Friday, April 28, 2017

Britney Stoney - Song Premier: "Grip"

photo by Akhil Sesh

Britney Stoney has been writing and performing her music for several years around the scene, having released an EP back in 2012, followed by the seven-song EP Native in the summer of 2015. Today, I'm excited to share her latest single. "Grip" will also have a music video debuted on Monday, but this is a chance for you to sneak a listen...

You can see Stoney perform tomorrow night, (Sat., 4/29) at El Club, opening for Mother Cyborg's album release party (info

Stoney's a breathtaking vocalist and performer, with such a sensibility for soulful dynamics in her voice, as she secures something vulnerable yet defiant, soft yet steeled, tender yet tough...with a melodic current to her vocalizations that matches the groove, snap or sway of any beat beneath her voice. This one's a restorative song - even if the lyrics are laced with regret, its in her voice, her delivery, the dulcet/breathy tones she syncs, that sweetens everything into something radiant. The soft whirl of that groove and the bright clasp of those synths and that buzzy bass certainly help, too, but some strongest charms are in the subtlety of her own voice tracked in harmonization under the rise/fall melody of that chorus.....

Stoney is a singer/songwriter/guitarist and Kresge Music Fellow who's collaborated with a handful of producers, lyricists and other Detroit-area eletronica/hip-hop artists over the years. And we can also count playwright among her recent credits. Where as you might throw this in with dazzling neo-soul, trip-hop or electro-pop, we have to remember that Stoney is a folk singer at heart, with the human condition and a sense of compassion kept at heart, in her themes and compositions.

Just going back to how subtly powerful her voice can be - granted it's dressed here with ambient synths and shimmering beats--still, her roots are in more intimate performances, like open mics, coffee-house type settings, galleries, listening rooms, where it can be just her acoustic guitar and her solo voice; that's how she started, and she sustains that power to this day, with this latest track.

So, yeah, we throw around genre-splicings to help for categorization, like soul or neo-soul... Well, this is soul music in that it is an undeniable salve for the human soul.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Girls Rock Detroit - Rock Roulette 2017

Back in March, Girls Rock Detroit took applications from musicians all over the state. These drummers, bassists, guitarists, keyboardists, and vocalists were, it would go without saying, all women. Girls Rock Detroit is about breaking the boy's club lock on rock n roll music: the non-profit music education organization has chapters across the country, with Detroit's starting up about three years ago.

This Friday night, more than two dozen musicians will be performing in eight respective bands, for a "Rock Roulette" arranged to raise funds for Girls Rock Detroit's summer camp programming. These bands are one-night-only affairs, with the assembled members of each outfit having spent the last seven weeks writing and rehearsing two original songs, along with a cover song of their choosing.

Each band is also its own fundraising team--with their individual band pages through, partnering with Assemble Sound, to see which band can independently raise the most money as the concert date gets closer. Whoever raises the most cash gets crowned "Queens of Noise" - and will then set up a recording date with a producer at Assemble to capture their original tunes as a split single release.

Some of the performers will be recognizable from other bands, like Junglefowl, Junk Food Junkies, White Bee, Dear Darkness, and many more.

There will be a panel of three judges assessing each of the 8 performances. Every band will be given a specific award from these judges, a certain superlative declaring their exceptional qualities in certain areas.

All the money being raised goes toward summer camp programming and tuition assistance. It's important for the local coordinators of Girls Rock Detroit that, above all, their programming remains accessible to anyone, regardless of income or any other circumstance.

There will be a silent auction, with lots of prizes from local businesses, like Avalon Bakery, and the Detroit Institute of Music Education.

For more info - check out the FB Event page

and follow Girls Rock Detroit

PJs Lager House
Girls Rock Roulette 2017
Summer Camp Fundraiser


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What a journey... Milo & Bathgate on Mended Vessel (penultimate essay)

Chris Bathgate and I started writing letters two months ago. Each letter has been devoted to analyzing one singular track from Audra Kubat's Mended Vessel. 

We only have one more to go after this...
This song is called "Tear Out Your Eyes"

(ed. note: Audra Kubat performed this song on my talk show last October

Hey Chris

Your own album is going to be out soon! Are you getting anxious? What predominates your emotional silo, when something like this gets near... Be it an album release, or a "big show" or a tour, is it eagerness? Is it dread? Is it relief?

I can tell you, not to divert too much from the song we have to discuss ("Tear Out Your Eyes,") that the energy I detected from Aurda Kubat when I spoke with her a week before the release of Mended Vessel was something akin to a quiet transcendence. She seemed to have come out of a chrysalis--as this album had been gestating for four years, and she'd gone through it three times, only to finally discover this perfect span of time, circumstances, and collaborators, to create the album she'd been hoping to make--all along.

"Tear Out Your Eyes" sounds like a singer who has nothing to lose. And I don't mean that in the typical cliched sense. I mean that her voice, and the rather brutal phrasings she's employing for her expression, sound as though they're coming from someone who's been over a mountain; an unforgiving mountain. There's a bit of realistic/existential/resoluteness to the revelation of this song. I know this isn't what she is going for, but tearing out ones eyes is a startlingly profound way for me to imagine gaining a new perspective. Or, perhaps, to use another cliche - dropping the proverbial scales from ones eyes.

After working on her craft for 20+ years, Audra does not have any illusions. There is no mirage that her eyes can see. And this goes back to how raw, beautiful--yes, absolutely beautiful--but also raw, this whole album is. Beautifully raw. Tender. Vulnerable. Scars revealed from sleeves having been rolled up. "Love is too tired..." is a phrase that sticks out... That love, this thing that we give a sanctified power to (...thanks, Beatles), can actually be exhausted, is a sobering thought to consider.

But atmosphere, let's talk about that. I love the ghostly purr of that guitar, the way it bends-- not the acoustic guitar, but the quiet electric... And we have to reiterate her sense for dynamics, the way her voice gets fuller, and louder, and yet kind of breaks in a way, when she hits the chorus. The way you can hear thick, strong oak trees creaking with fragility when a wind storm comes through? And how that stops you, to consider how this big, bone-like, trunked organism could sound as though it might break, might snap....despite how majestic and mighty it may appear... that sums up this song, and Audra's sung sentiments... for me....

That's all for now, Chris
We have one more song ot go
talk soon

Howdy Jeff,

It’s all of those: eagerness, dread, and eventual relief. It’s more as well. Perhaps I also feel some sort of paternal pride. Though, I have to admit my mental sights are set on whats next; I’m already in the throws of something new. My tinges of album publishing energy feel more like an undercurrent, rather than oppresively governing me. Now, the thing that has yet to happen, a show, THE show, fills my emotional windshield. That eagerness is very present currently..  

Quizzically, it's no shock that you witnessed Audra in “quiet transcendence”. I’m uncertain if the matter of factness of Tear Out Your Eyes (currently pouring out of my headphones) makes that sound logical, or if speaking to Audra in person recently gave me some flash of what you experienced. Maybe Mended Vessel itself was in the chrysalis, though metaphorically a chrysalis might rule out the necessity of failure. We have to uncover so many dead-ends before we see our successes. We have to record instruments to find out they don’t belong in a song. I wonder how many sentences we’ve deleted from these letters while in process. To paraphrase Emerson, failures are preparations for success.  It’s a shame that the word failure feels, and perhaps is, pejorative. And maybe that word makes it feel like a process has ended.  Scrapping a record twice, that feels more like brave quality control to me. I can’t deny her interview responses though, sometimes the art waits on the artist.  

There is a  stark, shocking, unapologetic timbre to Audra’s voice on “Tear Out Your Eyes", as you’ve said, with nothing to lose. Souls as lined up paper dolls, the crying trees, walking to the ocean, these images get us there. This song has no qualms with its own darkness. I truly feel this resoluteness you speak of, but it feels as though that information comes only from her vocal delivery, and is transmitted indirectly. While lines like “Is it god that you’re bowing to, or is it your fear, either way you cannot win”, do point me to existentialism and realism–a profound combination.  That rawness, and I’m in full agreement when you say “Beautifully raw”, is something that has gripped me across Mended Vessel as well, a purposeful vulnerability.  Though, this specific song's lyrics, accomplish a very specific kind of rawness, that feels shellac’d into us, by this morose and, again, nuanced arrangement. 

These electrics, whether they are slide guitar or lap steel, deliver a kind of mournfulness that embodies a slightly different emotion than Audra’s vocals.  The design of their melodies are transcendent in their own right. This instrumental section at 2:21, the call and response in the stereo field, is a totally cathartic wash over me moment.  The left ear singing into the next chord, the right ear repeating this sorrowful melodic shape, is  the sleeper-hit moment, for me on this record.  Just that little break, its math, reaffirms and adds something ineffable to “Tear Out Your Eyes”.  I can’t let this letter close without mentioning the understated organ.  So simple, yet potent. I wonder, if we in a way are programed to hear organ, organ like this, as sacred.  Perhaps my own early days of church going are causing me to inject my experience onto this song, but it ads an element of bereft, solemn ceremony.  We learned early on, the production decisions made by Audra and her team have honored and created subtly and nuance. This songs choral line, “If love is too tired and the pain is too fierce, let the tide come and wash you clean” is one I’m fascinated with.  What seems to be a solution, or perhaps a resolution, does not attempt to undo the trespass that perhaps caused us to seek solace in the first place.  Maybe this is another gesture of Audra’s “realistic/existential/resoluteness”.  As though we can’t change the things that have happened to us, or that we’ve had to bare, but we can find rejuvenation in other ways, without undoing, to let the tide wash us clean. 

The ending lines of this song, so far, are my favorite closing lyrics, across mended vessel.

“Then I saw her on the shoreline, a starfish in her hand, she looked up at me and she smiled. She pointed toward the setting sun, as a flock of birds blocked the moon, and in the stars she traced the word: Dream”. 

The impact of that language is slightly on the edge of sense, you feel it before you try and understand it. I have to note that the sparseness the song traverses just before this closing line is delivered, is further proof of intelligent design in this songs production. At 4:00 minutes, the acoustic guitar takes a rest, the organ drones on, a light tambourine is in the distance, and every part of the song steps back to let the word “clean” ring out, in solitary significance. 

One more, what a journey. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

Height Keech - Mind Moves The Mountain

Height's always been this marvelously understated wild card for me. He's as much outlaw/folk-singer to me, as he is a hip hop emcee. The production on his tracks come packed with great grooves and staccato beats, but then there's these guitar trills thrown into the mix sounding like straight-up late 60's psychedelia.

The Baltimore-based lyricist/performer (and subtle scene-builder) has an everyman's voice, this mid-range thing with a bit of a drawl to it that evokes a departure from the typical braggadocio bombast of rap and sounds almost more like a spoken word artist reading rustbelt poetry. Let's call it post-apocalyptic blues, serrated with ambient metal, gothic-country, and hip-hop's blunt eloquence.

I know I usually type about Detroit or Michigan-area bands, but Height's a close ally of Mister, from Passalacqua, (also known as Bryan Lackner, who used to stay down in Maryland, way back when...) Height and Passalacqua had an inspirational run together a couple years ago with a Rap Round Robin tour, and a couple stops in town, here, has steadily endeared Height (otherwise known as producer Dan Keech), to our Michigan music scene.

Enough talk from me, let's here a song...

Height Keech releases one of his most eclectic, fully realized albums to date this week, titled Mind Moves The Mountain. Keech revives a few songs from his 2016 EP Unending Blaze, here, adding in darker and more meditative rock/rap outings like "Trust No Blues." 

What I've always loved about Keech's performance, and his vocalization, is that the core emotion behind it, whether love, passion, or, as I can sense with "Dead Rider" and "Trust No Blues"--anger, is always just barely restrained, but never overpowers the evocations. I can listen to some of these tracks and they bring me catharsis in what all too often feels like a post-hope world. That there is such stability to that melodic half-growl of his, that there is such a low simmer to those guitars, that the beats often feel like the beginnings of a march....that gives me some hope again. Trust no blues.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jet Rodriguez Premiers "Forever Is A Long Time"

Last month, Detroit-based singer/songwriter Cameron Navetta premiered a new single on Ghettoblaster called "Self-Preservation."

Today, his musical brainchild, Jet Rodriguez, is premiering a new song: the b-side to "Self-Preservation" is called "Forever Is A Long Time," right here on Deep Cutz!

Navetta has been busy since the new year, having filmed a preview of "Self Preservation" with indie-music promotion platform Fanic Music, and then got a featured spot on Americana music podcast, the Miller Tells Her Tale. 

I first encountered Jet Rodriguez six years ago, almost to the day..., Navetta has been pretty much a lifelong songwriter who dove right in to the local music scene at a very early age, fronting this indie-rock project that blended cinematic/surfy sounds with pop and Americana.

Over the last couple years, however, it's evolved into a pop-inclined patchwork of tender tones, folk-rock flavors and breezy earworm melodies. Navetta's taken on the role of Americana-troubadour here, with these two recent singles, tumbling out contemplative poetics with that soft mid-high range that blends a croon to a cautious whisper.

Both this single, and the previous "Self-Preservation" were recorded entirely by Navetta in his home studio - and that labor-of-love energy is palpable, when you listen back. Something hard to place is giving this recording a bit of radiance - the kind of subdued glow growing over a spring morning's horizon. This track, premiering today, includes one other contributor, however--with Scott Demers providing upright bass.

As he's developed, Navetta has attained a greater appreciation (and sensibility) for minimal arrangements; everything from the acoustic guitar, to that bass, to the sparse pianos, is falling into place just when it should... The song strolls, or almost slow-dances, rather than gallops - this adds an essential litheness that gives Navetta's aesthetic that bit of pre-summery mellow/spry-ness.

"Forever Is A Long Time," like any great song, spurs one to be deliberate in considering the direction life's taking you...Even if Navetta is still a young songwriter, he's still wary enough to wonder quite a while ahead of himself, in years, at where life may take him... And that's when he starts writing these lyrics, like the ones streaming above^

Because Forever is a long time, man...!!  No one can predict what's ahead. The endearment of Navetta's latest single, is that it's coming from a heartfelt place, where he's saying, whatever happens, ...he's going to try his absolute best.

Follow Jet Rodriguez this summer, as I'm sure more new music will be on the way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ADULT. - Detroit House Guests

ADULT. will be performing on Friday, April 21st at Third Man Records in Nashville

Some bands resist your attempt to categorize them. I'm not talking about bands that conspicuously sculpt their image so to be inherently esoteric--because even then, that conscious acknowledgement of the potency of ones image to amass mystique is a contrivance from the outset. ADULT. continue to swing wrecking balls into the mortar walls of my preconceptions about art. The artists comprising ADULT., Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, have always challenged me to consider the way I approach the telling of a music story. 

These filmmakers, painters, photographers, also happen to be the arrangers/producers/performers of a music that most of the globe would gauge as Techno. And it is, for the most part... But they bring a sensibility to their production of music (and their presentation of that music) that shifts your consideration for how you should be encountering it-- should it be with the wariness one brings to an art gallery, the openness one brings to an elaborate installation, the sober thoughtfulness one brings to a photography show, the immersive mindfulness you'd achieve during a film....? Or maybe the alertness you'd need to navigate a mosh pit or some other kind of post-apocalyptic rave....? 

You need all your wits, when it comes to ADULT. Because you can't be sure what ADULT. is... You can be certain that it will be a kind of electronic-musical-experience. You can be certain of that. 

But with Detroit House Guests, an album produced over the last two years with an endowment from the Knights Art Foundation, Kuperus and Miller have made an "ADULT. record" in name, only. Distinct from past ventures, like The Way Things Fall or Anxiety Always, this album isn't another collection of their typical envelope-pushing ambient/techno storms, but rather a series of conversations. The album features collaborations with a whole host of musicians and artists – Douglas J McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb, Michael Gira from Swans, Shannon Funchess from Light Asylum, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe aka Lichens, Austrian thereminist Dorit Chrysler and multidisciplinary artist Lun*na Menoh.

The motivation was to mimic the model of visual artist residencies, by welcoming each musician from disparate genres and unique approaches to enter and inhabit their home/studio space for a three-week period, where they would not only work together, but also live together. 

The result, via MUTE, is a total anthropological sound experiment and a full length album.

Detroit House Guests is streaming on Spotify, right now. And, if you couldn't gather this from my rambled paragraphs above^, it is, I assure you, one of the most emotionally panoramic, aesthetically kaleidoscopic montages of mood, musings and meditations I've heard in a decade, if not more... I do't know what to call it - and that's exactly the point! 

ADULT. is heading to Nashville to perform for Third Man Records' ongoing live album series. 

They'll be joined by Serration Pulse, a Nashville-based duo of Detroit natives (Daniel Tomczak and Kayla Anderson), who create chilly/dreamy/dark-wave ambient arrangements of "snarling, frostbitten electroclash," all the while inspired by the legacy of Detroit Techno.

ADULT. will be back in May, to perform for the annual MOVEMENT Festival. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview between myself and ADULT. in the Detroit Free Press. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bathgate, Kubat, Milo... pt. 8 of Mended Vessel: "Crystal Screams"

This is the 8th letter traded between singer/songwriter Chris Bathgate and I, as we share our professional, tangential, conversational, contemplative thoughts, considerations, and appraisals of Mended Vessel, --an album released last autumn by Detroit-based singer/songwriter Audra Kubat. 

We're nearly done with Mended Vessel... But after that, we can look forward to new music from Mr. Bathgate: Dizzy Seas comes out on Quite Scientific, May 10. 

Mended Vessel on iTunes
Streaming on Spotify 

This song is called "Crystal Screams..."
And our letters got a bit intense...

Hello once again, Chris

April and October are magical months for me, and I know I'm not alone in that appraisal. It's the true dawn and true twilight periods of the year, whereas the green is coming back and the luminescence of our daytimes extends during this month, you can still see it battling against the hibernational browns and grays lingering from winter.... Same with October, as the crimson and yellows come in to splash against the summer's green - I'm just taken with how both of these months feel like two bottled seasons, tempesting-in-veritable-teacup of 30-ish days.

That poetic rambling has noting to do with Audra Kubat's Mended Vessel.... OR DOES IT? Even just to consider the artwork for this album, which we haven't quite done yet...the flipside, behind the tracklisting, is similar to the front cover, in that half-plate b/w tintype (by Allan Barnes), where the edges are a stark darkness, and Audra's aura has a supernatural luminescence about it. I imagine how, in Spring, we return to our gardens or we tend to a corner or facet of our abodes, and we repair them, or rehabilitate certain areas of our habitat from whatever damage was done over the unforgiving winter's whims....

And I think about Mending the proverbial Vessel... How this album is always halfway to healing, and how there's a sober assessment of what is and what is not, an actual cure to the ails and trevails of living, just living... So, that balance of wither-and-renewal, makes this feel like an excellent April/October record.

"The Bells" feels like morning, "Mountain Woman" feels like that perfect sun-soaked mid-morning period, "Loving Arms" and "Kalkaska" are also radiant, but I'm afraid that we may be entering one of the more (if not most) darker (darkest) songs on the album... This is the dark night of the singer's soul; the lyrics are not mincing anything, there is  no sugar coating, we're dodging moonlight in a run that feels desperate through a night where the color is fading... All of the intensities crash into us within one verse, the tables are turning, we are hit by a snowdrift, we are lost  in a desert, we are "on fire..."

.... I want to be most careful with this song, even more than the previous seven, so as not to misread it's signature expressions of distress, nor would I want to put a positive spin on it. There are so many things that likely keep you and I up at night, but the weight of that wondering of: "When will we be found...?" We can read that seven different ways, it would just depend on the mood you and I are in...We've talked a lot about how lyrics and mentioned a sort of searching, something that we are searching for...but this song seems to ask about who is out there, what is out there, searching for us.
I'd love to hear your interpretation of what a crystalline scream is!?

A couple of final things to mention - We were so excited about that pedal steel in "Kalkaska..." NOW...HOW haunting is it? I also like that there are moments, under her vocals, where you can almost barely hear the guitar - like it's a resting heart rate. And then we have that...mandolin...? that occassionally crashes in, along with that piano. It's another example of how the subtlety of arrangement can express an augmented emotion.

But... there is hope. I am twirled between woefulness and restored will, when she paints us a picture of those rivers rolling out to the sea... She's looking at the natural world and then applying her analysis of it to her own being... "I will survive..." too, just like the rivers rolling on...

Oh, last thing... Talk about those "Hey, hey, hey's..." The first few times it's just a percussive effect she can do to curtain the verses, but after the bridge, she throws emotion into it, like she's talking to herself, sternly, but with love... "Hey..." Like, "Hey...," calm down, settle, refocus. Hey. The way we all stop ourselves.

And I'll stop right there... I've prattled on too long to get to address how she mentions her parents often in these lyrics. I'd love for you to fill in that gap - as I realize, now, that it is rare that I get to hear songwriters talk about their family and personal history so openly.

Until next time my friend

Jeff, so nice to read this flowing letter

Yes, I’ve never quite been able to put that metaphoric comparison into words– these are the twilight / dawn periods of the year. These ephemeral transitions have a certain feel, like nothing else does.  Also, I’m struck by your thoughts of spring-time mending.  It’s certainly taking place on the mountain.  The garden fence has been bumped out and patched; The holes the wild boars have blasted through over the winter are now double lashed with sturdy stitching. It’s no shock to me that as we move through this album, we are using it to process and illuminate our landscapes and worldview.  Thankfully, we are in spring.  

I’m so glad you’ve mentioned the album cover, it's one I’ve thought about at great length.  This supernatural luminescence you describe in the front cover’s image is so striking.  Strange, this glow, I also attribute it to Audra, more so than some off camera soft box.  I’m getting this 1920’s Egyptian vibe coming across as well.  While it’s not specifically pointed to, I inject Cleopatra’s narrative, and perhaps that of a flapper as well. Both these rising out of the jeweled and beaded headdress adorning Audra. 
 It’s hard to know when an artist is evoking literal, or even classical symbolism in an image. Perhaps Audra is imbuing our thoughts with her own idiosyncratic myth. It paints Audra as royalty, in this beaded head-dress and sturdy neck piece.  Her hand is extended in both repose and strength. So many questions arise with this image, but without an artistic statement from Barnes or Audra, I’m left to just process the feelings that come indirectly with it. Those feelings mirror all your choice words of “wither-and-renewal”, and what is and is not.  

From “Crystal Screams” first seconds, Audra sets the stage for us.  The whining pedal steel, the aggressive and harrowing palm mute of the minor chords strum, point me to a wide-eyed vision of a stark reality, a hint of terror even, and the gut feelings of fight or flight. The delayed synth chiming in with her vocals seem to shake one’s shoulders.  The mandolin’s delicate and dramatic plinking, all seem to let Audra’s verse hang in the air, just before this first chorus drops into place, setting us running. Audra’s vocal delivery on Crystal Screams verses are super nuanced. Their hushed yet fast delivery adds a feeling of importance, of a secret we must know, now. 

In arrangement, this song’s rhythmic swing is super interesting.  Notice the kick placement switches between the verse and chorus.  The first verse being void of any percussion elements, drawing more on the guitar for its swing, then the steady pulsing of kick drum coming in on this first chorus.  The bass swinging into dog house rhythm to match, pushes us into country territory, giving the drama of “Crystal Screams" lyrics a theatrical push into a twirling, do i dare say vortex?  The double push that comes after this first chorus, the thump thump being highlighted under the verse’s rhythm push the tension and brooding air of this tune into overdrive. 

As you’ve pointed out, this songs is just as nuanced in instrumentation as pervious cry’s from Mended Vessel. This gentle double tracked vocal under the last lines of the chorus, almost unnoticeable on first listen, is the kind of detail that has kept me coming back this album. There are things you feel, but don’t know why, until you know the song by heart, by its shadows.   It’s not common to have these kind of background “noises” in music with such a country tinge. The swirling frequency sweep at 2:20 is brilliant. These, like the Audra Aura on the front of Mended Vessel, push me from classic folk tails into supernatural legend. 

Re: The Heys,

It’s so strange–these “Hey’s".  How do you place meaning on such a word, let alone repeated at times, six deep.  I found myself trying to track them, wondering how the lines before them change their meaning OR could change their meaning.  Much like first utterance, “Hey, Look at Me”, I feel like they snap me back from the spiraling imagery that she places before them, it re-grounds me.  Though, they also evoke this deep long folk tradition somehow, as though she is on a balance beam of folk legend and personal narrative.  I so associate this kind of delivery and use with cautionary tales, but here it's more difficult to place. In my opinion, that is because they are likely doing several things at once.  Strange and magic for such a open and sometimes amorphous word to be in such frequency, successfully. 

Wishing you well in your dawn season,

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Latest Episode: ADULT., Whiskey Charmers, Five Pound Snap

The Milo Show is an opportunity for viewers to become uniquely acquainted with local artists and organizers, by way of improvisational performances setting bands and singers inside unique locales like bookstores, art galleries, churches, studios and libraries, and through live interviews that have a fresh snap to them. 

Over the last 18 months, Chad Stocker of The High Strung and The Mythics has been our sound engineer, mixing every performance and assuring a crisp capture of each interview. Kristi Billings is our director of photography, and the show's editor - she's been with me since the very first episode. I may be on camera, I may be conducting interviews and coordinating guests' lineups, but I have to say, with every bit of sincerity possible, that this is their show, it is Kristi's and Chad's labor, utilizing their respective talents, and I can't thank them enough. 

 We want to strike a nostalgic note for those who grew up with cable access TV, a freeform approach that presented off the cuff moments, but also to forge a sense of community and pride for local culture, by blending a diverse range of artists each month, spanning genres, genders, projects and worldviews. We want each episode to be a piece of a bigger mosaic that says: “This is Detroit’s art/music scene!” 

Without saying it on camera, we show what a passion project can do; any equipment we use is our own or procured out of our own pockets, and we each use our talents, as an interviewer, as a film editor, and as a sound engineer, to create something fresh, interesting, and charming, each time. While we do embrace the idea that we’re just fans-behind-the-camera & freed of agenda, we also make sure to be forthright with our interviews so that viewers can still get a comprehensive introduction to and essence of each guest

We film in a different location every time!! So, episode-by-episode,  we want to shape a panoramic view of the Detroit arts scene. 

Thanks for watching

Friday, April 14, 2017


Local producer/songwriter/keyboardist/electro-wizard Nigel Van Hemmye is about to properly unveil his long-gestating new project: NYDGE. 
photo by GOOD PALS

This Friday, Nydge is performing in the basement of the Fisher Bldg, an extension of the big celebration for Flint Eastwood's new EP. You can read all about that party via my interview with Jax Anderson in this week's Detroit Free Press entertainment section. 

Most will remember Van Hemmye as one-half of the electro-rock duo Nigel & The Dropout. Nydge is a new direction for the Assemble Sound producer, where he'll be center-stage as a solo artist for the first time. "When making music, I often feed off the energy and encouragement of those around me," said Nydge. "Without a vocalist on stage joining me, I struggled conceptually for a time trying to craft a performance which was still engaging. Being mainly an electronic producer, I have the luxury of choosing which parts of the song I want to represent on stage and I picked the parts I thought would be most fun!"

When he wrote and performed with The Dropout (a.k.a. Andrew Ficker), Van Hemmye would find himself on several stages throughout Detroit, the typical range of bars and clubs with a laserlight-splashed dance-party... but then he would also experience his music in a secluded way, under a pair of serious headphones with his eyes trained on the bedroom ceiling. The Nydge songs should find a middle ground between that contemplative, ambient meditation, and a more kinetic and connective arrangement of synths and percussive samples.

Nydge started releasing singles and showcasing production work on Soundcloud about a year ago, with collaborators like Joe Hertler, Jon Zott, Humons, and Norty, a regular who's who of the scene's cutting edge songwriters and stylists of electronica, dance, and pop.

"These days," Van Hemmye said, "the environment I put myself in is both literally and imaginatively filled with more people, more musicians, more conversations, more head-bobbing, more questions and even - if I'm lucky - more answers." Van Hemmye had a subtle hand in the final production of Flint Eastwood's latest EP, and he's been a hardworking staple in the collective of artists and producers housed at Assemble Sound.

"The past year or so I've been really focusing on collaborating," said Van Hemmye. "Assemble has helped me immensely by broadening my horizons, introducing new talented characters in my life and also focusing some of my own personal ideas and theories about writing. The Nydge songs I have waiting in the wings are more Electronic Pop with mostly "Indie" vocalists..."

As he offers, imagine something like a semi-danceable remix of Miike Snow...

Looking forward to this show, which would be his first proper performance strictly as Nydge, the producer had nothing but praise for the brother-sister duo behind Flint Eastwood. "Jax and SYBLYNG are a great team in the studio whether they are working on Flint Eastwood or helping someone reevaluate a troublesome chorus. They pick a song which they believe in and rework it and rework it until they're happy with it, which requires a kind of patience and determination I admire and am still personally trying to cultivate. At the point where they "brought me in" I think a lot of the structure and production was already there, I recommended a couple production tweaks and helped smooth some transitions between sections. Needless to say, I'm a fan....!"

NYDGE performs Friday Night for Flint Eastwood's EP Release Party
Flint Eastwood
Tunde Olaniran
(ft. Bevlove, Britney Stoney, Sam Austins, Lex Lander, Jaye Prime, Kaleb the Intern)
& Michigander
Free Afterparty hosted by Haute to Death & nydge - look for signs at the Fisher Building!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Favorite Songs

I'm telling you, these really can't be "ranked..."

Maybe the Top 5 are in a sincere order, I'll admit to that... But afterwards, I can't quantify more love or nostalgia for one over the others...

Last year, when I turned 32, I tried to compile my Favorite 32 Albums to come from Michigan/Detroit-area musicians/bands/artists. This year, at 33, I figured I'd try to make a list of songs. These are not the greatest songs of all time - despite how great they all are! They're just all the songs that turned something on inside of me every time I'd hear them on a record, or hear them performed live. They are the songs that, if there was an opportunity to shout between songs in a set, that I'd yell out as fervent requests...

And I'm forgetting at least 10 or 11 more... But I'm just not that old, yet!

So, if you're reading this and you're not on this list, you probably will be soon. If you're reading this and you're just a fan like I am - I hope you dig it... If you're reading this, and you're on the list? Thanks! Just thanks :)

1.) High Strung - Maybe You're Coming Down With It

2.) Bars of Gold - Coffee With Pele

3.) Oscillating Fan Club - Paper Thin Disguise / (+ This House Is Prepared)

4.) Lightning Love - Everyone I Know

5.) Johnny Headband - Hot Button Topic

6.) Child Bite - Ape Along
7.) Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful - Flower Song
8.) Matt Jones - Into The Valley, Tom Fool / Special Forces
9.) Tunde Olaniran - Namesake
10.) Passalacqua - Been A Minute  //  Mister+Ben Miles - In The Meantime 
11.) Chris Bathgate - Serpentine
12.) 800Beloved - 1992
13.) Doc Waffles - Hockey Fights
14.) Rebel Kind - You Are Free
15.) Duende - Barefoot Bandit / Boss Radio
16.) Carjack - I Got The Breaks, Now
17.) Zoos of Berlin - Electrical Way
18.) Saturday Looks Good To Me - Apple
19.) Deadbeat Beat - No God
20.) Pewter Cub - Surface
21.) Mexican Knives - Killer Snake 
22.) Real Ghosts - Wrongs of Spring
23.) ADULT. - Hand To Phone
24.) Cold Men Young - Fire
25.) James Linck/Mic Write - Get This Money
26.) Ancient Language - 93 Million Miles
27.) Kickstand Band - Anxious Love
28.) Prussia - Supreme Being
29.) Beggars - It's All About Me
30.) The Anonymous - ...I Do My Other Thing
31.) Best Exes - Walk Me To The Bar
32.) The Go Rounds - Shock N Awe
33.) Troy Gregory - Whatever Possessed U

But also
34.) Illy Mack - Squirrels // The Go - Meet Me At The Movies // Congress - Pond Fight // The Good Things - High 
.......too many...too many
TOO MANY to count, too many I'd leave out...

Just.... Just loving any opportunity to meet more artists around here, and subsequently write about their music.

Monday, April 10, 2017

More Letters With Chris Bathgate About 'Mended Vessl' (by Audra Kubat)

I really wish I would have selfie'd a photo of Chris Batghate, Audra Kubat, and I....while we were convening in Roosevelt Park to talk about any ol' music-related thing that came to our minds. 

It was very good, very refreshing..., to finally have the three of us meet in person. Singer/songwriter Chris Bathgate and I have been sharing letters, digitally, across 2,000 miles. I was in Detroit, he was somewhere in Northern California. All the while, we've been dedicated each letter to a single track from Detroit-based singer/songwriter Audra Kubat's late 2016 release, 'Mended Vessel...' 

This is the 7th installment, discussing a song called "Sparrow"

Your last letter kinda blew my mind. Or maybe all of these letters are, collectively, starting to blow my mind? Because, as I'd intimated earlier, the exercise of reviewing a work of art will inevitably stretch you toward a place of self-examination as well, or at least it should! This, of course, opens up a can of worms for some who might enjoy the debate of: 'Well, if you wrote a bad review of a certain album, then maybe the problem's with YOU and not the album...' I'm not ready to engage in a tumble down that certain rabbit whole quite yet. In my experience, most of the snarky or "bad' album reviews are reviews written in haste, or under deadline, and that expediency hampers one's consideration. Then again? How long does any/every piece of art need, when it comes to the time an audience should take to digest it... Questions for a future debate.

This review, however, is one that is giving us ample time, exceedingly more time, to take everything in. And I shouldn't gloss over the fact that I say "us," because 99% of all reviews are from a single voice, a solitary mind, a solo writer who presumes to speak for everyone in the realm of interpretation. But I have you, Chris, to bounce ideas off of... I'm delaying, we should really get into "Sparrow..."

This might be the sparest arrangement, yet. Although, we have to remark upon the power of that cello that comes in around 2:29. We're seven tracks into this album, so I don't think I'm speaking too soon when I say that her vocals throughout the bridge, right at 2:30, as the cello carries her voice singing "I don't want to hold onto anything anymore..." that THIS might be the most poignant, most powerful moment of the album for me. There's something about the tones she's hitting, the strings she's plucking, the timbre of it all has a feeling of a sprain, or a healing wound. This whole album has seemed to me to be about healing. There have been quiet contemplation about love, about upbringing, about ancestry, about location. But this song is about what, if anything, we can truly possess.

Anxiety is a killer, as the opening lyric demonstrates. What will hurt us, what can we actually stop from hurting us? What do we allow to hurt us... What can we do to stay strong? This song, to me, is about acceptance. Accepting complexity, accepting the whimsicality of life. Acknowledging what's permanent, like the stars, or like water..,  and what is impermanent, like love. This song is about finding control in letting loose. That's what I think, anyhow. And it has to be reiterated, the production we've discussed so far, the tender, careful, tasteful adornments of things like that cello, or what also might sound like an organ to me (your ears might pick it out better than mine...)

And what an image to close out on. Greeting a destructive fire with your head held high..., as her voice quivers into a soft fade upon the dissipating guitar...

I hear the Governor of your state just declared the 5-year-drought to be ending... How is your Spring, out there, so far?




Spring in California is all blooms at the moment. We’ve got a little more rain and cool snaps on the horizon, but overall, there’s been plenty of afternoons with doors wide open and the dogs asleep in porches scattered sunspots.

Thank you, in regards to the last letter.  I’d say the feeling is mutual, I’m in such a good place with you framing these tracks, and providing your insights for me to grapple with and add to.  I agree, that conversation–that wormhole of the responsibility of the critic, or perhaps even the audience in general–is too big a conversion for this platform.  I have to acknowledge if our time was limitless we’d be able to dedicate to a near endless correspondence on topics of that girth.

To “Sparrow” then,

The sparseness of this song serves it well. And yes, I too feel this healing wound.  Lyrically, the last word of this first verse’s first line, “Again”, adds such an intense and direct history for the speaker of this song, and immediately pointed me there. So subtle, yet so potent. The paused, gentle finger pick of Audra’s guitar leave those words ending her lines exposed, drifting off over the chords momentary dip into silence.  This songs imagery fills me with these feelings of desperate want, against a current moment, “with the tide”.  The circuitous nature of these images and metaphors in sparrow create a complex series of feelings in me. There is pain, but there is acceptance. “Sweet love it passes like water through these hands, and the more you try to hold the sparrow the further that it flies away.” is my favorite line of this song.  While, that image of water through the hands isn’t necessarily a new one, but pairing it with the sparrow make it so new. Using the image of the hand, or holding, for both of these metaphors is wonderful to encounter.

Like you, I’m also feeling compelled to mention this moment at 2:30, the bridge.  The minor vamp here is super successful, but via the context created by Audra’s chord changes right before (and at the end of) this section. As if a furrow of sadness has been drawn between the green sprouted rows of acceptance. This musical and emotional lift is intelligently paired with the image of the sparrow flying off.  Suddenly, we’re inside these dark chord, perhaps as result of the sparrows departure.

As we move through, the sea and tide imagery lift us momentarily. And yes, this image of fire, preceding the final chorus, is on the edge of sense almost, but somehow in its strangeness, conveys volumes.

I love the moments of nuance across this tracks production, the string arrangement in the bridge in particular.  It’s structure of harmony only really widening after the word “changed”.  So subtle, so potent. Which i feel could be said about Audra’s voice across this record, Mended Vessel.
until next week,

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I'm A Fan

Lately, when my birthday approaches, I get reflective, just like anyone...

And there are a thousand songs I could play to commemorate all this contemplation...
But I'll just go with this one

It's scary and calming, all at once, to start this essay by riveting, with swift and thunderous certainty, a tablet of meaning onto my life; that a good portion of the worth of my life, my time here on the planet, is fused to the celebration of music--but specifically the music of my immediate neighbors.

At 10-years-old, I wanted to be Elmore Leonard, or Michael Crichton; I wanted to write fiction, I wanted to write books. But by the time I was 16, going on 17, it was the true stories that resonated with me more; I began reading more non-fiction and I joined the high school newspaper staff. I wanted to tell true stories. And very early, I realized that the most interesting stories, the most interesting people, the most interesting outlooks on life, would be found in the Arts, with artists...

That question of:    So, what are you singing about?   Or that question of:    Who or what made you want to make music? The answers to those questions could be so revealing, when it came to a person's character, to a person's motives. Maybe they didn't even fully understand their own motives--cuz some would seem so possessed, so ingrained with an inexplicable spirit of sorts, the creative vision, the voice... The answers to those questions would help me understand my own self, my own motives, my own purpose, or worth...

What resonates with voice. Not only having something to say, but the way it's performed. The way sad lyrics can make me feel better or even happier, just by the way they are elucidated in a melody or through a certain tonal expression.

I would tell anyone who asked me that I never saw the usefulness of writing a negative review. If I were to ever write a negative review of the album, it would have to be because I can't interpret any sincerity behind the voice, nor substance in the message.

Why should people feel like they are separate from it...? From the music...? From a song...? I'm paraphrasing Audra Kubat. She and I joined Chris Bathgate at Roosevelt Park on a sunny day, secluded away from traffic and nestled under a tree, just talking about everything that encompasses the experience of music, the experience of making music, interpreting music, or using music... Using something to help you heal, maybe... Or seeing how a song can change within a matter of weeks, the way it's performed or the way it makes you feel...

Kubat, Bathgate and I have been engaged in a dialogue with music--Kubat's music specifically--by way of a series of letters where we explore the essence of a singular song. We finally got the chance to sit down together and it may have been one of the most poignant conversations I've ever had about  music--and that's coming from a guy who's had conversations about music once a week for 12-some-odd-years...

Kubat was talking about not separating any individual listener from the part that they deserve to take in any song that she, or Bathgate, or any artist creates and puts out into the world... I could write a negative review of any album that could easily be ignored into the background, of any album that is created, perhaps, out of something like a contractual obligation rather than an aching compulsion to convey something vulnerable from deep within the soul and exert it into the world where it would be free to hook into any human's ear and sow potential relatability and emotional resonance.

I tell Kubat that a lot of the reviews I've written, and the letters that Bathgate and I have been drafting, are veiled thank-you-notes. I want to write an essay about a piece of music because the experience that I am having while listening to it is so intense that it often demands a memoir-istic register, down to a page, (even a digital page), so that I can process it. Maybe I've always been too empathic to ever write a negative review - cuz there's a certain level of, yes, appreciation, or admiration, that that person, that veritable neighbor of mine, that Michigan music person, was able to accumulate enough nerve, enough sentimentality, to accumulate enough frustration or pain and parse it, arrange it, refine it, render it, re-ignite it, douse it, and imbue their self, their take, their perspective, their outlook, onto that work, into that work, that song......

So, there emerges, for me, a sacredness..., that I hold for the creation of a song - and I can't disrespect that. You can make a bad song, that's fine--I may not write about it, then... But for artists like Kubat and Bathgate to put themselves on a line, and not have that sharing succeed in a positive way, or in a way that can turn something on in a listener, I'd see that as regrettable. If I could help backlight the iridescence of the song's beacon, if I could project it's power, or emphasize something--and then supplement it, in a way, augment it--amplify it--with the emotions I'm experiencing? Then maybe I can be a humble piece in the bridge that any song has to cross to reach an audience.

Yeah..., that's a rather self-aggrandizing appraisal of what I've been up to... But what I've really been up to, is trying to demonstrate the vitality, and uniqueness, of each musical creator based in Michigan. So many of the music makers I encounter are doing this for the love of it; doing it without any guarantee that their 4-minute-long chorus-spiked expressions will reach an audience. So many of those songs reach me, reach me and shake me to the core--quite often. I want to tell you how that feels... I want you to find your way into a piece of music, so that it can shake you or help you or whatever it can do, maybe show you something. I want you to have a conversation with yourself while you're listening to music.... That's why I've always had that tag at the top of this blog: a dialogue with music...................................................
So I guess, I'm a fan....

Friday, April 7, 2017


There are many subtle shades of post-punk; you can't underestimate the variety of vibes one can achieve under that big umbrella. Throw out connotations that post-punk is some kind of reductive genre/label, or some simple way of summing up a band's sound; I've always seen it as a philosophy--a matter of variations in approach...

And Mooses manifest that nuance quite nicely. This new Detroit quintet have a debut EP coming out in August - but TODAY is the day they greet the world with their first single, "Moses."

Mooses is: Mooses Alex Brown, Andy Scott, Dan Tiura, Rob Jozefiak, Vince Monte

What Mooses have down to a tee is the coordinated chaos aspect of agit-rock, like the songs themselves could be pulling off fierce freerunning parkour with such herking time-signatures and twisty tempos. Throaty vocal incantations lunge with passion over angular guitar phrases, varying at upticked moments of urgency into a swifter staccato delivery. Like any good car chase in an action movie, the music of Mooses is inherently exciting because you're not sure which alley they might turn down next - and it could be very sudden.

A song called "Jeeps" starts out like a summery, and almost groovy kind of post-rock/jazz-hybrid riff, only to roil up into a mosh-able tempest with gnarly, sinister sounding guitar runs. It starts out like Sea & Cake but winds up closer to the Mekons (with some Fugazi splashed in the middle somewhere). And I like that!

In fact, several songs, like "And It Makes," start out in one genre, something almost near late 90's post-ska, and winds up stutter-stepping through several different modes and moods, like murky metal, or straight-up no-wave esoterica. That's what post-punk means to me: exploration... But what Mooses gets, early on, is that there's a certain grace required of you when you're throwing on three or four different hats at once inside the same song... And you can hear that on the song "Moses..."

This Saturday,
Mooses performs at Trixie's Bar in Hamtramck
Featuring Reverend, Odmiana, and Red Robe

Monday, April 3, 2017

Chris Bathgate and Jeff Milo Write a Letter about a Song by Audra Kubat

Welcome to our 6th installment of letters shared between Jeff and Chris Bathgate, where correspondence is not explicitly chatty - but instead charts each individual track from singer/songwriter Audra Kubat's Mended Vessel...

Audra is currently performing (and recording new music) with a trio: Kubat, Finlay and Rose - which features singer/songwriters Tamara Finlay and Emily Rose. That trio is joining another folk trio, the Sweet Water Warblers, on Thurs., April 13th at Otus Supply in Ferndale (more info)

Here we go: "Kalkaska"

Chris! Pedal Steel!!!

Ya know... We can hear drum machines used by bands and not immediately think hip-hop or techno... But why is it this instrument immediately/inevitably/incontrovertibly brings up "country..." Or "Americana..." for me... A lot, I find, of writing album reviews is that you find your exploring your self, as much as you are exploring the artist ostensibly under examination. It's your own preconceptions and possible boundaries of consideration that get expanded, when you can hear a sound or a sentiment through a different filter or from within a fresh frame.

So, pedal steel! What I love about this song is that it feels, to me, like a "country" song for Michiganders. You'll remember from your Ann Arbor days that one didn't have to get to Mackinac to be "up north...," it was a general term, an inside joke or a minor urban myth of sorts, that even Mt. Pleasant was far enough away from yours and my own lower I-94 strip to be considered "up north..." Kalkaska is rural, and considered by some "a village..." nestled cozily and pastorally in the shadow of more glamorous towns like Traverse City or Charlevoiix. It seems like a sanctuary spot, a place for quiet refuge, away from the madding crowd--as it were... And that's the ideal setting and circumstance, in my estimation, for a country song. A place with farm land and fences where you can sit upon at sunset with a sprig of straw chewed at the side of your mouth as you think things over, all peaceful-like. I love the imagery of those countless stars over her head, away from the light pollution of an urban center.

It's a song about love... You could call it a love song, but, with the way the lyrics go, I'd rather just call it a song about love.  "I know about love..." she sings, "a real true love..." And it's a love that speaks to her in true and honest words. This song, like a couple of the handful we've gone through, seems to be in that searching for settling mode, again; eager for a remedy to restlessness and girding ones self against the tender tempest of things always changing, slowly, day to day...
So. Yeah. Not a country song. Not really.

Eager for your thoughts  :)


Dear Jeff,

I share your exclamations; pedal steel forever!

I love this theory you put forth about being a listener/reviewer. In analyzing and thinking about artwork, you are forced to uncover your own blindspots. Yes, preconceptions get brought to the surface, but something else as well, for me.  I think when art “connects” I have to look at something being identified as important in my own life. It seems when I identify something that “speaks” to me, it's always on the hinges of self. So, in a way, it feels like a mirror. Yes, and all the good and bad that mirror brings.

Back to exclamations, maybe I should get to speaking to the pedal steel and 1/3 back beat in this song, “Kalkaska”. Is this a square and rhombus moment? I think its safe to say this song's spiraling pedal steel licks and driving beat place it safely in the country song category, in timbre and feel.  It’s center though, lyrically, is love, yes. And yes, It does feel like a totem in the honorary Michigan landscape-song heritage. And yes, there is downstate perspective of a dreamy agrarian North–at least there was in my downstate youth. Now that I’m thinking about it, this song’s facets of being are plentiful. But overall, i think you’re right. This Love song has a Country / Americana backbone.

I’m interested in one of these facets specifically, one of these identities this song could have. I’m thinking of this song as a landscape based narrative. Go with me, lets just consider that a species of song: landscape narrative. There’s some magic in a story that seems to be a part of a landscape, using a real place as a marker for an experience or moment.  As both a purveyor and a listener, I appreciate this. As a creator you get to inject a certain reality into your song; as a listener you get detail and a mythic totality that comes with physical places.  You know, whether this is a candid poetic account of Audra’s life, a character's, or her grandmother's, the imagery and actions laid out here lyrically drum up a lot happy and bittersweet memories, of walks out in the tall grasses of rural northern landscapes–perhaps that’s my mirror. I feel like I’ve been in this song in both narrative and imagery.  But this story, this specific one, as you’ve stated, is about ideas of love just as much as its about a specific love.  It’s about time, just as much as it is about moments.

A long time ago I was asked a really good question by Gabrielle Benzing of OndaRock about a T.S Elliot quotation that plays into what is happening here for me on “Kalkaska”. I have to give her credit for bringing it into my mind. Here’s the quotation:

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words,
a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion.”

–T.S. Elliot

I think of this more simply as: don’t just describe how something felt, describe the why, or what details drive it. That’s what is happening here, for me, on this dripping country romance. This song’s moments of aphorism are placed on a bed of detail, after I've experienced a story develop. The listless heart of this song's speaker being cooled by a love, in a specific place, in a specific moment, with self awareness of all of that, reflects parts of my life I value. Maybe this is why I love songs so much, they help me exhume ideas, thoughts, and feelings of value not currently at mind. It’s an incredible exchange to have. When thinking about your theory Jeff, I find it strange yet encouraging to wonder: what is and is not in the hands of the artist?