Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Isosceles Mountain - Doom and Bloom (Interview) - June 10 @ Magic Stick

Martin Smith thinks Isosceles Mountain may be "hard to stomach for, say, someone just showing up to a show..."

It might just be that the noise-dabbling/hard-rock trio (with Dave Graw and Eric Maluchnik), are you're typical "band's band..."

Or, perhaps "the nature of what (ISC/MTN) is doing..." Smith said, namely, "no vocals," requires a bit more effort on the audience's part... "or...you need to be stoned."

But this isn't overly wrought/hi-brow ambient stuff,

...and it's not exactly a John Cage-ish marriage of Tortoise and Mogwai (though that might give you some taste of it). It's not some overly-prog-soaked jam thing.

It's definitely, though, sonically exploratory

Let's get the story:

"It was kind of a fluke," admits Smith, who comes to this project having played in spunky-indie-punk quartet Thunderbirds Are Now. He had demos done on Garageband ominously/tellingly titled "Doom 1 / Doom 2 / Doom 3..." that aimed to channel "Jesu through an Earth filter."

One night, Child Bite's Shawn Knight needed a band to fill-out a bill and when none could commit, Smith decided to do the show "as an outlet to thrash these 'Doom' jams I had. This is when Dave (Graw) came into the picture."

Smith had known Graw for a while, but knew limited in depth-info about him, that: "He was a sweet drummer" and "had a reputation for being a bit of a shit-kicker..."

"...I'm not sure what I mean by that, but, it's a compliment." There only real connections came from having their respective band's, either TAN or, in Graw's case, Heads Will Roll, playing shows together. Smith got a hold of Graw, out of the blue, sent him some 'Doom' and "he was in."

New Grenada's John Nelson filled out the trio, initially, blending guitar / drums / synth / pedal / more guitar / ...and variously errant/teased-noise/feedback... But Nelson soon drifted away to focus on Destroy This Place. Since Eric Maluchnik recorded their EP at Tempermill, he wound up joining the band, more or less.

"We all really knew we wanted to be part of something that was like nothing either of us had done before..." Smith said. But he's definitely not implying that ISC/MTN are "inventing a genre," merely "pushing ourselves out of comfort zones" and then, finding -and galvanizing, whatever it is they find in those outer zones... The goal: "getting away from the stagnant habits of writing and playing music.

This was a band whose initial motivations "weren't really musical." The idea was to tear up any typical band blueprint.

The sound blends dreamy drifts with lumbering roars - a tough, gnarled groove and a bruising percussive stomp -blurred up by feedback on some trips but blunt and cutting with guitars on others...

Currently, "we're working on a concept for an album," namely, it's "storyline." Smith said that during this process, he's been listening to some "Phillip Glass" while the band tries "to think in terms of classical music, i.e. Movements, Suites, etc. That being said, we haven't actually written a complete song in a while, so we're looking forward to it. Hopefully it'll have a movie-soundtrack-vibe."

Writing, recording, performing, "we're all on the same wave-length, which helps in the improv-sections of live shows."

Smith self-deprecatingly shrugs that he might be the odd-man-out in this trio (which looks to add the element of the bass guitar, permanently, soon). "Although, that quirkiness that I bring to the table pretty much permeates within the styles of everyone, which definitely gives us our vibe..."

more info

June 10 @ the Magic Stick -w/ Earth.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tally Hall - Good & Evil

Good & Evil is not so subtle of a title for a band that went from being local heroes to being swept up by a major label.

Tally Hall was a pop/rock jewel, living and contributing to inspiring camaraderie of the Ypsi/Arbor scene, until their debut caught the ears at Atlantic Records..., which, unfortunately, led to having any illusions horribly dashed by a wringing of compromises, thus the band was "jostled about like Ol' Willie's skiff in a Nor'easter..."

Listen: Tally Hall - "You & Me"

Tally Hall's newest LP (six years in the making, or at least six years, having simmered/cooled/on-and-off the productive burner), exudes the bittersweet savvy they've attained, only it's (bitter)sweetly translated into melodious metaphorical narratives across dashing and dynamic pop/rock arrangements, dreamily balancing the poignant and plaintively punching with surreal, waltzing ambiguities of sun-soaked psychedelia. Not heady/smoky/spacey-psychedelia...no. With such honeyed harmonies and penchants for cascading pianos/hushing acoustic guitars, -this is the psychedelic-pop that conjures the scripture of Sgt Pepper's recipe of sweet-strange/dark-beautiful ballads of bemusing brevity. ("Misery Fell"'s minimalistic voice/bass/keyboard strut blends some McCartney's characteristic jaunty vagaries - think "Your Mother Should Know" married to "Eleanor Rigby.")

The string of titles on the track list seem to be considerably suggestive: "The Fate of Stars," "Never Meant to Know," "The Trap..."

Good & Evil, bares a few bruises upon examination and if you get into a staring contest with these still-admittedly-romping sunburst whirls, one might occasionally see the blink of eyes made weary, not just by the extended slog of sorting these songs together, but also the now-more-matured stare of hardened eyes that have clearly seen the disconcerting dream-straining line up of industry suits.

That said, this album isn't any downer, and not an overtly jaded monologue. Effervescent, exuberant, tumbling and taut - and made ever-that-much more triumphant by their having returned to Ann Arbor to release it with defacto family/friends, Quack!Media. As usual, their putting on a clinic in terms of graceful harmonies, delicately blending in the grayer hazy beauty of orchestral instrumentation - thus creating moods that range from breathless jogs and jumps to breezy sways all hung-up-on-a-dream.

But indeed, the sun gets a bit overcast on side two, as the eclectic, three-part arrangement "The Scarecrow" effectively opens the door to the more haunting pieces of the album...
...and again, with their potent pop sensibilities, this is the kind of haunting, a lightly used phrase, that one would welcome, even on the sunniest of days...

Tally Hall - Good & Evil release show - July 22 - at the Blind Pig

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bad Indians (6-18) live, outdoors!


Bad Indians - seen here, at Arbor Vitae

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer is almost here

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(Pupils) - Seen below, upon their debut, under the moniker: Jean-Claude Jazz Hands

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blueflowers - In Line with the Broken-Hearted

Protagonists for the ostensible New Wave Americana, the Blueflowers have crafted one of the more purely emotional musical excursions I’ve heard thus far, in 2011. But they gracefully avoid any off-putting overflow of melancholy.

Indeed, as husband-wife duo Kate Hinote (vocals) and Tony Hamera (guitar) demonstrated with their murkily mesmeric Ether Aura, they know how to get you swooned and spooked at the same time. These are ballads for sadly/sublime sunsets and blustery, moonless evenings where you crate out the candles, stirring up all kinds of volatile yet inspiring emotions and resolute/re-affirming notions.

Adding the wholesome jangle of acoustic guitar (David Johnson), a soft and steadily plodding bass (Erica Stephens) and the sensible strut/tasteful brush of drums (Jim Faulkner), they conjure almost orchestral-feeling ballads ripe with reverb but tinged with twang, ultimately shining with the sensuous Hinote’s sad/spiritual/splendid voice.

The Blueflowers go for the jugular with the same gradualness of a summer night’s storm, steadily drawing their four minute sagas of heavy-hearts, love wrung and love wronged with deliberate envelopment. They set an evocative atmosphere almost instantly: (speaking for myself, I’m projected into) an ethereally dim lounge dotted with the fragile luminance of candles set atop the rickety tables that dot the scuffed floor, brightened fleetingly maybe by the glow of a nearby jukebox, hinting at antiquated aesthetics of a lonely night’s country ballad.

But they take you on almost more of an earnest sunshine-pop dreamscape rather than overly-heady psychedelia, and it’s benefited by penchants for surf-rock/dream-pop sandwiches, thus transcending, or at least ameliorating the hazy-blazey twang of Americana.

Friday - June 17th @ Woodruff's - Ypsilanti
The Great Tribulation's CD Release Party.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Currently Listening: Bad Indians / Destroy This Place / k.i.d.s.

Somewhat random post, certainly...

But this is a dialogue with music sometimes-even-as-much as it is my dialogue with you, (though even after this long, I'm still confounded as to why you'd read this...)

So, in that dialogue, the inevitable and habitually recurring conversational question of whatchya-been-listenin-to comes up...

I'm late on a couple of these (that is, if I am, at all, aiming for on-the-cusp-blog-o-news to jump on release dates... remember those?)... But still...

The bewitching psyche-blues and cavernous echo tumble of Bad Indians would be worth a listen - They just (and by 'just,' I mean more than a month ago) put out their latest cassette-LP - Sounds from the Big Room -

Now then, in terms of news...

Grunge-pop quartet Detsroy This Place bring a big sound, -big, loud, crunchy, tough, gnarled, -yet steady, assured, subtle, shrewd... And often adorned with some indulgent sunshine-hooks and the always irresistible anthemic-chorus.

They're stuff is legitimately new - Resurrect the Mammoth is up-for-ears-today, on the Internet (and forthcoming on Bellyache Records, with a release show, June 3rd at the Lager House).


Back to the not-exactly-new-side -- k.i.d.s.-- Deleano Acevedo (formerly of Silverghost) unveiled the psychedelic-bubblegum-pop-permutations that he's been crafting unassumingly in his basement throughout this recent winter. It's up for download from Beehive and has already been broadcast via Jon Moshier's Modern Music.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Song... From The Moon -

A new song is up from the steadily surging space-pop collective Songs From The Moon.

Songs From The Moon - Lucky To Be Alone (Again) by Songs From The Moon

On this recording, Dan Clark plays guitar with Sara Grosky on bass and Ryan Looney on drums -along with the project's originator, Jon Berz on acoustic guitar/vocals and keyboard. Get some more info from Berz' blog -

-and then, see them live, at a block party!--on June 16th - They're performing with Eleanora at an outdoor shindig for the Woodland Park Improvement Association (with donations accepted for Fern Care Free Clinic).

They'll be brightening up a somewhat dandelion-spotted grassy lot on the corner of Maplehurst and Livernois. It'll be a groovy way to kick off summer. Come by at 7pm sharp.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Damon & Naomi (Galaxie 500) mark silver anniversary at Pike Room

Oh, that heavenly haunted, fogged and fuzz-fired blend of gothic space folk...

Damon & Naomi (preserving the dreamy/dreary-delight/fright of Galaxie 500) are celebrating their 25th year of performing together, via a tour that brings them to the Pike Room (in Pontiac) on May 26th. They've also released their first album in four years - False Beats and True Hearts (20/20/20) - a sampling of which streams below.

Ghost's Michio Kurihara adds his elegant guitars to Naomi's recently rediscovered passion for the piano on this characteristically introspective sonic trip.

Have a listen:
Damon & Naomi - "Walking Backwards"

Chicago-based Dead Rider, who are currently out supporting their fine Raw Dents LP, will open things up.

Again, have a listen
Dead Rider - "Mother's Meat"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interview: Charlene Kaye - May 27 @ Blind Pig (Ann Arbor)

"I feel much older and wiser," baroque-pop balladeer Charlene Kaye said. "I guess the City does that to you..."

Kaye's attained a knack for bringing a freewheeling effervescence (see: strutting pop) to rich or classier sensibilities (see: ornate, orchestral elements). Hers was a sound that could conjure the exuberant clash of elegance and exuberance; like the dashing feel of tuxedoes and dry-clean-only tablecloths with slicked up cellists and violinists flown-in-from-Vienna sawed stoically by a marble fountain, met with the high-heel-kick-off of some enlivening burst of cathartic, light-hearted caution to the wind, spilling wine and loosening ties and jumping in that very same marble fountain, silk skirt be damned.

The singer/songwriter's come a long way from Ann Arbor, having finished studies at U-M in spring 09 and now resettled in New York. Well, truth be told, she came a long way to Ann Arbor (having been raised in Hawaii); and while the Mitten-state got to enjoy her beautiful voice and eclectic folk reconstructionist ruminations for too short a time. While she was here, she released her debut LP Things I Will Need in the Past (recorded with Jim Roll). But, since, she's relocated to New York, cut a new EP with a full band (The Brilliant Eyes) and cut a single with Glee's Darren Criss.

All that she's learned about the logistics of making a living (and career) with music, after a nearly two year crash-course spent "soaking up the scene" in New York, "playing as often as humanly possible," has blown her mind. She's informed, she said, about what it actually takes, more so since she graduated U-M.
"It takes a lot of work and I can see how people get discouraged easily," Kaye said, "because it's hard! I give myself daily pep talks telling myself not to give up, not to let go of my dreams."

Criss was a fellow Wolverine, with Kaye, through the mid-00's. "We met at an open mic our freshman year," Kaye said. "Our musical styles totally clicked and it's just snowballed from there. He sings a bunch of (Things I Will Need...) and recently he sang on my song "Dress and Tie" (watch/listen)."

Said single^ charted at #140 on the pop charts. Not bad.

"The Brilliant Eyes," she said, is a "rock band, something glamorous and riotous," echoing 70's new-wave and dance/rock aristocrats like Blondie or the Bee-Gees, balancing the fun of quick catchiness with stately ambition, not to mention helping Kaye to flex her penchant for jazz and blues (see: "Mad Tom of Bedlam"). Beyond that, however, Kaye & the Brilliant Eyes now utilize more electronics, i.e. drum programming pads and samplers.

"Ann Arbor brought out the sincerity in me, New York brought out the edge."

Her newest songs are "grittier and more ambitious, but still with serious emotion - I mean every word in these new songs because I've been through a lot since (Things I Will Need...)." Kaye hopes to record an LP this autumn, "unlike anything anyone's ever heard under the name Charlene Kaye, and hopefully unlike anything I've heard, either!"

"My only goal in life is to travel the world and play music," Kaye said, revealing that she just recently made the "frightening and exhilerating" leap of quitting her day-job. "If I can survive doing only that, I'll never ask for anything more."

See Kaye & the Brilliant Eyes at Ann Arbor's Blind Pig - May 27th.

more info.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Peace in the Middle East Rally - 5/28 - Magic Stick

"It is 2011 and not much has gotten better..."

Drew Bardo, perennial protest singer and political ponderer/provocateur, has put together another demonstration bolstered by the compassion and talents of Detroit's local music community, via the Peace In The Middle East Rally, May 28th @ the Magic Stick. Bardo, with his band, The Questions, has spearheaded similar events in the past, three of them during the 2nd term of George W. Bush.

"Even with the demise of Bin Laden, we are still engaged in the "endless War" of which we have been fully engaged in since WWII," Bardo opined.

The essential point of the rally is to just remind people to speak up. Complacency is too easy to fall into when we read headlines like: "10 Years In, -Afghanistan War Barely An Issue in 2010 Campaign" - or "Afghan War: In 10th Year - No End In Sight"

"...if they don't rise up and make their voices heard," Bardo said, "this shit will never end...if we allow these corporate puppets to continue to topple governments globally and keep us doped with the smoke and mirrors, we are inevitably headed for a war to end all wars."

It's a wake-up call. And a punch in the gut.

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil," wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer. "Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

All our welcome to come enjoy the performances of the Detroit arts community (FREE ADMISSION, that night (5/28) at the Magic Stick), but beyond that, it's an opportunity to start (or hopefully continue) important conversations regarding the degradations wrought by "BIG BUSINESS," -be it the war machine, soldier casualties, pollution, privacy issues, crowded prisons, failing education system...and much more...

"I feel sick when I stack up all the destruction and greed and lies and corruption that is going on right in front of all of our faces," Bardo said. "How can people pretend that everything is going to be okay? I know it's laborious to sit around and worry all the time, but if we aren't worried right now, it will definitely be too late by the time the masses awaken. You can't wait until you're inside the oven to realize you're about to burn to your oblivious death."

It's "the people," Bardo said, "that keep me fighting. My children, their children, their children's children. There is a Native American Proverb: -- 'We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'"

"I keep going," he said, "because I have been on this Earth many times before. I came back to help elevate as many spirits into the light --to fight injustices."

The rally, featuring Deastro, Dark Red, The Questions, High-Speed Dubbing, Mick Bassett, Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment, JWPP, The Rue Moor Counts, Woodman, Bravery Plains and a slew of Detroit artists "getting their hands dirty," is a gesture, albeit a form typically/easily digested by the Detroit culture scene (i.e., a concert) to remind those in attendance that "many" throughout the world "have no voice..." Why take yours for granted by not using it?

"I fight," Bardo said, "because it is a crime to remain silent in the face of Evil. I believe in the light. I believe in good. I believe in Love. Love is the most important thing for living in the light with the Great Spirit and when I observe someone or something trying to extinguish the light (the love)...I fight."

The music/arts community is usually pretty good, around here, for standing up and standing together when the times call for them to make a more humanitarian gesture than merely showing-up-plugging-in-and-rocking-out. This has been demonstrated in the past, with Magic Stick-hosted concerts for Haiti and Japan.

But Bardo wants to emphasize that this is more so "a Town Hall Meeting..." As he has in the past, the concert/event he's coordinated is more a test of the art community's activist side. This concert will, in some sense, go through the usual motions of a Detroit live music event, (sound checks and back-lines and song-to-song-to-song, etc) but it will also feature other members of the community, artists and activist groups on hand for engagement and inquiry. The energy in the air will be a stirring of consciousness and compassion... and, yes, frustration.

Peace in the Middle East Rally -aims to bring a considerable number of bands and artists together to express "collective disapproval" for U.S. foreign and domestic policies.

"Pro-Peace groups to confront AIPAC's love-fest for Israeli Militarism"

"The Middle East reacts to President's Speech."

"Without sacrifice," Bardo said, "or courage: humanity is done. Game over. Humanity is in trouble and it's going to take the bravest few to stand up and speak out."

Representatives from local/national political activism groups will be on hand, providing free literature, petitions and educational information regarding "opportunities to create change in U.S. policies regarding the War on Terror abroad and at home."

8pm - Magic Stick - FREE - 5/28

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tear It Up ...and start all over...

...Found myself upstairs at the Park Bar, squinting into bright lights and sheepishly avoiding a video camera, as filmmaker Brandon Walley set me in the middle of sixteen Detroit musicians (comprising about five band's-worth) and then preceded to ask them...

...just what they thought of the current character, the nuances, the telling behaviors, the merits, the assets, the uniqueness... ...of the current crop, the current energy, the current swath of bands and sounds ...currently percolating on a weekendly-basis throughout Detroit.

But more so, I wanted to know how pressured they possibly felt, knowingly throwing their own Urgh!-themed show to thus pay veritable tribute to the inspiring concert film from 1982. Putting the Urgh-name on it, conjuring the likes of Gang of Four, Pere Ubu, the Cramps and DEVO would suggest embracing a very stylistic and primal energy.

But more so, the idea is to only mimic precisely what filmmaker Derek Burbridge did in 1981...

Capture a moment... ...a musical pulse... ...something akin to this...

In that metaphor, the idea should be that the band is the shark and that you, or the audience, are the seal.

One viewing of Urgh! however can demonstrate to any 2011 music-head just how tame some of the numerous bands dotting planet-internet can seem by comparison - so it's a sobering scream to the 18 Detroit bands slotted to perform June 11th that, if they are to pay any kind of tribute, either to the bands of the post/punk-new/wave era (all of whom seemed infected with some kind of vein-popping, eye-bulged, sommersaulting madness on stages), then they're going to have to bring their A-games.

Their insane-games.

To match stuff like this?

And perhaps they will...

June 11th - Urgh! A Detroit Music War - to be documented at the Lager House (with audience members encouraged to contribute to the documentation with their phone or other devices) - featuring ....The Satin Peaches, Fur, Pewter Cub, Lettercamp, Carjack, The High Strung, Pupils, Pink Lightning, Illy Mack, Duende, Legendary Creatures, Phantasmagoria, The Kickstand Band, Phantom Cats, The Savage Seven, Fawn and Lightning Love -

But-- It won't happen without you... It's dependent on your financial contribution, as well... visit the Kickstarter site and help this become a reality.

My advice, to the bands, - kill your idols - lose yourself in the moment - throw out hang-ups over matching the freakin Cramps and remember what inspired this project in the first place--- you, Detroit bands, have been inspired by each other.

So let the music war commence...

My advice to show-goers and the like... visit the kickstarter... bring your camera phones... ...tear it up!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FX~~ Bad Indians - 5/21 - Magic Stick (Crystal Stilts)

"Reverb is a big part..."

This is one of the first responses uttered by Bad Indians singer/guitarist Jules Nehring, when pushed to "describe the sound" of his Ypsi-based quartet.

"If anybody asks, I say we play Rock and Roll. It's the only genre that really covers everything we try and do..."

What they've been trying, and often succeeding, -to do, is blend the raw tumble of Bo Diddley to the keyed-up tempos of seminal/spastic punk ...all dazzlingly dashed with a curtain of shimmering psychedelic fuzz.

It's telling that, when listing off his formative influences, he mentions "Link Wray" and "The Mummies" right next to each other.

What they've also been succeeding to do is release their dynamic oh-so-subtly-pop-tinged rock roars via a consistent parade of cassette recordings, passably produced, home-guerrilla-style, albeit it with the coarse charm ala lo-fi...

"I guess I don't really like how really produced recordings sound," Nehring said, "I'd rather listen to a 4track bedroom recording any day. "

Whatever it is - be it Nuggets nostalgia, surf rock splendor or maybe the innate allure of plaintive rock n' roll - these songs are stirring somethin' up in me...

The band (Nehring, Autumn Wetli--drums/vocals, Erin Davis--bass/vocals, Ian Lannen--guitar/vocals) are opening for Crystal Stilts, Saturday evening (5/21) at the Magic Stick - along with Oblisk and the Hounds Below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bear Lake - 5/21 - Magic Bag (Album Release Show)

Bear Lake are one of those bands that baffle you to learn their from Detroit, ...let alone that they've been crafting their cinematic power-pop ballads amidst our humble, scuffed-out milieu for more than three years now.

I'm not trying to indulge some hackneyed "just goes to show you" angle to make it a testimonial to the breadth of talent pocketed throughout the southeastern corner of the Mitten state... ...(though, I kind of am...)

...It's more so an emphatic huh!...more of a head-scratcher that they're still here and haven't yet been swept up by some private jet that would take them to some brightly lit arena or some other Bonaroo-type trip where they can more effectively turn some indie-pop heads.

Bear Lake seem equally possessed by McCartney as they are by Gibbard, equally blending pared-back piano/acoustic folk jaunts with the arm-raising/eye-closing/lip-synching ingratiation of arena-rock anthems - and equally flexing knacks for charting out ear-worm melodies as they are at dressing their soundscapes with enough atmospheric intrigue so as to squelch the saccharine and give the theatric ardor of the spacey-pedal-howled tones enough room to breath out their star-gazer resonance.

The harmonies are pure and pretty, the tones are meticulously wound to keenly mellifluous timbres such as to achieve that grinning summer-y enchantment. Throw in heartfelt, plaintive lyrics that spill their guts, either delicately or declaratively... and you've got the glistening charm of Bear Lake... a band that's already had their songs snagged by a number of mainstream media outlets like One Tree Hill. Plus, they were just in the studio to sit in for Ann Delisi's Essential Music.

Now, they're releasing their 3rd proper LP, If You Were Me - 5/21 at the Magic Bag in Ferndale - supported by I Love Lightning Bugs + Brae ++ DJ Deep See Soundsystem.

More info here, re: If You Were Me

Words with Friends - Passalacqua

The boys behind Passalacqua (MC's Mister and Blaksmith-(-of Cold Men Young) are mining the swooning splendor of early R&B and doo-wop dashed soul via the looped string cascades of the Delfonics on their latest...

Here, they're keeping it mostly in that steady-paced striding beat formula present throughout their first full release while the two trade off two subsequent essays worth of eloquent and characteristically self-reflective/world-weary rhymes.

Passalacqua - Words With Friends by DC/Milo

Monday, May 16, 2011

Phantasmagoria - Amalgamations, Ancient Languages and Hearts of Gold - 5/21-Belmont

"We didn't want to have a cold sound, at all...," says Christopher Jarvis.

Set aside that a Phantasmagoria live set features two synthesizers, a keyboard and a laptop, set aside their penchants for ambient techno. "There was a conscious decision to make it more of an organic, or warm sound..."

This duo aims to stand out amidst the class of dynamic greenhorn bedroom composers all feverishly cutting their teeth out there in the expansive spread of the internet's gymnasium by placing explicit emphasis on blending the oil-and-water of warm acoustics to chilly electronics...

Jarvis, (keyboards/percussion/laptop/vocals), with Lianna Vanicelli, (vocals/percussion/keyboard) are steadily stirring the pot of atmospheric/electronic dream-pop with the necessary focus and fanciful inventiveness of sure fire young turk-ish song crafters - ... hence the buzz...

Yes, they got onto the cover of Metro Times rather quickly, or early.

But it's up to anyone else to decide whether that's a valid, or actually a rather tired, ...bugaboo to exhibit -

If you haven't heard them yet - or if you've already been digging on their recent digi-LP Spirit, you can check 'em out on May 21 @ the Belmont, for their FiveThreeDialTone release extravaganza - including a new 7" vinyl single and a cassette's worth of b-sides (instrumentals, alternate versions, remixed versions and live versions).

"All the bands we've met have been warm and welcoming," Jarvis said. "It's been going good."

Jarvis met Vanicelli in 2008 when she wound up joining his "longest" active band, The Flower That Ate New York. Being quite taken with her dazzling vocal talent, Jarvis invited her to start collaborating on a fledgling sorta-side-project... which would eventually become Phantasmagoria.

Those early songs were more "poppy" -compared to the much more intricately-wrought, almost-chamber-pop-conjuring trips they're manifesting at live shows throughout Detroit.

"That's (Jarvis)," says Vanicelli, who develops melodies and vocal arrangements for initial demoed compositions presented by her bandmate. "He's always adding so many things. Or, taking things out then adding other new things. Once my vocals are in there, he molds them so it definitely changes a lot from its start."

The demure Jarvis blinks and shrugs, "I guess I'm just ...meticulous."

The FiveThreeDialTone single features one track from Spirit and a new song, "Take It To The Moon..." an effervescent stargazer intricately mixed with whizzled and wispy synths blazing and fading like a series of shattery comet tails whilst, characteristically being enhanced/bewitched by Vanicelli's sentimental/sublime vocals.

Now then, while their influences range from seminal techno (the Belleville Trio) to sleek dream-pop (School of Seven Bells) to swooning ambient insomia soundtracks (Boards of Canada) to dynamic dance-pop (Oh Land)... they also dig into the tawny twanged soil of Americana - see: a Neil Young cover song ("Heart of Gold").

Both are "really inspired by nature," and often mine inspiration from "tons of road trips during the summer, camping, hiking."

You get "Heart of Gold" and eight other "odds and ends" on their edition of FiveThreeDialTone's Prelude to a Miss series... (Look for their remixing of a Caribou track as well).

Jarvis, meanwhile, will be releasing more songs from his current solo project, Ancient Language. "I was toying with the idea of music being this old and ancient way of communicating," Jarvis said.

The duo are currently working on their next album, with the songs already mostly ready and about a quarter of it already recorded. Vibe-wise, expect, what Jarvis calls, "our summer album."

Phantasmagoria - with Lightning Love - Coyote Clean Up - Nightlife-- 5/21 @ Belmont (Hamtramck).

More info from 53dt

Love Mandolin Music Psychedelic Pop Woods

Pardon my indulgence of copy+pasting a snippet of the "tags" off of the Legendary Creatures' bandcamp site.

Those tags are just somewhat curious or quaint to me, as a representation of how we relate to music...

But, truly, if you want to get acquainted with the vibe this Detroit quintet is laying down on their first proper EP, you need only read the title: Bonfires... The weather outside this week may not be evocative of warm, lightly-breezy evenings where you can project yourself into such a cozily invigorating setting beside a majestically dancing, crackling orange flame - but this EP, produced by Warn Defever and Andrew Davis - will likely take you there...

Hear a preview:

But, do yourself a favor and follow this link to their site where you can get lost in the vibrant, head-swimming, "Lost Time," a pedal-wrung and string sawed waltz.

And - later - on Friday, 5/20 - see them live, at the Magic Stick, paired with His Name Is Alive (for their 20th Anniversary performance). Golden opens up.

Interview - Legendary Creatures

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oblisk's next story - 5/21 @ Magic Stick with Crystal Stilts

Making music is different afterwards, when you could've been killed.

Oblisk's Asim Akhtar is a traveler, both incorrigibly and intrepidly. Heretofore, his band has been tagged with being characteristically propulsive in its delivery of shimmer-swooned fuzz rock... (...we can go ahead and say it, since everyone else already did: shoegaze). Traveling, or even simply driving down the freeway, kinetics-in general, were major influences for the Ferndale-based songwriter. To keep those fires lit, he takes at least three trips a year, sometimes only a minimum of 900 miles, sometimes as far as 1,900 miles. He's been to the Amazon, Central America and New York just in the last calendar year alone.

But on the dawn of the Arab Spring, three months ago, he returned to the land from whence he descends, Pakistan...

...and found himself caught in the crossfire, ducked in the backseat of a car reared to a halt in a busy intersection... "the sound...it just felt like the bullets were five inches from your head." It wasn't another target killing, as were rampant through Karachi through last autumn, but three people were killed. "It was a daily thing," while Akhtar was there, "shootings all the time. It really effected a lot of (my songwriting). Songs, when I write, resemble feelings I had in those travels."

Since returning last month, Akhtar said, "I'm challenging myself to write a different way." Oblisk, with Nick Baran, Roy Elturk and Dave Cheal, are currently piecing together their third proper LP as they look forward to this weekend's performance opening for Crystal Stilts, 5/21 @ the Magic Stick with Bad Indians.

Akhtar has gotten so deeply invested, or lost, --in his writing...minding a balance of simmered emotions and reflective focus, that he often takes breaks, stepping outside onto his porch and letting the demos play back from speakers simply so he can feel a bit more disconnected, or hear it played back from a distance, as an outsider.

The new sound being developed for this album will stray from shoegaze... less atmospheric/head-in-the-clouds stuff and more "like head in the sea...as a legitimate band you should always be evolving right? There's a lot of bands in that shoegazey genre and it's sounding all the same. We're taking some risks, even though people may know us as this, they (the changes) might be sublte."

These songs "always end up telling stories," Akhtar said, and will assuredly spring from his current recipe of matching memories, be they Karachi cross fire or helplessly spotting a mugging, in the morning during call to prayer from his elevated position in a balcony, these memories will fit the sounds conjured by his band mates, and the words will surge out admist the mesmeric guitars, bolstering bass and tight, punching drums.

It'll mean so much more.

Wanna hear some Crystal Stilts, to acqauint thine-self?

Oblisk is currently recording with Chris Koltay at High Bias Studios. See them live, with Bad Indians, Hounds Below and Crystal Stilts - 5/21 @ Magic Stick.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Interview: (His Name Is Alive) - 20-year-anniersary - 5/20 @ Magic Stick

Warn Defever is relieved to be talking to a real human today.

He’s escaped the snare of his computer where he’s been mixing hours of recorded coos and claws of resuscitated baby raccoons into a full length album.

The critters tumbled out of the chimney at his Livonia home last month and perennial collaborator/and/roommate Davin Brainard joined in the rescue as both artists warily donned football helmets and hockey sticks (…hey, it could have been anything…like…“a baby monkey…or another kind of baby…”).

Or so he says.

In any case, his voice sounds weary enough to certainly suggest health-testing extensions of secluded work of some kind
– but that’s not out of the ordinary for the mysterious music mystic who recently marked the 20th anniversary of his flagship project, the inherently chameleonic His Name Is Alive.

Raccoons real or no, he has legitimately finished up production on the debut EP of Detroit-based atmospheric folk quintet Legendary Creatures. “They’re kinda like a family,” Defever said, warmly recalling the affable flow of their project. “When you’re recording, it is kinda like you’re on a camping trip. I hate that in that scenario I’m the camp councilor…I’ve gotta rethink that.”

Defever is renowned for his audio engineering wizardry, working transitorily between his Brown Rice studio, his home, or the UFO Factory in New Detroit. He's also commendably constituted his own Silver Mountain Media group.

The shrewd songwriter’s notorious for creative metamorphoses: from elaborate cardboard compounds being steadily demolished by robots marching through noise-rock grinds via Princess Dragonmom to collusions with the primarily secret-show-reliant, trash-punk-pop monstrosity of the Wolf Man Band, to, most notably, the indefinable HNIA, marked by a trend of lily-pad leaping o’er genres and moods with curious fickleness comparable only to Michigan’s distinctly whimsical weather.

Shoegaze, bubble-gum, atmospheric, Americana, space-rock, even soul and r&b… For this writer, His Name Is Alive always epitomized the word: ghostly... Something that haunted you in a very ruminating, if maybe somewhat beautifully brooding manner... It was almost opulent, it was almost operatic, it sort of drifted by my window like a spectre, forever burning itself into the eyes of my ears... I saw each song's aloof melodies forever, lingering across a cerebral projection of some black n' white 8mm film of gossamer goo...

So then...

Now, through Handmade Birds Records, HNIA will (re-)release 1993’s King of Sweet LP, remastered by Defever, it may well be the quintessential frayed framing of the band’s characteristic abstractness, thriving upon open-ended song collages. Sweet had only 2,000 copies released 18 years prior, and this time around there will, again, only be a set number available special double-vinyl presentation.

King of Sweet is a mixed bag,” Defever said. “Originally it was meant to be outtakes and weird versions of things…and song ideas. There’s a lot of birds chirping…I was really into the movie the Accidental Tourist at the time, so there’s a lot of that soundtrack on there. I mixed it in real time, this was back before they had computers. So, it’s a weird trip.”

Peculiarities arose as Defever worked to translate Sweet onto vinyl. “The number of song titles on Sweet has never quite matched the number of actual songs on the album. A lot of times, songs come later, maybe they’re somewhat random. So, then I had to split it up to the different sides (for vinyl), because it was originally just on CD. How do you address that? I adjusted the number of titles to the number of songs. The mystery is still there.”

Twenty years into this kaleidoscope musical odyssey, Defever shrugs away any attempt to talk about the subtle nuances of these songs and any potential identity, or message, they may have taken on, over the years. He’s not exactly a Springsteen or a Costello type singer/songwriter, able to tumble into some quiet, cordial coffee-shop convo about what his songs meant or how everyone got it wrong or whatever.

“I don’t try to guess what I was thinking back then,” Defever said. “It’s a blur to me. I’m working on stuff right now where, two weeks ago, I listened to it and I can’t imagine what I was doing then. I wake up in the morning and it’s just a blank piece of paper.”

He takes the slipperiness of his songwriting even further.

“When people ask me: do you play in a band…? –when I’m playing guitar somewhere, I answer: No. People will tell me that their familiar a little bit with HNIA and then ask: So, how many albums do you have out? And I’ll answer: three or four…”

(Not to get hung up on facts, but it’s actually well over a dozen releases, many of them split between his own timeSTEREO label and 4AD records).

Defever said an MP3 he recently released to help promote Sweet’s re-release matches none of the songs on the final track list. “One of the things that really works for me is: no one listens to what I do.” Handmade Birds or even Stereogum didn’t seem to notice. “There’s nobody paying attention, so I have a lot of freedom, do you know what I mean?”

In any case, Sweet’s re-release comes joined with HNIA’s string of “20th anniversary shows.”

Asked if it was Handmade’s suggestion or his own volition to acknowledge the “birthday,” Defever said, sighing, “It’s embarrassing.”

“I’m the guy who lies about how old he is. I’m an idiot for making a poster that says 20-yearnniversary and then not wanting people to know how old we are. You’re right, I guess I made a mistake.”

“Pretty much, the rule is: I figure out what I wanna do, and then I do the opposite.”

When asked about the line he toes, between art and music, noise and melody, songwriting and performance: “To be honest with you, I’ve been tring to sort of figure that out for myself with these bands. At what point can I announce that we’re gonna have a Bike Ride, a 20-year-anniversary-Bike-Ride, and call that a His Name Is Alive event. And how is that different than the bike ride I had last weekend?”

“It’s like, when you go to Subway and you get a sandwich, it’s $5 per foot, or something. If you go to Panera Bread, it’s $7. And if you go to the fanciest restaurant in the world that has lavender-infused bread made out of cashews, -that’s like $25. And you know that’s art. You can tell. But you’re not sure if it’s art at Panera Bread.”

“That’s where I’m at…”

His Name Is Alive songs, taken as an overarching canon, are the epitome of conundrum. It’s like a full pantry of different flavors. One some shelves they’re taken as intimate, on others they’re taken as impenetrable…on other shelves they’re digested soothingly, taken as meditative, but on other levels its caustic, skeletal or overtly provocative.

Does that make the songwriting process, for the mind making all these meandering songs, more of a personal, or impersonal experience?

“No! The question is for you! What is the answer?”


“…It’s personal…unfortunately. It’s real. It’s horrible. A true story. Autobiographical.”

“There’s a part of it where I feel like this music is sort of personal and it’s sort of what I’m doing and it’s way in my head, but at the same time, I am putting it out there. I’m not all the-way-Emily-Dickinson, ya know? But it works. It’s an uncomfortable compromise where nobody wins so…




His Name Is Alive ~ Legendary Creatures ~~ Magic Stick - 5/20

with Golden

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gregory McIntosh

You actually probably know Greg... ...but do you really know him?

"I've been hiding, essentially," said singer/songwriter Gregory McIntosh.

You've seen him sing and play guitar and perform with Great Lakes Myth Society...or maybe Johnny Headband, or maybe the Victrolas... (or, most recently, with Drunken Barn Dance). "I've been playing solo shows around the Ypsi/Arbor area for several years, but they've been very informal and infrequent affairs; mostly at house shows and such..."

So, forgive me as I indulge a bit of sensationalizing circumstantial meddling of narrative... Michigan ears might get the chance, someday soon, to hear Gregory McIntosh's first "solo album..." To unpack a musical chronicling of this long-time bander's heart and soul.

And this story starts two years ago, finding McIntosh: "in a horrible headspace..." where he "eventually stopped working on the songs, threw away all the mixes I'd taken home and stopped working on music for a while..."

At that point, Great Lakes Myth Society had agreed to go on a hiatus. "I started playing with those guys in 1997," McIntosh said. "That's 13 of my 33 years on this planet."

So, understandably, the feelings surrounding McIntosh's eventual full-departure from the band are "complex..." The progress, McIntosh felt, of the band, had slowed to such a pace, at that point in 09, that "I didn't feel like I could dedicate the time to maintaining it while working with Drunken Barn Dance, or also with Matt Jones & the Reconstruction...and then the solo thing, too!"

Great Lakes Myth Society, in the meantime, have recently re-energized and are working on their third album.

"I love those guys," McIntosh assured, "and I wouldn't be surprised if we worked together in the future."

So McIntosh, perhaps as some form of catharsis, started fleshing out his own songs with Jim Roll at Backseat Studios... ...only to eventually pull back and throw away his own mixes.

It wasn't until Spring 2010 that he felt renewed inspiration to bring more songs out, leading him to start recording with Geoff Michael at Big Sky Recordings. "Geoff and I have known each other for a long time - he's responsible for all the amazing engineering on the GLMS material - and we know how each other works in the studio, so we're very natural around each other in an environment that can, naturally, magnify insecurities."

But in the midst of those sessions, McIntosh lost his day job and had to pull out of the studio, leading him to resort to the humbler environment of his home, with a lo-fi 8-track recorder.

Fatefully, though, he wound up helping Roll out with recording at Backseat. One day, Roll played back some songs that McIntosh had originally laid down, two years ago... "Since I had thrown away everything, previously, everything sounded fresh to me." He was inspired by how good the songs had turned out and decided...to, now, follow through...

And make that foretold solo album^.... only now, it's not so much a solo album. Roll, his long time friend (and current band mate in Drunken Barn Dance) is helping, along with the instrumental contributions of singer/songwriter Molly Jean Schoen (on bass) and singer/songwriter Matt Jones (on drums). Ryan Howard (who also plays guitar in Drunken Barn Dance) is present on some of these McIntosh ballads, as well...

Greg McIntosh - The Absentee from Kevin Eder on Vimeo.

He's got a band now... but no name yet. And, he's almost got an album now... with no title yet...

The songs, in terms of sound, mood or texture, have been uniquely influenced by each studio. Roll's set up is spacious, with "lots of room mics on the drums" and bass running through the B-15 amp; guitars are bigger, noisier and looser than his usual strumming with GLMS or Jones. But there's still softer, folk-ish-inflected elements like horn arrangements, piano and pedal steel. Big Sky, meanwhile, is tighter, smaller and clearer sounding.

McIntosh had been listening to lots of Al Green and Wilson Pickett during this period and though the songs themselves are "far from soul numbers, we did cop the tight, close mic'd drms and really work on keeping the guitars reigned in."

Currently, working and recording at Backseat, McIntosh is helping Schoen finish her own solo album. "Molly and I have a great, super-relaxed and mutually supportive working relationship. Since it's so easy to build anxiety and insecurity in the studio, what with constantly evaluating one's own performance, it's really nice to have that kind of balance."

Same with Roll. "I've known Jim since 1998; we're both built in the same way, especially when it

comes to our psychoses. We crack each other up constantly and we both are really empathetic and earnest people...He's got a knack for getting anyone who walks in the door at Backseat to feel immediately relaxed, which is, of course, the best way to capture a great performance."

Reflecting back on all the other songwriters he's collaborated with and who has had considerable impact, "Jamie and Tim Monger..." came to mind first. "We're, all three of us, very different songwriters, but both of those guys have a gift that they've honed and they've taught me a lot."

Also, there's his dual-band-mate, Matt Jones: "One of the great songwriters out there, local or otherwise." Playing in the Reconstruction has showed McIntosh, "how fucking hard he works at it."

With Drunken Barn Dance, "Scott Sellwood has taught me a lot about letting go of my perfectionist inclinations." With DBD, the ethos/mission is: "three takes to get the song right, with everyone playing live in the same room. If the band doesn't get it in three takes, the song is thrown away, no matter what..."


"There's still so much to be done..." McIntosh said, of the album and securing any future for this band or these songs. "Touring is the most likely option, but Jim and I have some pretty curious ideas about the future of Backseat and it's growth." (A 2nd studio is currently being set up next door).

"Ypsilanti," he surmised, of his own personal musical "hub...is a very tight-knit-group of players and friends all fighting to make the community grow, and I don't mean just the musical community, but the community-at-large." He nodded with endearments and gratitude to "Bee Mayhew's (Beezy's Cafe) presence and support, as well as Andy Garris' incredible enthusiasm to create and sustain a healthy music scene that's becoming more and more, as much of a destination as it is a way of life for those of us living here..."