Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brand(s) - "From The Future"

Branding is such a loaded term when it comes to Detroit.

This is the land of The Big Three, the birthplace of the Motown Sound, and its manufacturing industry served as The Arsenal of Democracy during WWII.

We’ve called (still-call) ourselves Hockeytown and Detroit Rock City. And, sadly, in the last half-decade, we’ve become the poster-child for “ruin porn” with the recent release of a cluster of books and films documenting the city’s decline (Detropia, Detroit: An Autopsy, Detroit City Is The Place To Be... Eat This City

Detroit’s "definition," (its brand) is so splintered that its become indefinable –

And, that especially goes for its crop of creative musicians and the fill-in-the-blank-styles they’re been re-inventing. 

Sonic Visuals by: Brian Rozman
We don’t exactly know what we’re most known for, if it’s as the birthplace of Garage Rock (Stooges / MC5) or the birthplace of Techno (The Belleville 3), and, thus, inherent to the panicky, future-shock-tinged head-scratching of our “post-everything” generation, our contemporary class of music-makers vacillate between preserving the lineages laid-down or tossing it all out the back door and making something  anew, all our own.

Starting the next cultural chapter (or, perhaps, an entirely new story, altogether)  is expected to be daunting. More than thirty-years since the activation of the music world’s very first Techno pioneers, a new generation of Millennials switched-on and this early Spring hears them sounding as though they’ve transformed into…...what?

Photo: Brian Rozman
Bands like Lord Scrummage, Deastro, Jamaican Queens and Phantasmagoria might not yet be well known outside of this mitten-shaped state yet, but they each exemplify this beautifully un-brand-able erratic blending of styles that I'm trying to touch-upon...

What links them all, maybe, is their laptops. Their samplers, their sequencers, their pitch-shifting, cross-fading, beatmixing operating systems, -employed creatively between them (and countless others in Detroit’s modern universe of underground talents on display through various basement/loft/storefront-performances,) marking their signature sound, each re-writing, re-working or re-inventing their own “electro-pop.” Or what we've tried to call EDM (Electronic-Dance-Music). Only muddied with distinct, but understated spicing -from rap, from drone/noise/ambient, from psychedelically-informed folk. It all wobbles down together...into this ... Whaddya' wanna call it? 

Or, maybe call it “post-techno.” Or, maybe there’s a less anticlimactic way, a phrase to strike, to hem thse groups displaying sensibilities for hip-hop, ambient drone, Top 40 pop-hooks and ambitiously layered electro-rock compositions into a one or two-word phrase, something catchy, a brand.

Lord Scrummage are a quartet blending funk, soul and R&B to a defiant/dashing trash-pop aesthetic. Sweetened by soothing, syrupy backing female vocals, this irreverent, vaudevillian rapper-cribbing, funk-ish warble relays debaucheries from the darker sides of town. Much of the group work together (and sometimes host live performances) in a Deli under the shadow of the GM Renaissance Center. They recently released their 2nd full length album, Triangle or Die and their next project finds them collaborating with an up-and-coming emcee called SheefyMcFly.

CEASARS-MOOPThe Air Up There  Hip-Hop Showcase  - Album release for Sheefy X Scrummage's Smokin Triangles - 3/30 @ Bob's Classic Kicks 

Anyway, we can’t say if either Scrummage or Sheefy are at the center, or any center of some new movement, or brand, but both have demonstrated notable dedication towards a trend of community-girding showcasing events. The artists behind Lord Scrummage made their name, locally, over the last three years by hosting floating, word-of-mouth, after-hours loft parties, often in abandoned/re-purposed factory-spaces refitted with pulsing, crackling PA systems. Sheefy McFly hosts his own monthly hip-hop series called “The Air Up There,” where up ten emcees or rap-groups gather with a somewhat Battle-mentality, after-hours in a shoe store on Woodward Avenue.    

The lighting is dim and maybe the soundsystems aren’t perfect every time. It’s often BYOB and you’re lucky to find parking.

But this is the refresh, the re-start, the primal first dance-steps of a new chorus of talents trying out their own take on___? Techno? Ambient? Spaced-out funk/rock?

North End Studios - Detroit, MISome members of Lord Scrummage, meanwhile, recently took part in an “Ambient Battle” at the ever-edifying artist's collective-space in North End Studios  – a round robin-designed concert tournament, pitting together electro-centric composers improvising inside the stylistic realm of airier, detached and dreamy songscapes. Many of the bands involved, expectedly, ran the gamut and defied easy categorization; some were merely just trying out “ambient” on a whim!

But what’s ambient? That was up for interpretation that night And so’s Detroit’s new class of electronic artists. Southern-rap snark or warm acoustic atmospherics, darkly droning noise or sweetened synth-pop meditations, it’s all happening on the newest albums from these bands, often within the same 4-minute song.

Up next at NES--
Lord Scrummage - Mexican Knives - Shadow Attack and Tiny Little provide a swirling soundtrack for a special art installation/exhibit featuring a series of larger than life paintings inspired by Facebook advertisements and a certain post modern cartoon

Regarding the other two bands name-dropped above:
Phantasmagoria's beatmixing, loopmaster Christopher Jarvis is hosting another round of his newly commenced ambient music showcase - 
Young Mr. Jarvis has two respective presentations of new musical projects - one being his solo album under the moniker: 
Ancient Language

...the other being a new single with his group/duo (with singer/percussionist Lianna Vanicelli) -Phantasmagoria's "Sapphire" (LISTEN -...with subsequent remixing 
by the already noted Lord Scrummage)

And as soon as Jamaican Queens return from SXSW...and hopefully get some rest (or at least some upkicks of Vitamin C), they'll be bringing their strange, alluring hybrids of post-Trap, neo-wub, hip-hopped art-pop (...Jesus, what the hell did I just write...?) to this likely loud, electro-heavy affair commemorating the proper release of their debut album wormfood. -Hosted at yet-another uncategorize-able Art Space/Collective/String-of-DIY-storefronts - known as Trinosophes

But that's not until April 12th...

Jamaican Queens
Slufter vs. Dakota Bones
Coyote Clean Up
Bill Spencer

Call it what you will...
That's all for now

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