Thursday, October 22, 2015

Small Victories by Flint Eastwood

I know “album reviews” are irrelevant to a streaming culture, but we gotta talk about this new Flint Eastwood E.P.

Small Victories sticks a tricky landing with unfound poise; sweeps its toe across an otherwise all too easily muddled line and backflips onto the balls of its feet, let’s talk about sincerity and message-music and let’s also talk about potent pop production and invigorating mixes of triumphal tones. Let’s talk about toeing that line: celebratory yet sobering…, anthemic door kickers and soul-pumping striders yet also with these poignant, heart-on-the-sleeve asides and vital impartations of guidance, encouragement, commiseration and sincere wisdom, which, honestly, must feel, to this generation, like the wrung-out droplets of fresh, revitalizing springrain after a season of Internet acid.

More than five years ago, when I first heard about Flint Eastwood, it was a brother-sister pair, the songwriter & performer Jax and the producer & musical mad scientist Seth. They called themselves POWER, initially… And it’s always been about that, hasn’t it? Empowerment. The wary & thoughtful & contemplative pop song that invites you to lose yourself in that dancing-like-no-ones-watching-fit that you’ve fallen into and yet bends your ear open to those confessional, relatable lyrics…the lyrics of a folk ballad but the energy of a ceiling-shaking dance-pop powder keg.

Flint Eastwood’s latest EP, Small Victories, started streaming earlier this week but it’s officially available on iTunes FRIDAY.

We’ve heard music that’s about excess, we’ve heard music that’s about telling everyone to go fuck themselves…we’ve heard music that’s about self-celebration, but this is not quite that… And we’ve heard the tragically tender and the hauntingly beautiful stuff of the 90’s and the cynical strychnine indie-rock contrivances that pocked up the post-Millennia and this stuff…Flint’s stuff…Jax’s songs…obliterates that, obliterates cynicism, obliterates any self-consciousness over being to sincere. And after it does that, then it starts to stir you to dance.

So, I just thought we should talk about all that…

And then, the actual tracks: “Find What You’re Looking For” is marvelously produced, multi-tracked vocals jetting this goosebump-bursting harmony over a subtly explosive, stop-start drum pattern hitting with primal energy; the guitars start to sizzle through the second verse and fresh percussion starts overlaying the original drum hits leading up to the bridge. This song displays a keen sense that prevails throughout the EP, a sense for stripping it all back, for giving silence vibrancy and using it to augment the breathy voice, the solitary singer, backlighting her words, almost. The poignancy punches even harder, at these points.

And the harsh fuzz around those synth keys striking at the opening of “Glitches…” The sledge slam of the drums and the tension of those bass lines… They represent the noise and anxiety of the every day, the commotion of the big media machines and the whirlwind of the cars and neon lights and billboards and oh did you see about that thing on Twitter? Glitches… And yet, “I will stay with you… I will follow you…” Through the glitches, through the distortion, through the disorientation of the senses through all the dangers real and perceived, live-threatening and self-inducing… This song might have one of the heaviest messages and thus it fittingly has the most measured tempo, a slow jam, really…in the form of a throttling electro-rock gospel thrum.

 “Oblivious” opens with spaghetti-western style guitar and it harkens back to Late Nights In Bolo Ties, while Jax’s lyrics bring the dividing line between the digital and the natural worlds into stark relief, shaking you out of your complacency. With “Monster,” we need to reiterate the production’s sensibility for accentuated sparseness, with that buoyant-yet-barely-there-bass blip like a groovy heartbeat. With “God Only Knows,” we can hear the influence upon the Anderson “syblings” from having being raised in a religious household and producing their music inside churches…because it begins like a hymnal, only to metamorphose into what might be the most kinetic pop track on the whole E.P., with a percussive & synth hook that all but cartwheels into jumping-jack exuberance. And yet…those heavy lyrics…unloaded:

“This year, got a new perspective / this year, things are gonna change / I wanna talk about it / when they say: How ya been? / Where to begin? / God only knows…” Refraining… “…that I’ll be alright / I’ll be just fine.”

Sometimes you just have to unload, unpack, unwind, get it out, get it off your heart, your head… But take those heavy sentiments, those frustrations, those observations, sculpt it to the unique architecture of an electro-pop aria…

From title track,“Small Victories…” 
“Me and my friends / we forecast dreams that just aren’t clear…”

….but one day you will find a way…just don’t lose your head. For now, and for the foreseeable future, until you get there…wherever it is, …you’ve got to rely on small victories… (In that way, as the song surges, you’re “…a champion…”)

Now, who wouldn’t feel consoled, enthused, rejuvenated, after hearing that kind of advice, set to an irresistible beat?  That’s a rhetorical question, obviously, because the cynics feel we don’t need album reviews. But I thought we should just talk about Small Victories for a second… Enjoy listening…

Monday, October 19, 2015

Midwest Fest VIII

Midwest Fest returns this week, hosted at Hunter's Ale House in Mt. Pleasant, MI

We see festivals, miniature, medium and massive..., all throughout the Detroit, Ypsi and Ann Arbor regions throughout the year, but this Fest reaches its web strands out to every corner of the Mitten (I'm aware there's no corners to a mitten-shape) and beyond, to northwestern IL or throughout Ohio, and brings them all toward a central location in the name of celebrating the great music of the Great Lakes.

There are 15 bands on the bill, with five performing each night throughout the weekend ($5/night - $10/weekend).

Big Sherb
Lady Ace Boogie
Gosh Pith
Pleasant Drive

Elliot Street Lunatic
The Cardboard Swords 
Heavy Color

The Go Rounds
Walsher Clemons
Luxurious Vegetation
Strawberry Heritage
the Mudpuppys 

More info 

And... a new music video from one of the three headliners
The Go Rounds

The Go Rounds - Shock n Awe from Symmetry Films on Vimeo.

Wanna read more about the Go Rounds? 

Wanna learn more about Midwest Fest? 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

ONO / Nyodene D / White Christian Male / Something Cold -- Nov 5 @UFO

Don't be afraid...

Think of it as a mantra...albeit a menacing-sounding mantra. Churning, swelling, conjuring... It'll sound like a music devoid of charm, lacking shape as much as subtlety...

Someone told me to anticipate "...noise..." for this show...but nothing like the typical "noise" I might imagine based upon previous experimental progenitors... There is, of course, the storied noise-funk group ONO as the headliners, but the opening groups are quite astonishing in their own right.

Nov 5th at the UFO Factory
ONO (from Chicago)
Nyodende D (from Cleveland)
White Christian Male (from Detroit)
and Something Cold DJ's (also Detroit)
2110 TRUMBALL AVEDETROIT, MI 482169:00 p.m. /  6$ / 18+

This music can detach you...shunt you into the void...surround you and yet still sneak up behind you. The disorientation is rejuvenating in a way, albeit somewhat disturbing in one sense of the word...

This line up, in fact, is an excellent showcase of contemporary experimental doominations and marvelous manifestations of the raw dread plaqueing up our collective unconscious... An exorcism, a throttling dance ritual, a re-possession, an elemental fervor wherein you're liable to be struck by an errant lightning bolt or be sucked into the next quarry, crevasse or black hole...

White Christian Male starts from darkwave techno and then busts open the old manor's rickety windows to let in all the digi-ghosts of noise-trance past for a hypnotic seance...

Nyodene D's music might actually be a living organism; I'm still studying its habits and cataloging the various groans and malevolent purrs it emotes...But it might actually be its own dimension... A place, in songform, where I lose my footing, where I may be submerged or I may be airborne, where I may be stalked by sharks or dragons or my own doppleganger... It is invigorating. It is terrifying.

ONO, meanwhile, have been around since 1980, pioneering/re-defining this thing called "noise..." The avant-garde collective are releasing one of their most profound and provocative albums to date... Spooks via Moniker Records... on Oct 30. ONO is at their most primal and yet their most nuanced... Blending faint apparitions of jazz and funk into a primordial deluge of discordant sonic emanations under a poetic cadence of sing-speak-scream vocals embodying narrators fearlessly exhuming our deepest, darkest thoughts and fusing them to the tempestuous here-and-there-and-gone-again-only-to-return rhythmic arrangements... It is dizzying, it is ponderous, it is profound, it is.... noise. But yet, so much more....

All the transportive renderings of Detroit's own Something Cold spinning throughout the evening... November 5 @ UFO

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

High Arrow present Cloak & Whisper

Halloween and rock ‘n’ roll go hand-and-hand… Or should we say claw-and-claw? High Arrow is a high energy psych-rock trio that was forged in Detroit back in early 2013 and they’re coming back home this month to throw us a sensational masquerade party.

You can find this article in the print edition of the FERNDALE FRIENDS NEWSPAPER 

High Arrow’s lead singer and bassist Tracy Olane Thomson and lead guitarist Adam Thomson recently relocated to west Arizona, but their most formative experiences (including all of their studio work) have been here in Ferndale and Detroit. Cloak & Whisper is the name of their masquerade party on October 23rd (at PJ's Lager House). As of now, they’re set on returning to Michigan as much as possible (meanwhile, setting up a footprint over in Las Vegas). High Arrow’s rock is a vigorous storm of psychedelia, with soulful, soaring vocals, wickedly whipped guitar riffs and intricate drum patterns stirring up furious thunderclouds. Suffice to say: you can anticipate quite an exertion for their homecoming Halloween party.

Cloak & Whisper pays homage to iconic filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s final work Eyes Wide Shut. The Thomsons have curated a variety show featuring a blend of band’s and performance artists. There will be a theatrical skit featuring all the artists on the lineup along with custom theme music composed by High Arrow, along with local songwriter/producer Jon Berz (from Woodshed Studio) and songwriter Eugene Strobe (of Cosmic Light Shapes).Strobe’s band, along with Berz punk duo (Counter Elites) are performing, along with a dance performance by Charley Crystal and her Kittens.

“We both love Halloween,” said Tracy. “It’s creative, fun, dark, glitzy…sugar-fueled….and, as adults, we still haven’t grown out of it. We still look forward to attending theme parties like Theater Bizarre (in Detroit). Bringing Halloween themes into a rock ‘n’ roll show can make for an excellent complement and a treat for the senses.”

Growing up in metro Detroit, Tracy was the “fine arts kid” through school, eventually attending undergrad at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and then the University of Michigan. She got into poetry in the early 2000’s, along with art exhibitions which combined art, music, and dance. “In terms of music,” said Tracy, “I specifically pull toward psychedelic, acid rock. As a kid I can remember playing The Doors on my Fisher Price record player and being confused, yet attracted to that experimental style.”

Adam Thomson, meanwhile, grew up in St. Clair Shores, having started on guitar when he was 10-years-old. “I always loved playing music live and riding the energy waves between the music and the audience,” Adam said.  For years, he had collaborated with a slew of other rock bands, but he always wanted to form a group of his own. “High Arrow became the right opportunity for me to lead.”

“When (Adam) wanted to form his own band,” Tracy said, “I energetically volunteered to write poetic lyrics. He taught me how to play bass and the rest is history. (High Arrow) was the chance for us to work together as a married couple, take our music and our backgrounds in art and merge those into something unique.”

The band is essentially a trio, with the Thomsons having collaborated with a handful of drummers over the years. Their first two records, a frenetic batch of bluesy psyche tunes on their 2013 self-titled debut along with a dynamic psych-rock odyssey called Venus Is Rising, were recorded in downtown Detroit at producer Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders studio. Last summer, they released Hot Love, an exhilarating blend of cerebral and atmospheric rock trips and punk-tempo soul rock ripped right from the seminal sounds of 70’s sludge.  

Hot Love was mastered by Jim Diamond and recorded over at Woodshed Studios in Ferndale. They recall how Berz, a Ferndale local, encouraged them to “push further into the creative abyss.”

“The motor city is our foundation,” said Tracy, “(metro Detroit) is our roots and our family. We will never forget where we grew up and first got started. We plan to visit annually; stay connected with our musician community and return there to play shows.” The first opportunity to see High Arrow in a homecoming performance is Cloak & Dagger at PJ’s Lager House.

High Arrow’s first show, ever, was here in Ferndale at the Loving Touch back in May, 2013. “We’d whipped ourselves for months,” Tracy recalls, “rehearsing these poetry/experimental songs in Scott (Boyink)’s basement and couldn't wait to finally see if it did anything to the audience. No matter how good you can possibly get a song sounding in practice, playing it live is a whole other beast. We saw responses within the first couple songs. We were playing on the floor and the audience kept coming closer, closer as we played on…” Two years after that, both Adam and Tracy look back upon their first two years around the Ferndale scene with reverence. “At the end of our recording journey, four drummers participated in our madness, they include: Charlie McCutcheon, Mark Tabor, Scott Boyink and Adam too.”

At the end of the day, High Arrow aimed for a unique and exciting variety show. “But, combining it with Halloween takes the experience to a whole new level,” Tracy said. “We’re really excited, and we know this show will be a lot of fun.”
High Arrow perform Friday, October 23 at PJ’s Lager House
9 pm / Ages 21+ / $ 7
featuring The Counter Elites, Charley Crystal and Cosmic Light Shapes
1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit /
More info: 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fallout Fest 3

Saturday, Oct 10
The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward, Ferndale)
8 pm / $10 / all ages 

This Fest is not a Fest...
I mean, you think "Festival" and you see large crowds, greasy food, scant parking, (threatened citations,) jutting tents and over-priced beer...

This is more like an Autumn-time party, a pre-Halloween hootenanny, a post-summer soiree, a Fest without all typical exasperating auxiliaries...

Two rock band dudes, John Morgan and Jesse Shepherd-Bates, started this festival two years ago ostensibly in reaction to (or as a lighthearted parody of...) how ridiculously vibrant and active this local music scene had become, in both the sheer number of bands but also in the present range and variety of genre.

Why not have a music festival forged to celebrate the bands -themselves, the music -itself... A night to let their already-long-hairs-down and raise a pint or two to all the work that goes into this tacit fun of rocking and rolling... And why not curate a killer lineup of talent? Shouldn't be hard in a scene like this...

The lineup is split between two stages, named in accordance with the theme of nuclear fallout...
...Co-headlined by The Muggs and Bars of F'-ing Gold, also featuring The HandGrenades (with Bates as a contributing member) and one of my new favorite bands, Earth Engine... (so get there early)

12:30 - BARS OF GOLD (Wasteland Stage)
12:00 - The Muggs (Bunker Stage)
11:30 - The HandGrenades(Wasteland Stage)
11:00 - MPV (Bunker Stage)
10:30 - George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus (Wasteland Stage)
10:00 - Valley Hush (Bunker Stage)
9:30 - Siamese (Wasteland Stage)
9:00 - The Vonneguts (Bunker Stage)
8:30 - Earth Engine (Wasteland Stage)

$10, All Ages. Doors at 8 pm


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

BLKSHRK: Dial81 & Eddie Logix

Blkshrk (ft. Eddie Logix & Dial81)
Friday  @7pm
2300  17th St., in Detroit


Jellyfish On Cassette is an instrumental "journey" for the listener, led by the mad scientist producers Blair French (Dial81) and Eddie Logix, joining together with their ambient arrangements under the project titled BLKSHRK.

This Friday, ASSEMBLE Sound in downtown Detroit hosts a listening party celebrating the release of this mind-expanding sonic excursion.

Listen/explore Jellyfish On Cassette via Fat Finger Cosmic 

"Leaky Sun Roof" 


Eddie and Blair have composed an album evoking a sense of insular retreat and detached escapism... It draws the shades to block out the city's cacophony ...or it closes the eyes to seek out a lucid dream... It creates a feeling of safety and yet mystery... but it can also widen its peripheries, carry you somewhere like a kite in a gale, out into the  night sky's expanse, where the proverbial stratsopheres envelop the entire nocturnal horizon, the soundwaves as waves wafting you away, the stars wreathed in a haze similar to the neon-turquoise luminescence of the cover...until the next song draws around you another gossamer curtain, and the swell, the oscillation, the melodic hum, the meditative churn....takes you somewhere else... 

...I'm sorry, but that's what ambient music does to you. It sprouts ellipses, it uproots the mind and threads it up stream... And that's particularly the case with "Fin," a 29 minute slow-trance orbit with a coterie of cool, calming tones lilting like a midnight's blanketing of snow, cultivating and stimulating a loud quiet, a startling spaciousness, a dreamvision consciousness where your cerebral planchette begins to move across the oujia board of your mind at its own accord... 

Logix has had some experience dabbling in the boundary-blurring lines of ambient instrumental compositions, but Dial81 garnered particular notoriety through the form with his soundtrack for the Detropia documentary. 

"This is my first time really going this deep into the ambient music genre," Logix admitted. "But, that's one of the reasons why I wanted to work with (Dial81)." Logix, who helped mix and master some of Dial81's earlier ambient projects, including Detropia, admitted that the soundtrack to that documentary formed a lot of the influential bedrock for Jellyfish. "We both come from heavy hip-hop backgrounds, so a lot of our production philosophies are very similar, even when working on the more house- or ambient-esque type stuff. I had a lot of fun working on these tracks..." 

The duo have called this project ambient, but also "blunted house...," a dirty beat-tape music made specifically, but not exclusively, for the cassette format. The tape, which you can check out this Friday night at Assemble Sound, is 60 minutes of original ambient music forged by two collaborative minds, musing on the mysterious inspirations sparked during sleep-deprived nights in Detroit, gazing into the night skies over the train station, stars mottled out by sewer grate smoke. Side A has eight 3-4 minute palatable tracks spanning the first 30 minutes while Side B is comprised entirely of "Fin..." What a trip. 

The two completed the project with the listener's experience explicitly in mind. "Even the mixing and mastering was done in a way to allow for a better cassette-listen," said Logix. " is still pretty cool, too." 

The release party (Oct 9) is supposed to be the ideal listening experience for the tape format, accompanied by projections, a light show and a special installation of floating jellyfish.

"Some of our favorite Detroit DJs are playing," Logix said, "and there's limited edition prints available along with the free digital download paired with the cassette tapes. It's going to be a super chill evening." 

This album's been two years in the works; the first collaborative production between two of Detroit's most dynamic producers. 

It's the debut release for Blair's new label, Fat Finger Cosmic, which focuses on tapes and vinyl with digital supplements.
vibes by ...DTCHPLNESTodd ModesFahrenheit 2040

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sonic Lullaby

Sonic Lullaby, 2015
October 9 / October 10
Trinosophes (1464 Gratiot)
Music starts at 9pm (both nights)

Featuring :
Carl Hultgren 
Visitors Vstrs
Impulsive Hearts
Dark Red
Beset By Creatures of the Deep
Dave Graw

It was just shy of a decade ago…that Detroiters heard their first Sonic Lullaby. 

Well, maybe not everyone in Detroit knew about it, as it was happening… You see, the whole point was to expand an interest in ambient music: experimental, sound-wave shaping pursuits wherein a melody would be smooshed or stretched, spread or slowly wound around itself like a mobius strip… Detroit, back in 2006, was a place for indie-pop, for garage-rock, for hip-hop, stuff that kicked… Ambient music didn’t kick, rather, it massaged or it assailed…it surrounded you or throttled you… It wasn’t something to dance to, it was (or is…) something more cerebral… Some of you might call it “druggy…” or “trippy…”

Paul MacLeod started the Sonic Lullaby after he and fellow ambient composers (from groups like Indian Guides) were discussing how to shine a more welcoming light upon this esoteric music and widen the circle for more ears to listen in on all these strange, sublime sounds… MacLeod joked that they should have a festival with nothing but ambient music, including covering the floor with mattresses so that they could lull everyone to sleep. Facetious self-deprecation aside…the burgeoning community of ambient-rock (or shoegaze, or whatever genre tag you’d like to apply…) were still mustering for more listeners, but it’s not like there were any stand-out darlings or champions of this scene, waving its flag… The idea behind Sonic Lullaby was that every ambient band’s unique insignia or sonic crest could be stictched onto one big, encompassing flag, fluttering for the whole scene to see (and hear) with each musician grasping an edge…

MacLeod took it upon himself, having never done anything like a festival before, to nonetheless arrange a program of music with a full lineup of bands…that was 2006…but on Oct  9 &10, Sonic Lullaby returns… 

MacLeod recalls the first year; hosted at the CAID (Contemporary Art Institute, Detroit), featuring STAR (from Chicago), Sea Turtle Restoration Project (MacLeod’s main project), Geist Ex Bibliotecha, THTX and Sey Lui. MacLeod’s Sea Turtle Restoration Project, or TRTL started in 2005 while he was still in the band Tiny Amps of Corduroy Tuscadero

TRTL was for pieces of music he’d composed that didn't fit with what TACT was doing. He took the name off the back of a soy ice cream container since he didn't think anyone would ever see it. Because there’s actually an organization that uses that name, (and since he was never entirely happy with the moniker,) he changed it to TRTL in 2014. TRTL and Sea Turtle are at the core of every festival….since, essentially, they’re the reason why (Sonic Lullaby) began in the first place… “Without them,” MacLeod said, “I wouldn’t have started the festival in the first place…”

Now, after several Sonic Lullabies, an audience has begun to form, following the strangely enticing spells of ambient music. The hope, someday in the future, would be to take the festival outside…since this music lends itself to the open air….The vibe expressed by both MacLeod and musician Frank Lee (who’s helping out this year) is that they want these Sonic Lullabies to grow bigger, to get better…to be even louder (in a soft, swelling sort of way…). You get the picture, hopefully… If not, then we’ve got an enlightening Q&A with MacLeod and Lee, talking all about Sonic Lullaby 2015.  

Alright, let’s work past these fixations over “genre…” Sonic Lullaby encompasses more than “shoegaze…”More than fuzz pedals or echo or delay or reverb…What does this fest embody...or encompass…or represent? A sound? A feeling?  A shared delirium?
Paul MacLeod:
It's not just about shoegaze and never has been. It is based on a feeling created by all the music featured; mostly, dreamy and swooshy and beautiful. It's music to get lost in. It's music to be engulfed by. Its music to be experienced, not just heard.
Frank Lee:
(Sonic Lullaby) is a celebration of an often ignored or maligned music.  From what I've read, you go back to the early 90’s, after the first few years of 'shoegaze' bands in the UK, Brit-pop was exploding and anybody with delay and reverb pedals or rack mount effect processors were viewed as a plague upon the land.  I'm too young to have known about it the first go-round, but I still remember when I bought Loveless and Souvlaki, or the day I picked up Nowhere by Ride and Raise by Swervedriver, and playing those CDs non-stop.  It definitely lead me into stuff that resonates with me still, be it Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai, or Harmonia and Earth.  While I love that music, there's not a ton of people I can share it with, so maybe something like (Sonic Lullaby) can bring attention to these styles of music and help connect the people who enjoy it.

Sonic Lullaby

Is there a broader conversation that this Fest can start... As if this were a gallery and the noises the bands made were framed art... Can attendees come and experience the throttle of reverb and scattered rhythms and come away with a new perspective on music? Is that one of the ...goals? ....of Sonic Lullaby?
Paul MacLeod:
The goal of Sonic Lullaby and I guess …of all festivals …is to expose the audience to music that they wouldn't have been of aware of otherwise. Someone might come to see 800Beloved and walk away in love with Jura or Dave Graw. Something that they would have never known existed without this festival.
Frank Lee: Well, it would be nice to see more people embrace these sounds for sure.  Ultimately, if someone comes to this and sees something new that inspires them, then that would be the best possible outcome…and however they react to that, or what they take that inspiration and put it into I have no control over.

Frank, you were, and are…first and foremost, a fan of this festival, as well as a participant… Talk about your favorite experiences from past Sonic Lullabies to give folks an idea of what they can expect…
Frank Lee:
Watching Scott Cortez of Star (who also plays in Astrobrite, a group on this year's lineup) playing guitar and using the broken off head of a hockey stick as a slide, …so calmly too, as if it was something every guitar player guitar does.  I also remember watching Sey Lui have some absolutely amazing sets, just destroying everything!  They were the only other local band besides Paik I knew of making epic instrumental music (Rob from Paik will also be playing this year's festival in his more recent project Dark Red).  Paul's done some amazing work with (Sonic Lullaby showcases), and honestly I have a hard time remembering DIY festivals like these happening in Detroit before he started these; it was very eye-opening to me.

What was the particularly exhilarating about these shows… Or how did it help you sort of weave your way deeper into this scene?
Frank Lee:
(Sonic Lullaby) was where I was first able to see live ambient music, particularly with what Sea Turtle and Kindle were doing.  I was friends with these people, but watching them perform this music definitely made me appreciate it more.  And, these performances, along with many conversations with Jason Worden of Kindle and Indian Guides, are what led me into discovering some of Detroit's space-rock legacy, like with Burnt Hair Records out of Dearborn and bands like Asha Vida, and Windy and Carl.  These were people who played amazing shows with great national and international bands back then.  Unfortunately, as is usual with many Detroit bands, there was never enough support from the outside communities and a great legacy of music now sits like a dusty book on a back shelf of a library.

Paul, can you talk about what draws you to these sounds, this style, the dreamy, fuzz-drowned, wavy reverberations…
Paul MacLeod:
I've always believed that the kind of music that you write actually chooses you, you don't choose it. The music that influences you the most is what’s going to come out of you, freely and truthfully. When I started purchasing music, a lot of what I chose were soundtracks, by Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, John Barry, John Carpenter…. I also fell in love with Pink Floyd, who, to those that aren't familiar with ambient or shoegaze, is the band that my music is typically compared to... Those influences and the bands that I've discovered since then, like Slowdive, Windy and Carl, Godspeed You! Black Emperor,... all spoke to me and that's the kind of sound the festival tries to embrace.
Frank Lee: Music like this reminds me of things that are not often considered musical but can be very moving.  Sitting on a beach watching the clouds change and move in the sky, the sound of wind rustling through tree leaves in a forest, having your windows open while speeding down freeways, an orchestra of cicadas heard during summer on a back porch at 4 am, etc.  These are things that a lot of instrumental (or mostly instrumental music) replicates for me. As much as I can appreciate lyrics or words, being able to say something with sound probably is what I connect to the most.

What are you both stoked for, this year…what can we anticipate?
Paul MacLeod:
I think that this year's lineup is possibly the best ever! No offense to those that have performed before….all the previous acts were incredible, but I am really excited to see everyone on this year’s bill. I'm really looking forward to Astrobrite's set! Scott Cortez's band STAR performed at the first Sonic Lullaby and I'm glad that he'll be back with his legendary Astrobrite project. Carl Hultgren of Windy and Carl is playing a solo set that is sure to be amazing…
Frank Lee: (It’s) a veritable metric fuck-ton of awesome!  Astrobrite is going to be killer, so is Dark Red; those guys are going to bring the melting fuzzy tones.  I definitely am stoked about Beset by Creatures of the Deep, they are pretty much a supergroup with members from Human Eye, Johnny Ill Band, and Electric Lion SoundwaveMissionary has a lot of connections too, with dudes from Palaces and Isosceles Mountain.  Also, I know almost nothing of Dave Graw…but the music on his website is absolutely amazing.  Everybody is top notch.  

October 9 / October 10

Trinosophes (1464 Gratiot)
Music starts at 9pm (both nights)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Passalacqua, meanwhile…

Pic courtesy of MPAD Media 

Passalacqua features a dynamic duo of MCs, Blaksmith (aka Brent Smith) and Mister (aka Bryan Lackner) and they joined thislineup at the Blind Pig with Tunde Olaniran (pictured), James Linck and Alex Koi. 

Having been childhood friends, the two reconnected back in 2010 after a decade of distance and got right to work, interweaving their unique performance styles and lyrical sensibilities into an uncanny harmony, splaying it out stylishly over a smorgasbord of soul, jazz, Motown and funk samples shuffled to some snappy/smooth beats. They can do chin-scratching introspection ballads for the night owl neurotics as well as club-bangers for the weekenders wanting badly to turn up… turnt up? Do the kids still say that stuff?

The rap-duo recently wrapped a rather intensive tour where they participated in round-robin styled thunderdome performances with other hip hop groups. “That tour helped us trim the fat,” said Lackner. “We’ve always come from the opinion that you should do more with less…trim the fat, give ‘em everything you’ve got, and keep it moving.”

Their deliveries, Mister with that drawly, blues, baritone and Blaksmith lashing a more lithe, snarled panache in a higher register, complement each other quite nicely… But while the raps are often written in close collaboration, like two bridged brains, the production is often open, like a revolving door, to any producer who wants to provide some beats and hooks to augment the final Passalacqua presentation.   

Smith calls back to their most recent full length, 2013’s Church, and admits that it was a very thematic piece. But their latest, with producer Zach Shipps (known for his work with the Electric Six and many others,) is “…a bit more heady, with tracks about depression, detainment, domestication, and freedom. At large, it’s a project that is personal. I hope fans listen to it closely because it plays kind of like a scavenger hunt. We’re all over the place.”

“I think part of what we like about working with (Shipps) is that we have no expectations,” said Lackner. “When we go in, there’s no telling what we’ll leave with; it’s (Shipp’s) style. Sonically and lyrically, it’s far denser. I’m proud of all our others but this is the most realized project, yet…” 

Passalacqua join Alex Koi, Tunde Olaniran and James Linck, this Saturday at the Blind Pig 

Smith said that he and Lackner will be wrapping up their next album by November with a release to follow sometime in the near future. “The production is ‘zany’ and it has lots of sounds we created ourselves, from xylophone, to jibberish noise, to audible claps and smacks in the beat…”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Prude Boys Tour Kickoff

Happy Autumn...
...let's get grimy...

Lo-fi punk-pop purveyors the Prude Boys have a new EP out this month demonstrating their knack for gnarly throwback rock and bruised indie-blues....boogie-able, croony cuts and haunted jukebox jollies from a minimalist, fuzz-shrouded three-piece outta Detroit...

...and they'll be hitting the road this season, starting with a tour-kickoff party on Sunday night at Lo! & Behold in Hamtramck.

You can also see & hear:
The dynamic-yet-dirgey, slamming-yet-sludgey 70's rock revivalists The Deadly Vipers
The sweat-flecked primordial pounders Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss

More info here, folks

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chris Dupont's Outliers (Interview)

For this month's CURRENT issue, I got Chris Dupont to open up about his band’s newest album, Outlies and it wound up being one of those conversations that reminds you about how important music is in life.

Dupont can do that; the Ann Arbor singer/songwriter has spent the last five years re-imagining the folk aesthetic with a devastatingly soft brush of baroque strings and pianos under autumnal wistfulness strummed across his gutiar, with lyrics that punch the gut in slow motion and cathartically pluck the heartstrings (snapping a few, sometimes, after the third chorus). Dupont’s music manifests that startling quiet you feel come over you when you reach that clearing in the wood or if you’re out traipsing the cold Michigan lake’s shoreline at dawn. That’s just a taste of what to expect on Outliers, which comes out October 2nd.

The blend of electric and acoustic guitars, splashing together with this soft radiance over the steady pulse of the drums and pianos like soothing sighs, yes, it’s this kind of revitalizing folk music, the epilogue of emotional ravages, the soundtrack of the next sunrise. And we haven’t even touched on that voice, fragile and fresh, celestial and smooth. Let’s really open up…

Outliers songs sound more existential, lyrically; it’s like an outlier being out of one’s body or a view from a scene from backstage, singing as an outside observer…
Chris Dupont:
Jeff, that’s a great take on Outlier! Yes, the idea of being an onlooker, being outside your own environment or even your own body, that’s definitely there. It’s a feeling I have often, and, I think it speaks to the mood of (Outlier). It’s almost as if I’m separating myself from my emotions, sorting them out, looking at them, reintegrating. I’m not sure that’s what I set out to do. I started realizing the title really described me as a person, and how I view the world, really. Not necessarily as an “outsider” or “rebel,” those imply something more active. It’s more a calm submission to being on the fringe. You can follow what everyone else wants for you, you can stay bitter for a long time, or you can accept your own oddities and do your best to live with what you've got. That's what a lot of these songs dwell on.

It’s not easy striking such a heartfelt frankness to one’s musical poetry like this, talk about sifting the heavy emotions to the top and what draws you to these poignant veins of folksinging?
Frankness. I love that word. Yeah, it’s tough being so exposed. It’s not necessarily embarrassing because I absorb these energies from people, whether good or bad, and then gravitate toward writing. Usually, the process of putting those thoughts to music and molding ideas into a narrative lyric helps me discover an insight that might not have occurred to me. I think that’s why a lot of my songs have turns or resolutions. Some of these songs and stories spur emotional reactions in people but that might cause them discomfort. That can make me squeamish; I’m that party host wanting every guest to feel great, ya know? But, I can only connect with that I’m doing if I believe it. Frankness is all I’ve got. I also draw lots of inspiration from my environment and the seasons. I try to set a scene; to really place people in the grey overcast valley of Ypsilanti, or in the woods when everything's frozen and dead.

Talk about what moves you, when it comes to music, like your influences and what it is you strive for when you record and perform with the band
I write a lot of my music when I’m in deep need of sorting something out. I love songs that make sense and feel like they’ve been there for a long time. James Taylor, Ryan Adams, Tracy Chapman…all wrote a bunch of those. I’m attracted to songs that could stick around and mean something new several years later. Outlier has a bunch of ‘jam’ sections but I think the songs themselves are actually simple forms with lyrics and melody leading the whole work. I was taught by my father, long ago: “don’t just be a guitar player; make the guitar sing.”

Chris Dupont starts the biggest tour of his career to support Outlier this month, which gets a national release on November 13 (iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp). Look for Outlier on vinyl next January.

Chris Dupont Band Outlier Release Show
Friday, October 2nd Towsley Auditorium (Washtenaw Community College, Ypsilanti) ft. Frances Luke Accord & Abigail Stauffer 7pm $15 more info:

What other areas, vibes or forms did you explore with Outlier and tell us more about your inclination to include strings and that baroque style of playing…
I definitely always come back to fingerstyle guitar and string arrangements. I just never really get tired of it. On this album I definitely veered off into some pop territory, because it's nice to have some pay-offs, some higher energy work that really kicks. But I was taught by my father a long time ago, "don't just be a guitar player. Make that guitar sing." I want every guitar part to be a good platform for the melody, and to stand on its own if I play out by myself. I try to put melody and movement into the guitar, and play it like a piano. Partly because it's what I want to hear, and partly because I get bored if my tunes are too easy for me to play. And strings never cease to make something well up inside me. Katie VanDusen (violin, arrangements) takes my songs and always finds a way to pour tons of emotion into them, and some of her lines just make me want to cry for no reason. She makes the violin sing emotional content that the lyrics can't necessarily provide.

You've been playing out live here and releasing records in the SE MI scene for a while, what do you find most inspiring about it...or do you feel it has even more potential that it hasn't yet reached but could, very soon? 
I love this scene, man. There are many little pockets, different communities of people doing different things, but they all seem to cross pollinate pretty well. I'm just inspired by all the cool things people keep doing. You've got Luke Jackson fixing everyone's guitar and building custom instruments. You've got Billy Harrington playing drums on EVERYTHING, and helping artists get out of their shells and make great work. He actually gave me the push to make this Outlier, so he's a big part of this project's life. I see a lot of artists teaming up on each other's records, and I think that's really important. It's how you grow.

 I'm also excited about how many artists have really built their own scenes. There are lots of gig opportunities around here, but not exactly a plethora of venues. I've noticed that, instead of getting super frustrated, lots of artists around here just make the scene they want to see. Like those porch shows in Ypsi that J.T. Garfield hosts. Those are awesome. A really cool girl named Ilana Riback really wanted there to be a great open mic in Ann Arbor. So she went and started one, and it's done really well. Artists like Vince Colbert, Billy Harrington, Adam Plomaritas, and myself have all been known to rent venues when we have a specific vision for a show. You gotta be scrappy and resourceful around here I think.

Matt Jones is working on something that’s kinda all-encompassing for the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti scene, with the River Street Anthology.
I could rave about that all day. What a cool concept. No budget, no tricks, Matt Jones is just inviting everyone, big name veterans and quiet bedroom artists who never gig, and having them do 1 or 2 takes of a tune in front of a hundred dollar mic. Just to have it. To record what's going on in Michigan. Get a snap shot. I actually did "Bedside," one of the tunes on Outlier, for that project. I'd been in studio non-stop, and it was so refreshing to just ditch the headphones, forget about Pro Tools, and just sing a song for Matt in a basement. Just like it was when we were all 17 in our punk bands. It felt real. I was so inspired by that session that I decided to record the album version all in single passes. I sang and played live into a reel to reel tape machine at Solid Sound, picked the best take, and then added more stuff, all single takes as well.

And of course, going back to your question, the scene could reach new potential. I'd love to see more venues in Ypsilanti. I miss Woodruffs. I think everyone here is scrappy, and they've found good ways to play out, but I'd love to see more sit-down, quiet venues. You know, a lot of my fans are in their 30's, 40's, and up. And what's funny is that most of them just want to sit comfortably, listen, and go home at a decent hour. There are a couple great listening venues in Ann Arbor, but I'd love to see more options that are accessible to developing artists.

What’s your future plans, rest of the year and beginning of next…
All kinds! I'm about to go on my biggest tour yet to support this record. I'm doing a release show at Towsley Auditorium on October 2nd. I love that room. It's a big theatre style space with a big stage. We're bringing our own sound and lights and putting on a big production. I've done a few gigs this year in rented rooms, and you can really curate the experience for people. It's going to be an amazing show.

After the tour, I'll stay close to home for much of the winter. The album releases nationally (iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, all that) on November 13. Up until then the only way to get it is at a show. We're going to do a vinyl pressing that'll come out late winter.

What are you most looking forward to…?
I'm excited to really push Outlier. And I want to do something bigger with it too. A lot of the tunes speak to some painful stuff like mental illness, suicide, and the like. But I don't just want to sing about it and shove the issue in people's faces. I'm talking to some other artists and trying to figure out how we can make this work tie into a movement or something that could encourage help for those who need it. I don't know what that even looks like, but I think that's the big dream at this point.

After that I think I have dreams of doing shorter scale projects. Like an EP that's all analog tape, or a short LP that's rockier and sounds way different for me. Why not?