Friday, June 29, 2012

Go Back Where I Started From... (Blonde Album)

You know where I've been......where I was, where I am, where I'm going...

Soon enough, this album will be out and you'll be able to hear the nervy piano punches and dazzling double-track vocals harmonizing a haaaaaa-AHHH's over stutter-step percussion and teased along by wistful wispy vocals swaying through a sad/sweet melody.

The song's called "Just Friends" by a band called Lightning Love and it's on an album titled The Blonde Album and it won't be out for a just a little while, yet, (due August 28th)...

But if we've waited this long (3 ½ years since their last full-length, November Birthday), let's let the summer burn itself out and thus treat ourselves with a few final shots of sunshine from this Ypsi-trio, with their syrupy punches to the gut and hearts worn self-consciously on frayed sleeves.

Said-song above^ likely won't be a single, but you can stream this, in the meantime:Listen: Lightning Love - "Deadbeat"

photo: Chip Adams
In a time when I'm wondering just why the hell I still write on this blog, this album comes along and reignites something. It's simple, it strikes right to the core, the Id's guttural bite or soothed acclamation; this, this... is what your narrator was feeling, right then and there at the moment the word was written down onto a page that sat crumpled at the tip of a piano. No esoteric allegories or cliched poetical dressing-up, this is how it's seen, put to breezy, sashaying melodies and charged forth by strutting, slinky-slammed percussion. Guitar meets piano meets wispy, longing lullaby vocals. In- -out, two minutes, maybe three... the album stops, the melodies stay...and stay... Simple. Struck. 

There's no pedal-steel or theremin, no screaming, no feedback (well, not that much feedback). It's the personal pop album that the trio have been working towards, steadily...oh so steadily, for three-ish years now. It's not that it's nostalgic, so to speak. Not nostalgic on some -oh it's a throw-back to good old twee-pop-level or nostalgic on some -hey-look, weird man, weird, I wrote about this band four years ago on this same blog- but still, nostalgic in a way...
...that this music, ebullient pop music, with its inevitable sparks, makes one feel young again. Even if you aren't yet 30, the swirly-slide up-and-at-em-ness of these melodies takes you back...somewhere. 

Lightning Love - the Blonde Album - Aug 28 - Quite Scientific 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Where Was I Going With This...

Bright pastel letters in a bubbly font denoted the brand of soda that would fizz the first sentence of my obituary.

Oh, that my life should flash before my eyes at the gaping mouth grill of a behemoth semi-truck, story-and-a-half-high, engine like the voracious growling stomach of six satanic dogs, a doom tank and in a hurry…

I had the Walk symbol, but was frozen. The gears shifted, groaning like axed titanium timber as this boxy war slug lurched to turn right, the two of us meeting on oil-splattered blacktop.

America, you do not need this much Faygo.

A B-29 on wheels is turning on red, discontent to wait, it’s speeding forth for you, fire at its ass, through the crosswalk, clear traffic in the early morning, pre-rush-hour; it must sate the thirst for dyed liquid sugar.

I’m going to be run over by a beautiful (effectively-big) representation of where this country’s priorities are at – I’ll be flattened onto the avenue, right in with that sun-baked oil stain.

I wake up every morning and the screen keeps shuffling more headlines. If we feel angry-enough, singing along to the words of the pundits and the bloggers with our appropriately affixed scowls, furrowed brows and knowing tisks, scoffs and curdled exertions of disgust, then some strange chemical in our brain glows a soothing emerald green and spills all around our cerebellum, cooing us into feeling like our pissed-off-ness demonstrates our conviction.

But the headlines will keep scrolling and one side will keep pointing towards the other and the other right back in turn; if the world’s really going down (as water levels rise), if an apathetic majority’s acquiescence is climbing at the same rate of a devious minority’s reach of clamping control, if we’re all so much in a hurry…that we can’t be bothered with…all that weight…

Then the best I feel I can do, right now, is write…

...and aspire beyond the re-tweet...

more soon then

Monday, June 25, 2012

Phantasmagoria boggle Illy Mack

or vice-versa

photos: Raymon Grubb
Illy Mack and Phantasmagoria play board games

Steve swivels around suddenly in his computer chair to face Phantasmagoria and tells them that if he and Jen both died tomorrow …then Illy Mack’s new album could be released. 

They’re really the only ones’ holding it back at this point. And Jen’s losing patience, she just wants to get out and play live; sing live.

All four members of both bands are in Steve (Kendzorski)’s living room in Ferndale, talking about their new stuff around a coffee table cluttered with retro board games. Yahtzee, Boggle, Trouble, Sorry!

Jen David says the Illy Mack album is almost 75% done, but her bandmate, Kendzorski, says, well, its probably about only-maybe 70%
...and Chris Jarvis (of Phantasmagoria) says he feels like their progress-percentages seem to go down a peg or two every time he revisits their rehearsal space (i.e., the game-room, the mic-booth, the mixing board, it’s all here…)

The Living Room

As Illy Mack rap things up, Jarvis, along with his bandmate, Lianna Vanicelli, as Phantasmagoria, are done with their second full length album, Currents. Done-done. No more percentages, it comes out next week on Five Three Dial Tone. 

Kendzorski says that with Illy Mack's forthcoming album: the songs-themselves are done. (Last count surpassed 20 of them). Yes, all Illy's songs are “down,” recorded. But now comes the editing process: mixing, re-working, adding, re-adding, layering, overdubbing, scrapping…physical and verbal-scrapping between the two of them...

David, the guitarist/singing-half to Kenzorski’s bass/drum-half, worries that her bandmate is going to drive himself crazy with his ardent recording methods and exhaustive dissections. 

“Probably already has…” Jarvis shrugs. 

This musical-meet-up occurs on the last day of March 2011, as the clock ticked over at midnight and April's first early morning began, both groups were still abuzz from their recent Blowout sets, having shared a bill at the New Dodge wherein they covered each others songs.

This pair of musical duos stirred up notable buzz in Detroit’s music scene throughout last year (or two):

-Phantasmagoria compose computer-based ambient dance-pop,
-Illy Mack kick out a minimalist, blues-scuffed soul-rock.
----Both have new albums coming out this summer (one sooner than the other,) and it’s not the first “release” for either band.

Still, both consider these forthcoming works to be, on some level, their “actual first album,” as Vanicelli puts it.

Each band feels this will be like the actual first impression.


Each did make considerable first impressions through their live shows (Illy Mack debuted in 2010 and Phantasmagoria broke out in spring of 2011). There’s something intangibly alluring about boy-girl musical-pairs – with Phantasmagoria they strike something more mysterious, airier, while Illy Mack flared a more gregarious, even uproarious aura.

Each pairing similarly employs eclectic instrumentation, form saxophone to cabesa shakers to maracas and bongos... One might employ synthesizers, vocoders and laptops while the other’s got guitars, cinder-blocked bass drum and tuneful whistling. 

Phantasmagoria feed your head with layered, tripped-out dream-pop sensibilities while Illy Mack punches your gut with disarmingly heartfelt lo-fi blends of R&B and rock.

The young quartet (their ages add up to about 101, all together) are not just two sides of a coin musically, but personally: the boisterous David and “Kendzo” verbally leapfrog each other in serving oneupping snipes, sporadically knocking that taboo ceramic vase of etiquette and tact to the floor in their charming way of holding nothing back, while Jarvis and Vanicelli’s cooler, calmer diffidence is only augmented when they then compete against their louder counterparts in a bemusing game of Boggle.

Phantasmagoria is, beyond just being in a band together, an actual couple, whereas Illy Mack is not, -even if bittersweet bantering mimics that of an old married couple.

On the surface, they seem diverged to distant poles – analog to digital, madcap to meticulous, acoustical to synthetic, blues-based to techno-based. And yet, a tiny epiphany struck during their well-received bill shared at last March's Metro Times' Blowout, swapping respective cover songs:
...they found common-ground.

It’s in “the feel” of the song…


Jarvis talks about Phantasmagoria’s song-crafting process:

--Inherent to “making electronic music,” he starts  by creating a loop on the computer and then builds upon it, adding different elements atop: primarily melodies and from there, the program (Ableton Live) will always remember your song’s characteristics, key-changes, crescendos.

Whereas, for David, playing her parts back live on her guitar, in a studio or in Steve's living room requires “making yourself play it perfectly…”

“Not even 'play it perfectly',” Kendzo cuts in, “but ' it with the feel you want.' It’s not about being perfect but about emoting it the right way.”

Then it can be about going on instinct, David considers. “Pretty much none of my guitar solos are written,” she says, “its just noise that I make live.”

Kendzo scoffs dramatically and Jarvis coolly smiles, pondering aloud, “…is that line gonna go in the article?”

“Who the fuck are you?” Kendzo’s exclamation avalanches into a laugh, there's such guttural emphases slalomed upon "fuck" and "are" in that sentence. He's taken offense at how rock-star-ish of a quote it was...

After the quibbling quiets Kendzo comes back to recording-music-talk and he elaborates:
“Its just, us, when we’re live, you can feel the sweat hitting your face, sweat-from-Jen’s face-from-the-stage-hitting you …and that makes a big difference when you go to record.”

“Steve’s trying to ‘hone-in’ on something,” David pokes at his zealousness, an eyebrow cocked as she finger-quotes. “I’m trying to figure out just what it is, too.”

Interestingly, though, Jarvis says he makes some of his drums off-time on purpose. Kendzo, who works as a music teacher by day at the Schoolof Rock and Pop in Royal Oak, heard that curious intricacy right away when he listened back to a song from Jarvis’ laptop: “Yeah, that last song, 12 measures before the end, there’s a timbale just lilting behind.” He pinches his index and thumb, "...just off."

Jarvis has no idea why he slips those subtle marks emulating human error into his digital composition program but enjoys “the weird rhythm that it adds…”

“It’s not on-on, mechanically,” Kendzo says, “but…it feels good…because it’s not that off.”

Seated at his own computer, a desktop with imposing monitors that throb out bass-bulged, drum-heavy demos, Kendzo’s glasses don’t hide the bags under his eyes, admitting that when he gets locked into certain projects, particularly mixing an album, he tends to focus on nothing else. “We didn’t want to just document what we sound like live,” Kendzo said, “we wanted these songs to stand. But, there’s a lot of improvised moments that happen in an Illy Mack-set that need to be telegraphed when we put them onto an album. That’s the struggle, to keep things organic-sounding.”

The struggle might also be keeping it simple. “The Illy Mack drum set up is two drums, right?” Kendzo leads in, “in a way it’s simple. But, I miked the drums with 16 microphones.”

Vanicelli bursts in disbelieving chuckles while Jarvis prods “Were you reading the Kurt Cobain journals when you did this? That’s absurd…”

And David shrugs as though her point’s proven, “Steve’s insane.”

Kendzo says “If I’m gonna track 20 songs of drums right now, I don’t want every fucking song on this album to have the same drum set, or to sound like the same drums. I’m way over miked but I can pick and choose the best mics for each recording.” And, yes, currently, the Illy Mack album packs 20 potential tracks, though that will likely be pared down.

“We spent a lot more time perfecting minor details, “says Vanicelli of their album, Currents, “tweaking the order of the songs and the vibes they produced. I was constantly learning things about recording vocals and improving them.” Vanicelli, whose striking voice, soft and silvery, was so distinctive to Phantasmagoria’s bewitching, earthy-electro sound, said that she’d almost always gone with her “first take” before this record, deciding this time to endure “an annoying amount” of takes to achieve perfection.

That’s really what’s taken Phantasmagoria thirteen months, (and Illy Mack, for that matter, about just as long), to make these albums, both wanting, as Jarvis puts it, “to make the absolute best and truest album…”

Inevitably there’s a mix of pride in the new production, tailed by a weary anxiety to just get onto the next thing, already. “Personally,” David says, “this process makes me want to go back to my 4-track and never look at a protools-session again. Every time I record, I feel like I hate everything, but every time I play a show I remember how much I love music, and love Steve.” (Illy Mack) works because we belong on a stage together.”

David’s voice is just as formidable as Vanicelli’s, but deeper, more a ballady belt than a staticy lullaby; David’s got a subtly sweet, but smokier rasp. She says that over-thinking any song’s aspect needlessly builds obstacles for its fruition. Similarly for Jarvis and Vanicelli, they admit that their songs work best when they’re formed out of randomness. (They reiterate, as they had months ago, that their first album wasn’t even intended to be an album. It just sorta happened.).

So both bands, despite whatever divergences, particularly in sound (“We get billed together a lot,” Steve admits, “but we are SO different,”), they’ve got this common ground – going on feeling.

But they’re also representative of that the new millennials’ school of musical thinking – where genres blur – they’re open to trying almost anything, defying convention or built-in stigmas. 

All four are open, particularly, to cover songs. Illy Mack took on the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and even Eminem, while Phantasmagoria embodied Radiohead, Neutral Milk Hotel and, yes, Neil Young.

Then, at Blowout 2012, they covered each other. “People like to hear familiar songs from a band that sounds nothing like the original,” Vanicelli posits. “Plus, I love taking on another vocalist that I admire, it puts me inside of their head.”

Jarvis and Kendzo bond over rhythmic structuring – the same way Vanicelli and David can talk about vocals – only the dudes dork out way too deeply into the technicalities and their idiosyncratic thought processes, as they admit to the fun of “getting inside each other’s heads…”

Beyond that, Jarvis said it was just so weird hearing someone cover their song. 

Kendzo said it was like watching fireworks go off when you’re a kid. His enthusiasm swells into his finally revealing that he wants, someday soon, to make an App on his new iPhone for their bands: 

...the PhantasMack-App – something still amorphous that would ideally provide band updates, tour dates, stream songs, but he eventually expands it into applying it, potentially, to the entire indie-rock/electronica music scene in the city. Why not?

“Stop,” David says, “…not into it!”

“Fuck you, it’d be really fucking sweet,” Kendzo prods.

Phantasmagoria recently released a split 7” with Coyote Clean Up (both bands covering Nirvana songs). They'll release their album, Currents, with a concert on the kick-off night (Friday July 13) of the Pig & Whiskey Festival (at the Loving Touch in Ferndale) featuring Shigeto and Charles Trees

Illy Mack, meanwhile are finishing up their album and are also performing at the Pig & Whiskey -on Sunday - July 15 - along with The Electric Six, The Hard Lessons, Child Bite, K.I.D.S. and Dragon Wagon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Jamaican Queens' Adam Pressley: Chattin' With Milo

It lives...
This ol' blog's back for a week or two.

So then - Jamaican Queens are a new OddPop trio featuring former members of Prussia and Rescue. They've got three shows under their each of their three belts (should they be wearing any) and can be seen, next, on June 30th, outside the Woodbridge Pub for the Merrick N' Trumbull Fest. 

JQ co-founder/guitarist/bassist/singer -Adam Pressley - chatted with me...two weeks back...

Adam Pressley:  -Hey homey
I am here for a while, ask away!

Jeff Milo:  -Oh, man!...where to start? How did this band get started -and- when!? How tied to the "end" of Prussia is it? How would you describe it's birth?

Adam Pressley:  -Ryan (Spencer) and I started (Jamaican Queens) about 3 or 4 months before Prussia broke up. At the time, we could tell the end was coming soon, and we were already getting excited about the prospect of being a 2-man musical-collaboration rather than a full band like Prussia.
The smaller the collaborative group, the smoother things go; in a creative sense and decision-making sense as well. So that was really attractive...
That didn't really answer your first question...

Jeff Milo:  -Not really, but no worries. So you and Ryan had this cooking, sorta, on the side, before putting an end to Prussia...

Adam Pressley: -You could say we actually "got started" when I first moved to Detroit and then I showed Ryan some of my rap beats and he bragged, "I wanna write to this; I can write to anything."
Heheh...and then we made Prussia Goes to the Disco (a limited "summer" mix-tape release out from August 2010)...with those same initial beats.

photo: Karpovthewreckedtrain

Jeff Milo:  -Beyond the smaller-collaborative-appeal, something seems to have clicked particularly between you and Ryan; in fact, Ryan Clancey (JQ drummer) described it as two halves of a music brain firing together. Did you guys click in anyway before, back when your two bands (Prussia and Ohtis) played together? What makes that work for you two?

Adam Pressley:  -I think Clancy is right in that we are opposites in a lot of ways, which probably makes us good collaborating partners. I feel like we both are big fans of what the other is doing, because I would never come up with the creative ideas Ryan does and vice-versa.
We never collaborated musically when I was in Ohtis, just with show swapping. Me hooking up Prussia shows in central Illinois and Ryan hooking up Ohtis shows in Detroit.

Jeff Milo:  -So this was born from your beat production and Ryan's lyrics...then the disco mixtape; so, what has Jamaican Queens become, song-wise/sound-wise? How would you describe...

Adam Pressley: -The biggest difference for me is that we honestly didn't plan on releasing the mixtape songs until the very end of creating it, whereas we went into the Jamaican Queens' songs knowing we were making music that would be released. It's a lot different creating music when you know people are going to hear it.

Jeff Milo: -That's a different writing experience then, because you risk over-thinking...

Adam Pressley: -Yeah totally, that can happen. But a writer needs to be able to take that into consideration when they write. There were definitely songs where we went through a few different "versions" and ended up deciding to keep the stripped-down version. Sonically, we found a more cohesive sound. It's still very electronic like the mixtape was, but I feel like it's more original.
Also, with the mixtape a negative thing that can come from the careless approach is that some of our ideas were half-baked and performances were poor.
The whole thing could've been professionally mixed to sound way better even to the ears of people who might dig the slacker element to that release.

 Jeff Milo: -What happened with Prussia, in the end? And, was being able to stretch your legs into different territory (like JQ) something you two needed? Was there a specific moment or song-you-worked on that you'd consider a formative moment for you two? where it came down to: okay, yes, we can do another band together - let's do this

Adam Pressley: - Prussia came to a close because every member except for Ryan and I was not able to continue making a sacrifice in their lifestyle to pursue music. There wasn't a specific moment or song where Ryan and I realized we were able to successfully create music together; I feel like we had learned that just from playing together in Prussia.

Jeff Milo: - Well, I meant something different as in JQ, maybe it wasn't so much of a turning-down-a-new-road as I presumed it to be

Adam Pressley: -Ohh. No, we just started doing it when we saw Prussia coming to an end.

Jeff Milo: -Turning down onto a new road when you see the one you're on's runnin out. Right. Does it, at all, though, distinguish itself in how you approach it - writer-wise, music-wise, production-wise?

Adam Pressley: -I remember texting Ryan whenPrussia felt like an impossible thing for numerous reasons and telling him: ""If it ever comes down to it, you and I can pump out albums as fast and high-quality as Sean Nicholas Savage, but with a work ethic to boot."" ...Sorry, I don't understand that last question

Jeff Milo: -...prodding at what it's like approaching a more electronic-based music as opposed to guitar-bass-drum - or if you've wound up tapping into more of your hip hop side for this and to how much of an extent?

Adam Pressley: -Hey, don't use that last thing I said about Sean Nicholas Savage for anything please. haha. it sounds like a diss. Oh-kay: Wellll...I couldn't even tell you how Prussia worked on music, honestly.  I got to hear the demos for Poor English and e-mail a few ideas from Illinois but they were ready to go into the studio when I showed up to join the band.
But the way Jamaican Queens approaches music is similar to my older band, Ohtis, in that: we craft the songs at home. Demos become sessions become masters.
And then we figure out how to play those recordings live (which has involved learning a lot of new live equipment for Jamaican Queens, which I'm stoked about!)

photo: Lo-fi Bri

Jeff Milo: -So, how would you describe these songs or the sound you've developed? something spacey? danceable? gnarly? punk? groovy?

Adam Pressley: -As far as the electronic and hip hop elements that are present in Jamaican Queens, but weren't present in Prussia or Ohtis...I've always made electronic music since I began playing guitar...and Ryan's always dug rap as far as I can tell.
I would describe it as
abrasive chamber hip hop
I would say bands that we ended up being similar to are:
Beta Band, Gorillaz...
Flaming Lips...
...but saying that makes us sound laaaame

Jeff Milo: -You guys producing this stuff in-house? How've you been recording and what's your live set up / live approach like? And, yeah, that whole: describe-how-you-sound question can be vague and exasperating, but its more just to put a taste in my and readers' brains...

Adam Pressley: -Yeah we recorded it all at my house and in Ryan's apartment in Southwest Detroit, the latter of which was sometimes a pain in the ass because Dark Red jam and practice a lot and they lived in the same building.
We perform with acoustic guitar, fuzz bass, acoustic and electronic drums, and a sampler.
Ryan and I did the Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr "Prussia" remix as well
and we did a remix for Fawn
...which included a sample of Thong Song by Sisqo and really MADE the remix, but their record label made us remove it. 

Jeff Milo: ...damn

Adam Pressley: -We really like remixing other people's songs. We're thinking about releasing a remix mixtape... 

Jeff Milo: -Jamaican Queens...Ryan's shown penchants for dub/reggae music in the past, so does that have any baring on what your name-DID-end up being? 

Adam Pressley: -We were just trying to brainstorm band names (we were almost called Community Crack Party), but then Ryan remembered calling himself Jamaican Queens once when he played a solo show. I have no idea how he came up with that band name, dude's crazy.
Probably something to do with his reggae love..

Jeff Milo: -Is this at all like prussia in terms of Ryan leading the way lyrics-wise? Do you ever dabble in lyrics? Or have written out words for past solo stuff or Ohtis stuff...How'd Clancey come into the picture? 

Adam Pressley: -Nope i never write lyrics, that is not my area at all and I am not interested in it. And Clancy came into the picture when we were trying to figure out who might be down to fill the role, and it turns out he is a dream to be in a band with.

Jeff Milo: -So how's it feel then to be in a new-ish band; does it feel at all like a fresh start? I'm just thinking of the exasperation leading up to/around the release of Poor English - in regards to your experience with the music industry - is this a band where you don't even wanna think about that stuff anymore - More of a just-doing-it kind of band - or do you have higher hopes or somewhat-big-plans?

Adam Pressley: -For me, it's best to not think about getting on a label, just causes anxiety. If it happens it happens. Luckily the music industry is at a point right now where if it doesn't happen, you can still find a large audience if you work hard enough and have a good enough product.
And yes we have big plans.
We are getting old and we're still sacrificing a whole lot to play music.
...old as in most people I went to high school with have kids and a career now
So that's all the reason to make this one count and learn from the bands we were in in the past.

Jeff Milo: -Right on. That's all I might bug you for, today, sir.
If any thoughts linger in your head about what this new music/these new songs, mean to you
...or how you feel about em

Adam Pressley: -Cool! If I think of anything, I'll let you know.

.....a few days later.....

Adam Pressley: -Hey, so, I was talking to Jen David (of Illy Mack) and we agreed that it'd be funny to just post this whole conversation -as-is- -on your blog and call it "Chattin with milo"....start a whole new interview style! And you can include everything even the Sean Nicholas Savage jab and then the part where I ask you not to print it...

Jeff Milo: -Well, let's catch up: How about those first three shows you've played? How does 'IT' (the music as rendered LIVE) feel and how do you feel participating, how's it flowing or how might you approach it differently the next time, if at all?

Adam Pressley: -I think the first three shows were great. We put a lot of work into rehearsing (like 2 or 3 months!) and I think we executed the songs efficiently because we nitpicked for so long. And the crowd reaction was beyond what I expected, I'm really grateful people dig it.
I think I'm ready to start focusing on making more music so no plans right now to rearrange.
I'm hosting a Karaokee thing right now, so I gotta go...

Jeff Milo: -Adam, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to chat.

Adam Pressley: -Word! The feeling is mutual, Jeff

Monday, June 4, 2012

That Summer Feeling

How's your summer starting off? Hopefully well... And, if not yet, ^that's a pretty good jam for your musing, muggy night drives. Synth sublimity - with Andrew Remdenok by-way-of Ice Cold Chrissy (Coyote Clean-Up). 

Got a minute?

And then there's this... The video is a bit disturbing. But, in less-than-about two-weeks' time (come June 21st), your ears will forgive what your eyes had to endure:

But even then, if you think vomit-splashed babies making kissy faces at you is disturbing, you should ready yourself for what this rap duo throws your way in a few months time^ -that being a music video directed by local filmmaker Colin Duerr, a specialist in the audacious/upsetting/surrealist aesthetic (as proved by past works).