were bouncers will stand........

read more at: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080923/NEWS06/809230303/1008/NEWS06

Also, keeping up with extreme, over-reactionary tactics by authorities...
check out what most media outlets are glossing over--from what happened at the RNC in St. Paul

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thursday - Friday - Saturday - + Friendly Foes "Born Radical" Review


Mason Proper - CD Release Show at the Blind Pig


Robots, beats, punk rock, 3-D animation and a giant cat...


Mick Bassett & The Marthas, with Prussia and Four Hour Friends - at the Magic Stick!


here's an album review from the Friendly Foes' Ryan Allen - on the Friendly Foes new album

and, here's the humble Cutz:

Friendly Foes - Born Radical (show, 9/26, Berkley Front)

Friendly Foes – Born Radical - GangPlank

Sometimes, if a band takes an ludicrous adversarial stance toward the genre it seems oh-so-strongly marked by, they end up hindering their sound and draining it down to a lucid, thin layer of preoccupied pap.

But, local trio Friendly Foes readily embrace, in self-aware fatalism, that the furled sun-burst bounce and shimmery hooks and headfirst 'ooh-ooh-yeah-'harmonizing of their debut Born Radical, rings unavoidably close to mid-1970’s-born rock energy-focused philosophy: power-pop.

“Is it right?” sings guitarist Ryan Allen on ‘Breakfast Burrito,’ “…what do we care?” Indeed, what should we care? The faster the artist comes to terms with inevitable popular perceptions and those daffy damned genre-labels, the faster they transcend it – the faster the listener the listener starts really enjoying it.

Maybe it’s a knee-jerk critic reaction: a band takes itself too seriously and you immediately see through them, resent them, maybe wanna tear em down. The flipside, a band calls itself out and beats you to the punch and then you’re refreshed, intrigued almost as if challenged, to find more in their sound, delve into the lyrics, bang your head a little more loosely to the booming beats, the rattling tambourine and cymbal crashing cut ups, the wide-arch hip-rockin bass booms, the straight-to-the-point guitar hooks.

And this is certainly the case with Born Radical, as, here I am, spinning it for the 18th time as I write this…and no, it’s not rapt with metaphor or political commentary or romantic narratives; there’s no math-rock polyrhythms or tribal wipe-out solos or an overload of pedals. The lyrics are, in fact, very anecdotal and casually reflective, mostly serving as personal histories for Allen and bassist Liz Wittman and drummer Brad Elliott in their whirled waltzing days in the trenches of balancing band life, day-jobs and an eventual overall disregard of social bullshit in the name of seeking a liberating good time.

The drums are all tumbling irresistible swing, the bass is a warm driving heartbeat and the guitars—though they show flares of the sinewy punky vigor of Allen’s past (and present, in Thunderbirds Are Now!), they’re often simple jangly strums or striking aerodynamic shreds of energy.

But, going off that, there is definitely a punk residue in the mix, as well as the stumble-n-shrug down-home heartfelt indie-rock, and some streetwise singer-songwriter groove waxing down-to-earth poeticisms of urban nausea and getting y(ou)r shit together. No need for lofty melodrama or self-righteousness, this trio’s been there before – in band life; this time they knew exactly what they wanted and, as nonchalantly as changing t-shirts, slipped into a great formula. And not just power pop! Though, I’ms till not sure if its their own beguiling self-confidence and chemistry that drives me to expound more in this batch of ditties, maybe there’s something here to really get lost in – something to keep you coming back. Here we go, spin number 19 for me…

words: milo

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sought A Band, We We’re Bored: The Friendly Foes

Detroit's "power-pop" trio puts out an album this week...

The Friendly Foes: The Deep Cutz Interview

words -Jeff Milo

It was getting cold. People’s cars were falling apart, gas was going up and it seemed like nothing was going on… It was late 2007 – Detroit’s famous jostle-punk-pop organization, Thunderbirds Are Now! had just finished touring their latest album, Make History – a fairly straightforward alt-rock-pushin-pop record, albeit with ambitious structures and a few more sashays into the “epic” territory of neo-art rock and more theatrical sensibilities.

Autumn turned to winter. Thunderbirds singer/guitarist, Ryan Allen was spending his days working retail and his nights writing and tracking demos for an undetermined project. Which, 10 months later has turned into a “power-pop” trio with a debut album ready to be released 9 / 26 at the Berkley Front.

Now, on a rare rainy night in the dying summer of 2008, I walk into the practice-space of the Friendly Foes, stored away inside some old factory-flat-storage-slab that smells of old church closets and looks like some dreary pre-school from the Nixon Administration and the trio, Allen, bassist Lizzie Wittman and drummer Brad Elliott, sit along a couch with my awkward self setting up a shabby arm chair and leaning in…

“I have multiple personalities in songwriting,” said Allen as he regards his two main projects side by side. “I think Make History, as a record, is very reflective of my attempts to marry those ideas. Thunderbirds has always been looked at as a weirder band or a crazy band, not maybe so much anymore, but put us up against Child Bite and they out crazy us any day of the week.”

I give a knowing nod Lizzie’s way at this reference – as her husband Christian Doble joined Child Bite a year-n-a-half ago – but the deeper brief blitz of history there is that Lizzie and Doble formed another fine, beloved pop band, Kiddo while living in Cleveland 5 years ago.

Allen, continuing, “I just wanted to do something that really played into what I actually listened to…” This included the aristocracy of rough hewn indie rock and pop bands from the early to late 90’s, including Guided By Voices, Pavement and a little bit of Ted Leo –who by their extension drew some from esteemed power pop acts like The Cars or Big Star, or fuzzy romantics like R.E.M. or streetwise reflective singer-songwriters like Elvis Costello.

“I feel like I, personally, have been…similar, since I was little,” says Allen. “I’ve grown a lot, of course, but, I’ve kinda been the same dude for 28 years and never really felt the need to alter the way that I am, for anybody.” Allen also played through the early 00’s in local pop/rock act the Tiny Steps and the synth-n-rhythmic pop-n-punk of Red Shirt Brigade—with his brother Scott, Paul Bissa and Zoos of Berlin’s Trevor Naud.)

“I don’t feel the need to change my personality depending on what situation I’m in – I am who I am.”

And that can just as easily be extended to Friendly Foes, as Lizzie says, soon after, “It is what it is…”

“We are who we are,” Allen continues gesturing to his mates, “I think they feel the same way. We’re not doing something fashionable right now. We’re playing power-pop…or whatever. The band was born out of this radical idea, instead of being weird…because that seems like what everybody wants to be…, let’s just write 2 minute pop songs…maybe being totally not-radical—is [being] radical.”

“You’re blowing my mind…” quips Elliott, looking over at Allen faux-bleary eyed with his characteristic witty overtures that steadily salved the conversation. Later, Brad tenured in the Satin Peaches, adds of the Foes, “We never tried to sound like anyone.”

“This isn’t the music that you make to be popular, especially here,” says Allen – who has never in his 10 years on the scene ever dabbled in the gritty grime of garage music.

Allen met Elliott through a mutual friend – and conversations soon led to Allen revealing those (soon-to-be-Foes-)demos he had lying around. Elliott soon offered his skills on the skins, as well as a practice space. Elliott, meanwhile, had recently met Wittman and Doble at the music store where he works – and at one point wound up sitting in for their band, Kiddo on drums. When the loose formation of Allen and Elliott started brainstorming bassists – Wittman was immediately suggested, for her abilities, stage presence and her sweet singing voice.

“We got really close, really quick,” said Allen. “We didn’t really know each other until we started playing together. I think initially, right off the bat, I feel like we just had a good rapport. We could easily joke around…”

Wittman excuses herself for a moment and the two boys chide a few jokes about finishing up without her. “Assholes,” she scolds back, with a hint of tenderness.

I ask if there’s somewhat of a sibling vibe between the three and they somewhat agree.

“We basically compete on who can be a bigger asshole,” says Elliott, referencing their aggravating Wittman.

“Yep, it’s quite fun,” Allen shrugs, “Brad always wins…”

“That’s not true!” he comes back, “…at all!”

“Lizzie is like the mean old aunt,” Allen starts in when she returns.

“I am not!” she shouts, “[I’m] the poor, innocent, bystander.”

“I’m the drunk dad,” Allen willingly offers.

“I’m the drunk son,” Brad brilliantly counters…which leads to the two going into a Breakfast Club-esque recreation.

“For me,” said Wittman, “I hadn’t been in a new band in 5 years – so, to learn new material and get to know different people was super exciting.”

Wittman had been playing in bands since her late teens – including singing for popular late-90’s Cleveland-based rock group Tender Blindspot – which Allen gleefully pokes fun at to her dismay.

“Hey, my band in high school was called Sugar Tunes,” laughs Allen, comforting her.

“Mine was called Renegades, so I fuckin’ win,” says Elliott. “It was pretty cool – I was making $100 bucks a gig sometimes.”

“Yeah, well I opened for Jimmy Eat World,” ups Wittman.
”So, you both are great…” Allen suggests.

“Yeah, whatever,” Elliott returns to Wittman, “I was getting hit on by white-trash girls!”

Allen turns quickly to Wittman, “You lose!”

The trio started rehearsing in November of 07 and had 8 songs ready by early December, riding the high of that fast-friends phenomena that hit from day one. They booked their first show in mid-December at the Pike Room in Pontiac.

“We were like, let’s just do it – let’s not think about it too much. Our songs are simple, we weren’t writing these sprawling statement songs. It was – okay, a verse, a chorus, let’s just repeat ‘em, fuck it; two minutes, that’s a song. Cutting the fat. If we don’t need it, let’s not have it. Plus, as a 3 piece, we’re totally working with the barest of essentials right there.”

“We’d all been there before,” said Wittman of those early days in band-life where the members try to gel and try to lay out goals or styles or push too far for something. “Let’s just do this and have some fun,” she said, echoing the vibe of the first month.

“If you guys would’ve been like, ‘let’s practive for a year and then play a show…’ – I would’ve been like, ‘alright—see ya!’” said Elliott.

The sound is an unabashed pop – with the clear residue of the punk ethos that each member had been involved with in their formative years; the drums are pounding and fierce at times, but other times they whirl swing with a big grin; the bass drives with roused and rising grooves and the guitars are blitz and burn with devastating shreds to sweet and hooky-strums. The rhythms, the riffs, the hooks – the unrelenting drive and unavoidable fun-n-fury of the sound, simply never lets go…or even rarely slows down…but never blurs in some white riot torrent of punk tantrums – it’s a lucid sunny glow of pop-energy.

From December to May, their live-show trajectory reflected the drive of their sound. They made it to a stage nearly once-a-week, headlining some modest weekday shows first, then playing the Blowout in March and eventually playing the Majestic for Detour’s Rock City Fest.

They forged on, embracing a bare-bones / don’t take it too seriously motto. Realizing that, with some bands, “there’s no risk involved,” said Allen. “[Some bands] are so concerned about being so perfect. I’ll use Fountains of Wayne as a perfect example of a band that just plays it safe. You’re gona go see them and they’re gonna be amazing every time. I like the fact that you can go see us and we might suck, or we might be awesome – there isn’t this perfection thing going on…”

“We did have one bad show,” Elliott admits. “But…it was cool.”

“I was sunburned!” Allen jokingly shouts, mocking discomfort, then after a minute, “It rocked us, in a good way.”

“That attitude,” said Elliott, of embracing a let’s-just-do-it, fuck-it-drive-on motto, “almost got ahead of us.”

“We were kinda thinking like…” Allen nods and, admits candidly, “’we’re kinda sweet!’ Not to say we were getting a total ego, but things were going really well.” Indeed, attention came fast from the city – here we were in the dead of winter and a group of talented, established locals had forged something dynamic – it was a nice jolt.

“We were all pissed at each other,” said Elliott, referencing this one-bad-show, a show in March at the Pike Room. “We were like, fuck it, whatever – we’ll go out there and do our thing. It was just a weird situation.”

“It was a nice reality check…” said Allen of the combination of not practicing, slight-exhaustion and just a weird, brief funk in their chemistry. “I think at that point we were taking it a little bi too seriously. It was good to be shaken a bit, to not think that everything is gonna go well all the time.”

May turned to June – and the band went into the masterful Dave Feeny’s Tempermill Studio to record the debut, Born Radical. “It was a really easy process,” said Wittman, continuing this trio’s streak of fluidity. “We recorded really well together. We had demoed the songs at my house and when it came time to, we just did our business.”

Guest musicians include New Grenada / Copper Thieves’ John Nelson, Tbirds Scott Allen, Child Bite / Copper Thieves’ Doble, Feeny and Allen’s wife Angela.

Referencing the band’s name, Allen said, “It was definitely important to us to have friends play on the record.”

My own first spins had me coming away struck by the lyrics – anecdotes about surfing couches and sleeping on floors, making it big, getting decent reviews, being promised wings to fly, looking back to the days of basement shows where no one cared about looks – and one all too literal account of early Thunderbirds days of loading the van and hitting the road. “We’re a band, let’s get outta here,” the wavy vocal melody rolls into the chorus of “Full Moon Morning.”

“I wanted to write songs that were about me but…” pauses Allen, “I didn’t have a lot to draw on. Do I want to talk about politics? Uh, not really. Do I wanna write love songs? No, I’m not good at that. What do I know about? I know that I lived in a van for 5 years and slept on a bunch of fucking floors and drank a bunch of beers and fell down a lot and got into fights. The theme I think of a lot of songs are reflective in a way where they’re about certain times in my life but at the same time, it’s not like those times have to be over.” (More samples, “up all night, is it right? What do we care / so let’s drink now and run around with all of our friends….”

“It’s not definitive, it’s not like those times are behind me and I’m moving on and I’m older now…and my tie is tighter and my shirt’s tucked in. I would hate for it to be taken like that. Those things happened, they were cool, maybe it’ll happen again, maybe they won’t. It’s a good little bit of a window into something.”

Inevitably, I come back to that flare of attention – and the brief babble of blogs wondering about this possible Thunderbirds-side project.

“I never thought of it as a side project,” Wittman clarifies quickly. “I was coming from Cleveland so I didn’t know anything about Thunderbirds. We just got thrown in together into this situation and it just worked.”

And the subject goes quickly back to the album, particularly the centerpiece, “Epic Jamb,” clocking in at the longest, an ambitious jaunt that swings into key changes and switches time signatures with wave-crashing guitars and big booming rhythm that slides into intricate sinewy strums and then bolstered by brass, back-up choruses and some pedal-steel. All the intricate supporting instrumentation is kept subtly in the background, not in your face – to “compliment something that really does come from three people.”
”It’s an economic record, for sure,” said Allen. “It’s not an Arcade Fire record, there’s no fucking church organ on it. Why would we put that on our record?”

“Having only 3 people,” said Allen, “opens the door to have your friends join you and play with you – that’s a new element, so it keeps it from getting boring. It’s the 3 of us and it could only be the 3 of us. I’ve been accused of being in bands where people come and go and it’s worked out because I ultimately think that the music that Thunderbirds made or make(s) could be played by more people. But with this band it’s different. If Lizzie left or Brad left, I would not want to do this anymore. The 3 of us are super integral to the end result and it would not be the same band without them. People looked at this band as my side project or something, but it’s very much the opposite. I would almost give them more credit than I would give myself, by any means…without them, the band is nothing.”

What's next?
“The next record,” Wittman says, quickly.

“Don’t be over zealous,” Allen says, clarifying their refined motto. “Don’t try to be more than what you are…back to that whole story about that (bad) show. We kinda thought we were hot shit at that, but we got knocked back a little bit. And, I think things like that are really important.”

Who knows where you’d have gone had your egos not been in check, I offer…probably inevitably to some church organs…

“We’d be playing the Palace with a church organ,” quips Allen, agreeing, “having Fountains of Wayne open for us.” He pauses then surmises, it’s about “…thinking small, thinking smart and not thinking that you’re too big – that you’re bigger than your britches…to use 1928-references for ya….Here’s looking up your old address.”


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zeitgeist Gallery Opening - The Last Days of 1984 - September 20 - November 8

Zeitgeist GalleryOpening September 20, 2008:


It's not quite music--but, hopefully the start of a trend in covering other artistic outlets, here on Deep Cutz, especially those addressing political issues. And, The Last Days of 1984, the latest show to open at the Zeitgeist Gallery - is certainly so - addressing "political, social and environmental issues" to purposely be closely coordinated with the Presidential Election on November 4th. (Register! Vote!)

A sampling of the show, featured above, is the staggering and often hypnotic collage work of Deep Cutz ally and local musician Nicholas Koenig (My Dear, Watson / You Look Adopted)- who is featured in the show curated by Eric Mesko and also includes the work of Marilyn Zimmerman, Roxy Lenzo, Stan Gilliam, Hugh Wilbert, Korea, Brian Coutts, and Mesko...

From the site: "The opening night reception on Sept. 20 will feature "Mesko Rants", "Maugre and the Puppets Chants", and a new play from Ron Allen, "Bread and the American Dream", to be performed opening night only, and politically and socially conscious music by Greg Sumner…and more! Performances begin at 8pm (we'll post the schedule as soon as we've got it set). In the Bar Gallery "The Hudson's Building Demolition Tenth Anniversary", a photo exhibit featuring various photographers’ takes on Maugrè’s unique series of pictures that adorned the building until the very end..."

Vist the Zeitgeist Gallery (and theatre) online and in person at: 2661 Michigan Ave. in Detroit
Gallery Hours: Saturdays 10a - 5p, and by appointment

Ecstatic Peace! Awesome Color--playing the UFO Facotry!! + Reviews: Hush Arbors and Religious Knives

Gritty-garage rockers Awesome Color bring their sweet psychedelic demolition to the UFO Factory, Sept 26th! - and they'll be sporting a new album

- Electric Aborigines.

The drums and relentless groove of the bass make you feel, not just like some maliciously disrespected punching bag but it sets such a wonderful and ever-twitching shock through your veins that wakes you straight up out of that stop-n-go, heard-it-before rock malaise that too often builds up in mold-rimmed drain of rock music.

This is true avant-garde-grit, but packaged in familiar sweaty-self-destructive drives of windmill hooks and throaty vocals and shattering solos oft-reached for by 60’s proto-punk revivalists but never properly qualified with enough individuality and confident swagger as this Michigan-born-but-sometimes-New-York-trio. It’s that rare combination of propulsive and visionary frontman Derek Stanton (more than willing to grind out imposing splattered shards of arresting abrasiveness) perfectly complimented by a diligent, tight, relentless rhythm section (Allison Busch-drums, Michael Trout-bass) who seem well-suited to follow Stanton into any smoky backroom of deconstructive rock rejuvenation, be it alley-running drives of guitar-glory “Eyes of Light,” “Already Down” or bluesy-psychedelic burns “Come and Dance” or more unique strung-out ballads that just pound along to showcase Stanton’s fiery-saliva shouts and metallic growls – and oh, the spaced-out solos! Keep em coming!

It fits beside the darker experimental material on the Ecstatic Peace label, but adds a tough, sturdy drive of goatee scratching, foot-stomping, cinder-block-breaking rock to the repertoire.

Awesome Color - "Eyes of Light"

Awesome Color - "Already Down"


with a few more ramblings on recent releases through Ecstatic Peace!:

Hush Arbors – self-titled

Some of the weirdest guitar tones I’ve ever heard, all blown out to hell, yowled fuzz-fucked firestorm glory. Keith Wood’s haunting melodic falsetto gales over jangled acoustics and pedal-fuzzed reverberations in this modest and beautiful melancholic narrative of…yes, a bit of folk and yes some Faust-ian Krautrock psychedelic stretching or some Jeff Mangum basement troubadour take or Joseph Arthur’s flavorful fringe indie-rock, but never quite gravitating too closely to any…Wood (recorded here with Leon Duffrey), cut his teeth playing with bands like Six Organs of Admittance, Sunburned Hand of the Man and Curren 93. This is his debut with the Thurston Moore-founded rough-edge folk/punk label. Take notice!!

Religious Knives -
"The Door"

It’s a dark and tribal basement-boom, with a casual sort of witchcraft experimentation soundtrack in the middle of suburbia – as common as weeknight crocheting or walking the dog. A rounding chorus in the opener, “I Think I’ll Go Downstairs” appropriately captures the disorienting meditative swirl-and-escapism of this New York quartet’s spook-expounding overtures. Dig on other black-lit chalky musings like “The Basement” and “The Storm” and damned if you won’t already be in the mood for Halloween – or at least ready to sacrifice the neighbor’s cat. A fine find and a fine fit for Ecstatic Piece’s typical ear-bending fare. Great grooves – think Can and Slint if they were fronted by a woman, and, also…vampires. Dig the rhythms.

Review: Neil Michael Haggerty and The Howling Hex

The Howling Hex Earth Junk

(Drag City)


Iconoclastic trailblazer, Neil Michael Haggery, manages somehow to open up even more imaginative trunks of weirdly-shimmying, cracked-grin agitations with this organ-heavy record, his 9th release under the Howling Hex moniker.

It’s a dreamy little float down paranoid lanes littered with dejected ice cream truck drivers and fire-riddled picnic tables – Haggerty flexes his mastery of creating a slightly upsetting or on-edge sensibility while still constructing enough of a hook to keep you listening. The singer/guitarist also played in distinctive experimental southern-style spook-punk projects Pussy Galore and Royal Trux, and has been residing in New Mexico (only a half-hour’s drive from the border) for some time now – and these strange bouncing ditties reflect that ranchero flavor blipped into eerie waltzes and Haggerty’s straight-from-the-poet’s-notebook verbal wrangling.

It goes from the bizarre circus-pop of “Big Chief Big Wheel” (with Haggerty chanting la-la-la’s over a ghostly shredded guitar) to the nerve-wracking gurgle n claw of “Annie Get Redzy” to dreamy desert-road-cruising instrumental “Contraband & Betrayal” to effectively enticing pop-and-folk tunes like “No Good Reason” (with sweet affecting back up vocals from Eleanor Whitmore) and closer “O Why, Sports Coat?” No drums…no true steady rhythm – save the ever-coaxing warble of Sweney Tidball’s fender rhodes and synthesizer and the howl of this gaunt, doe-eyed mad scientist.

Spotlight: Wild Years (from Ann Arbor) - playing Phonotropic 9 / 26

Deep Cutz: Wild Years

Wild Years: Ann Arbor-based electronic/folk/indie-rock project conjuring warm wholesome vibes of visceral basement dissertations spurred by freaked-up electric buzzings, resonating closely to an almost danceable, if not certainly psychedelic, vibe. Dig their hard hitting walls of guitar gushers in a dizzy blitz of fuzzy alt-rock beauty (“This Rut is a Canyon”) or feedback warbled acoustic-led “Bartering for a Bike,” conjuring sidewalk-scuffed strolls in inverted-suburbia with heartfelt melody.

“I’m hoping to be able to find some sort of balance between pure energy and mayhem, and a strong melodically defined vision,” said songwriter Alex Itkin. The UofM student DJs at the school radio, WCBN, exhuming rare '60s psychedelic records and African music, throw in Elephant 6, Stephen Malkmus, Jeff Tweedy and M. Ward also. With Bob Teixeira joining during the project’s prosperous show-filled summer, Wild Years look to have an even busier autumn, with more shows, recordings and eventually inviting more members. “I love noise and free spirit and just rockin’ the fuck out,” said Alex, “but there’s also something to be said for well-crafted orchestral pop.” September 26 at Crofoot's Phonotropic: myspace.com/wildyearsmusic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mason Proper--Olly Oxen Free--

Mason Proper

Olly Oxen Free


words by Jeff Milo

With this record, it is night out –
the orange glare of the street lights effects the bumpy rain-soaked pavement echoing the footsteps of cross-walkers now indoors -

and now the dark milieu glows apathetic and unnatural; and the sound comes in...the pedal-stretched guitars and thick chiming synths blare detached like ominous unseen sirens in the distance of the uninspired suburbia. Cars sit stoic along the curbs as televisions flicker behind living room windows and all seems so quiet and sudden…the rest of the world turns off for the night.

But with this record, we view it all through rain-beaded windows from inside this sparse but comforting room, upclose with Ann Arbor quintet Mason Proper. The sound of Olly Oxen Free rushes up to you and winds around, it is close and intimate and warm…with a real groove.

We're right here with them, seated inches away from the guitar; we're standing over the hollow-pounding drum kits; our heads lull a bit from side to side with each warbled synth wave and we're so close to the mic we could shout out our own back-up vocals onto the tape at any instant, if we wanted...

The whole record burns slowly from front to back with this beautiful sparse groove. There's a devastation to the sound – it's been blown around and stretched and exploded by all the nonsense fried-run-around of the day's bullshit and now we're in the cool (but not necessarily smooth) come-down to a somber and reflective furrow. It's stripped of overbearing fuzz-out-frivolity and guitar-glory-pop and sometimes tiring rock-chugging feedback walls. It just pounds and drives and swoons.

The melodies are often humble streams flitting inconspicuously but still declaratively over backdrops of heavy insuppressible rhythm. My word, the rhythm. Everything is given space – see "Only A Moment," where an organ pound burst through to steady drums under a haunting gutting guitar riff – the bass starts getting more room to breath and boom as the vocals float in unassuming for a few measures before sinking up with a fierce gritty riff. On "Fog," the organs are calming but the drums are pensive – meditative, yet unavoidably agitated by an undeniable longing...escapism so poetically clung to the serene, yet still aware of the numbing existence of that jumbled rat-race world we view through the Mason Proper window, far from disregarding it, but made, played and sung--because of that empty reality…in reaction to it…watching all these business people, being polite and shaking hands…and realizing, I am a totally different person when I am alone…("Alone" – with unique percussive style showcased.)

The instrumentation blends together wonderfully…the rolling drums under churning organs and ghostly synths that float and percolate the senses. Middle-piece "Dragging The River" highly emphasizes the narratives infatuation with the stark and gutteral – starting out with what sounds like pounding on a door (to the room we're settled in…) and then some muffled voices in the corner…before a solitary pounding keyboard note starts marching forward…growing into a swooning whirl as the bass and drums fall in and the airy-but-poignant vocals set upon you: "he wrote it with a crabbed hand / an ageless plastic poem but no one needs to read it / it's nothing we don't already know / cause we're out dragging the river / trying to find something missing / but everyone we know is here / and nothing that we have is gone…."

……trying to find something missing

…Because in this solemn statement of aerodynamic grooves and subtle but intricate guitar statements, we find that in an age of gmail chat – we can still feel, we can still share, we can still drift a bit to wherever we want and reminisce of chasing fireflies..., but in order to feel, to share - we must find each other first – Hence, the call-out, Olly Oxen Free!! -To meet each other in the fog…the ominous fog…and together make sense.

It both emphasizes the distance most of us feel toward that dystopic-night-world of quiet day-jobbers we view and reminds us that we don't have to grow cold because of it…it is tempered by a hopeful atmosphere, the warm fuzz symphony of the five musicians in a room coalescing, with every click, blip, buzz and vocal feeling so upfront, and still at times satisfyingly blitzing with an acerbic shred ("Shiny") or swaggering with bob-n-weave vocals over spindly guitars and piano/synths ("Lock and Key") or that sweet, arresting groove that rides the strength of the rhythm ("Downpour").

A night time philosophic chill…and a fuck-all towards all that messy madness out there in the daytime – for many of us, we come to life at night cuz we feel free finally from those loud often weightless trappings. But, with this record, you're able to hold onto that rejuvenating daydream-feeling through the day (and not just during the night when you clock out and you can get back to your guitar or your notebook).

You find out what makes sense…

(2008, Dovecote Records)

1. Fog

CD Release Show - 9 / 25 Blind Pig, Ann Arbor w/ Silent Years and Novel Citizen