Thursday, November 29, 2018

Best Of 2018 (pt 4) - Detroit/Michigan Music

As I've done before, I'll emphasize that no list can be comprehensive. I've collected 112 songs released by 112 individual artists from around Detroit (and Michigan). The point wasn't to pick favorites, but to just emphasize how much talent and creativity continues to surge from within the walls, lofts, basements, studios and garages of the cities and suburbs around this state...albeit, primarily on this blog, the SE corner...

Here's to a great year. Looking forward to the sounds of 2019, already

Ancient Language
Apollo Brown
Aston Neighborhood Pleasure Club
The Band Mint
Brother Elsey
Brother Hallow
Child Bite
Cousin Mouth
Dani Darling
Emily Rose
Fred Thomas
The Go Rounds
Gold Crayon
Jack & The Bear
Joe Jaber
LXL (Large Extra Large)
Peace to Mateo
Stef Chura
Strange Heart
Theatre Bizarre Orchestra
White Bee
Whitey Morgan
Young Punk
Zander Michigan

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Aston Neighborhood Pleasure Club

All music should have this much character and pizazz, verve and brio! The players of the Aston Neighborhood Pleasure Club infuse piques of emotions from across the spectrum, whether its hearted-eyes longing, hot-time-in-the-ol-town-tonight-rowdy spunk, wistful bittersweetness or boisterous celebration. You could almost qualify their classic jazz strains as soul music, in that it has a soul...with the way the music seems to literally come alive (even on an album) and start strutting, skidoo-ing, or jiving across the room in front of you--if not, than it compels the listener to unlock their own bodies and start wobbling about with a less-tamed ebullience.

The Ferndale-area ensemble specialize in trad-jazz vibes with a distinctly New Orleans flavor, blending in a mix of folk, country and Americana with clarinets, saxophones, trombones, and vocals, brushes and washboards, selmer/django-style guitars, the charming baritone booms of upright bass and tuba and all those signature timbres (old-timey front desk call-bells!!) that we associate with juke joints, piano bars, speakeasys, big easy's, and even, sometimes, ballrooms. It might be a music, you'd think, that would be best experienced LIVE. This is hot-off-the-skillet kind of music, so we want to ideally feel the fire of it, even if its a more downtempo waltzer... WELL then, best to capture that lightning into a proverbial album's bottle by-way-of releasing a batch of recordings caught on the fly at Howe's Bayou. The ANPC players are all pretty much lifers in the jazz, dixie, and big-band music traditions, so it's no surprise that you could sit them down in an otherwise crowded space with main drag traffic whooshing by behind them and have them nail all these jams in one take.

The ANPC will celebrate perform a release party for their new album at Otus Supply in Ferndale. The energetic, flamboyant, theatrical, and swooning songs you'll hear on this album were recorded just down the street from Otus, at Howe's Bayou. You'll find covers like "Corinna, Corinna," and "Midnight, the Stars, and You," as well as some originals that fuse right into the traditional-sounding vibe, with a bit of a fresh contemporary kick and a flourish that could only come about through the collaboration of these inventive, music-loving minds. Meet the the Club at Otus Supply this Thursday.....

Otus Supply and Grand Circus Media present: The Aston Neighborhood Pleasure Club
Thursday, November 29, 2018
The Parliament Room at Otus Supply
8:00 PM Doors / 21+

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Best of 2018 (pt 3) Detroit/Michigan

28 more songs
Some of my favorite work from Michigan (and, yeah, primarily Detroit-area) artists! 

Drew Denton
False Figures
Girl Fight
Heavy Color
J. Walker & the Crossguards
Jamie Norte
Jay Daniel
Jaye Prime
Jenny & Jackie
Jo Rad Silver
Louis Picasso & the Gallery
Mango Lane
Mega Powers & Jade Lathan
Mike Gentry
My Girlfriend Beru
The Old Adage
Rogue Satellites
The Stools
Summer Like The Season
Will Sessions

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Best of 2018 (pt 2) Detroit/Michigan Music

Britney Stoney
Chris Orrick
Chris Richards & the Subtractions
Crimson Alchemist
Deadbeat Beat
Eddie Logix
Extra Arms
Flint Eastwood
The Gasoline Gypsies
Holly Bernt Band
Jonathan Franco
Mega Powers
Native Howl
Nick Piunti & the Complicated Men
Savage Seven
Seth Bernard / Van Lente
Sheefy McFly
South South Million
Tangle Parade
The True Blue

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

No List is Final: More Michigan-Made Music from 2018

So, tomorrow, I'm posting another 28 songs released by Detroit-area or Michigan-based artists in 2018, and while it appears under the guise of a "Best Of" or "Favorites" list, I shy away from those words and emphasize, especially with this post, that it isn't comprehensive. No list can be comprehensive. But, what's most important to remember as you potentially skim some of the other forthcoming playlists tomorrow is that they are all Spotify experiments....and limited somewhat, as such.

I have just as many mixed feelings (and often quite dubious feelings) about this streaming platform, so I'm not endorsing it in anyway. However, at the end of the proverbial day, it's a means of framing a substantial amount of music in digestible and (inevitably) highly accessible means for you or for anyone else visiting this site with curiosities of exploring music made by Michiganders.

BUT........ Today... I'll be postings some of my favorite, yes favorite, songs by artists who have a presence on the Internet, yes..., (because that's just a necessity for forging a career in the arts...,) but who do not have music up on Spotify. It isn't mandatory, folks. Here are some bandcamp shoutouts...

 Betsy Soukup - This Disquiet

Soviet Girls - Think Back

True Blue -Solitary Queen 

Double Winter - Oxen's Eye

Satin Stone - Your Own Way

Blueflowers - Circus On Fire

Sleepology - Career

Zzvava - Mutable Moons

The High Strung - If You Wanna Roll

DUDE - Own The Day

...and I could go on....

Monday, November 19, 2018

False Figures

This isn't the first time that singer/songwriter Jim Cherewick has been part of a certain music project that sneaks out new material toward the end of a calendar year... He's done it before with a post-punk group known as Congress. Beautiful stuff comes from this raspy voiced warbler...And this time, he's hooked up with songwriter Joel Parkilla of an Ann Arbor based band, Human Skull..., another comparatively low key group that forgoes flashy social media presence and instead just rolls up to spots like Ziggy's, the 3rd Death Star, or the Trumbullplex, and lays down some gnarly strain of aerodynamic indie-rock. My ears are always peeled for whatever these two are going to do next, and they're true to form by just sort of setting this terrific and tender 8-song album out on the endtable of the Internet and shuffling away before I can tackle them with appreciation. It's False Figures.

There's something about both of their voices to where I can't put my admiration into words without sounding off-putting... But there is an undeniably poignant frogginess to their high, creaky, but ever tuneful voices... These might be registers and intonations that the rest of us would only reach amid guttural stretches in the foggy mornings upon waking...I love the almost-diffident quaver and creak of these voices, punk-loving folk balladeers at the indie-rock honky tonk!

There is a feeling in each of their voices that won't be put into words on this blog, but it's something we've all times of bliss and dread, in times of hectic weariness and head-over-heels love. If I write about only one new album this year, it's gotta be False Figures, with Jason Lymangrover (of Hydropark) providing bass and guitar, and Cherewick/Parkilla swapping lead lyric-writing, and even covering 1 of each other's tunes.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Latest Podcast Episode: Augusta Rose

Augusta Rose is a Detroit-based artist/event-organizer/activist/violinist and much more! She is a member of the indie-rock quartet Double Winter and performs as a solo artist (Bigabite). She also runs her own booking organization known as Neue Haus. We wind up talking a lot about experimental/improvisational music!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

Best of 2018 (pt 1): Detroit/Michigan Music

The year-end list gets longer every year. Over my 11 years as a blogger and 15 as a music journalist, there's consistently been more output from artists based in this region year-to-year. And it's often the exercise of stepping back and surveying everything that's come out from January until December, that restores my inspiration to continue doing my best, week to week, to spill some words on this blog in hopes of "covering" this ever-burgeoning creative community...

Here's Vol 1 (of 4)

image borrowed from The Dropout's Old Parts, New Beginnings

Anna Burch
Ben Keeler
Bonny Doon
Brother Son
Devious Ones
The Dropout
Electric Honey
Holly Bernt Band
Jemmi Hazeman
Little Traps
Man Mountain
Mexican Knives
River Spirit
Sam Austins
Sara Marie Barron
Steve Greene
Television City
Troy Gregory
Tunde Olaniran
Undesirable People
Virginia Violet & the Rays

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Strange Heart - Sinking Ships

There's a certain kind of pop-rock that always sounds like its in flight. It could be as intense and angular as a jet making stunt-like maneuvers or as tender as an autumn leaf in the breeze. Local quartet Strange Heart usually evoke a gliding sense of the former, but the vocals and lyrics particularly infuse their lithe and layered jams with arena-rock-sized emotional import. On their new album, Sinking Ships, the energy of the arrangements is definitely intent on raising vessels and travelers back up above the waterline and possibly ascending them even further, restoring oxygen, launching back towards warming and healing sunrays and eventually carrying them back to shore. 

Joshua Clemens (lead vocals/guitar) and Bryce Carrol-Coe (lead guitar/vocals) each returned to the Mitten from individual stints of time spent on the west coast. Before forming Strange Heart, each had some significant (and in Clemens' case, tragic) events happen in their lives: Carrol-Coe had received a life-saving heart transplant the prior year, while Clemens suffered the loss of two of his sisters to cancer. Carrol-Coe was eager to make some music upon his return and connected with Clemens--and this was just as Clemens was also looking for some much needed catharsis-by-way-of songwriting. 

While Clemens heartfelt and earnest lyrics capture the weary and wrenching road back from not just severe loss, but also his seven years away from home (Detroit), Carrol-Coe similarly threads a palpably reinvigorated life into his post-rock, almost-math-rock-like guitar lines. But the propulsive energy I'm responding to is also in part due to the rhythm section of former collaborators of Clemens--Mike Schneider (on bass) and bobby Jankowski (drums). Sinking Ships rises towards resilience, by way of blending a soulful Americana sound with an aerodynamic indie-rock. 

Release party for Strange Heart's Sinking Ships is Friday, Nov 30 at the Loving Touch

Monday, November 12, 2018

Late Year Releases

Just when I thought I was going to start on my definitive year-end lists, I'm pulled back to the blog by some year-end releases of note.

The first "new" recording I'll play for you is actually one year old (to the day). Pato Y Pato is a "new" band that actually started a couple years ago as an experimental recording project - an adventure into ambient techno and dark/minimal krautrock, conjured by local musicians John Duffy and Mark Maynard. The track we have below captures the characteristic ominous-yet-centering, post-apocalyptically-calming, zen-dread of their harmonious synth conjurings.

Pato Y Pato perform on Friday, Nov 30 at PJs Lager House. 


Up next, it's the techno/funk/hip-hop hybridist Motorkam. We featured Motorkam more than a year ago in The Detroit Free Press as a way of introducing audiences on this side of the state to a motivated and inventive new talent that had ignited within the Kalamazoo music scene. He's called Detroit home now for the last 18 months, and he just dropped a new album, a sequel to last year's Black Daddy, titled Being Daddy Ain't Easy. The lyricist/producer otherwise known as Kameron Potts (Motorkam), follows in the traditions of Ziggy Stardust, Dr. Funkenstein and Cybotron, in musically embodying a character to amplify and stack the energy and arrangements of his 3-minute sonic smorgasbords that sound like cosmic house music. Then again, this is the type of music that, as soon you try to categorize it, breaks free and runs farther, climbs the next staircase, or burrows to some other corner of the underground.

Follow Motorkam for updates on future performances


Copper Thieves are up next. Just like Pato Y Pato, they don't have "new" music, but in a similar way, it would still be "new" to you... The trio of local rock vets put out an album at the very end of 2017 - but day jobs and engagements with other music projects tied them up and kept them from doing some proper local gigging to support that record. CT was never out to reinvent the wheel, in terms of guitar rock, they just wanted to refine it, create some sweet melodies, and find a deeper focus toward crafting some damn good indie/power-pop ballads, while also dropping more than a few poignant and contemplative lyrics reflecting on life's wild journey.

Copper Thieves are opening up for Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (a 7" Release Party) at PJs Lager House. 


Next, we jump back into the ambient/experimental realms, similar to Pato Y Pato, with Jo Rad Silver. This is the solo sonic adventures of Jonah Radnus-Silverstein, a key part of the vanguard of Detroit's experimental music renaissance by way of noise-exploring bands like YAK and his work as a music-melder with Assemble Sound. He's also been curating live events for similarly unbounded and futuristic music at Donovan's (Technically, Yeah); the most recent of which served as a listening party for this, his new album, S.E.T. (Superhero Elevator Techno). What resonates most with me is how his compositions evoke a sense of being carried away--the material world disolving and some new technicolor/ultraviolet world manifesting around you as the intricate arrangement of percussive elements propels you forward. Then you listen closer, and closer, and realize that a human is tweakign something, pitch-shifting that tone, modulating another sound and then adding melodic guitars, all in this 5 minute fever, two corporeal hands and one active brain behind all the sounds of the machines. It's beautiful.

The next'Technically, Yeah' is scheduled for Dec 6th  stay tuned, here, for updates. 


Ambient/neo-techno producer Jay Daniel also just dropped new material, a full-length album titled TALA. Just as transfixing as some of the other ambient-composers listed above, but infused with a bit of psychedelic funk and spaze-jazz, Daniel fuses smooth tones and calming melodies over frenetic beats, with sporadic eruptions of gnarly-toned synths. In a track like "Qalbi, its beautifully mixed so that you're conscious of each element and its subtle coalescing into this calm-yet-furtive where you feel it when those droning synths at the bottom drop away, or when they crest over like a tidal wave towards its conclusion....

Jay Daniel joins Danny Brown's Brusier Thanksgiving lineup next week. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Mark Whalen & the Buttermilk Boys

I wish I could boil it down for you, but you're just going to have to listen... ...While our geopolitics may continue to be rife with primitive, regressive and preposterously backward strains of anti-discourse, I'm happy to announce that our musicians, particularly Detroit-based songwriter/singer Mark Whalen, are substantially evolving and if not pushing boundaries, blurring disparate stylistic territories together into an ultravioletly verdant Pangaea of sleekly exotic and spicily quirky charms that still produce in instantaneous pop-familiarity amidst an alien and magical-sounding sonic terrain.

What I mean is..., you can detect the ingredients of indie-rock as much as you could jazz-lounge or space-age pop, surfy neo-psychedelia or jangly indie-rock, or just some kind of new-new wave that is so new it's not even near the shores yet. It's disco from Pluto, it's dreamy-prog from the astral planes, it's Whalen manifesting the untethered possibilities of his vision onto a record...Or, if you've peeked the event page for the release party of the new album by Mark Whalen and the Buttermilk Boys, then you can get an even deeper sense of what to anticipate by reading the invitation's encouragement to "...wear your best 70's disco outfit." That being stated, I hear so many avenues explored in Whalen's newest songs that it doesn't feel throwback so much as it's boomeranged into the future--it might start with disco, but it arcs out, sideways, forward, and then back again, picking up a range of genres and especially a nuanced blend of tones.

...yes, tones...tones and groove. Whalen's knack is modulating an effectively serene but spacey sounding tone with guitars and synths, while also arranging mid tempo (or even meditatively slowed tempo) rhythms that you can't help but dance to..., sway to, nod-to, float-away to... Even if you were walking (with headphones) to his song "Mother Bird," you'd have to resist the song's ability to compel you into a shuffle, into a bit of a shoulder-arcing, head-swiveling cadence. It's the groove that keeps you ambulating, dancing, advancing, exploring. Whalen and the Buttermilk Boys might dig disco, but it's not a fashion statement, or reverting to the past, it's more about charting a course and using those grooves as a launchpad.

The new album comes out November 16th
Release Party at Small's

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Spontaneous but Focused: Duende and David J's 'Oracle Of The Horizontal'

Duende: Laura Willem, Joel McCune, Scott Sanford, Jeff Howitt.
seated: David J.
photo by Trever Long

Four years ago, in October, Bauhaus-leader and modern goth-rock pioneer David J. came to town to perform an intimate and exclusive living room show. In attendance were the four members of Detroit-based experimental rock outfit Duende. The story we'll unfold in this piece is the creation of a new album that combines both Duende and David J, titled Oracle of the Horizon (on Glass Modern Records). You can attend a listening party for this momentous album on Friday, Nov 16th at the Ghost Light INFO. 

The album is a surge to the senses, a fever-dream torrent of phantasmagoric sounds arranged as beautifully psychedelic nocturnes. These are waltzes for the astral planes and suites for shaken and souls...and rallying cries for the weird wraiths wending near the backs of our minds.

But back to that living room show...

 Now, around Detroit, Halloween is a big deal. But so is Bauhaus! Several psychedelic-shredders and garage-geeks that make up the local music scene here are big fans of David J., and you know we're all rocking "Bela Lugosi's Dead," when October comes around. Fatefully, that October night of four years ago found not only Duende's singer/guitarist Jeff Howitt, drummer Laura Willem, and lead guitarist Joel McCune, but also Matthew Pomroy (chief entertainment coordinator for the notoriously sensational and large-scale Halloween-masquerade known as Theatre Bizarre), and prominent Detroit jazz musician and bandleader Joshua James....

...what happened next was David J. basically made Detroit a second home. Not only did he wind up performing at the following Theatre Bizarre, but he built a collaborative relationship with James, recording an album with the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra. And it just so happened that Pomroy lived right next door to Howitt and Willem... When David J. returned to town to perform with the TBO, "...we would chit chat in our adjoining backyards," Willem said. "In 2016, we played the infamous Theatre Bizarre party and David came and watched our whole set, right up front! A few days later, he messaged us and said he enjoyed it. So... we then asked him if he'd be interested in collaborating...!"

"...there was a point when we realized it wasn't going to just be one session in the studio," recalls McCune. "When David (at Damien Youth's urging) decided more songs needed to happen, and that a full record was in order, the project became larger than its members! It has definitely taken on a life of it's own, and the story isn't over yet..., I don't believe."

Bassist Scott Sanford said that Bauhaus was a huge influence on his bass playing, (he also plays lead guitar in local rock band Pewter Cub). "David is very inspiring. I can speak for myself, and I think everyone in the band, was nervous to work with him initially. After the initial jitters David made us feel very comfortable. He has a great ear production wise and really elevated the songs with his ideas for arrangements and auxiliary instrumentation."

The album art that you're peeking in that bandcamp streamer up there shows David as the character he adopted for Theatre Bizarre Orchestra: M.C. Nightshade. Joshua James became a contributing instrumentalist in the recording sessions for Oracle. "...but the first song we put together, lyrically, as 'Get Out Of My Dreams,'" recalled Howitt. "...…”  It’s not unlike another mythos of the Ouroboros. The snake devouring itself to create itself eternally. Damien Youth did the cover art. David had gone to New Orleans not long after our initial session with him, and it was Damien that was like, “You need to keep these songs together for an album.” David was going to use “Alice In The Windscreen” for his upcoming solo record, and the other three songs were going to be on a single or interspersed into our newly finished DUENDE! album. It’s still unreleased at the moment by the way."

Even though this was obviously going to be a distinctive project for Duende, McCune said they still developed the songs in "true Duende fashion...! An idea here, a snippet of old basement jam there, looseness, and the fearlessness required to go into the recording studio "semi prepared" and see what happens! I think 'Motor City Squeeze' and 'In the Shadow of 45' were the only finished musical ideas we took in. And we rehearsed nothing with David beforehand! Duende works very well under this kind of pressure, and David just stepped right into the fray quite naturally!"

Sanford said that they created the music for ('Get Out Of My Dreams') to fit the mood of those lyrics that Howitt and David had collaborated on via messenger. "...the rest of the album followed that initial mood. All of the music for the album was written as a group, collaboratively," said Sanford. "We created the songs at practices. Some were actually written (at least partially) years earlier while some were created specifically for the project."

But this writer, and a few others who have had some pre-release listenings have picked up on a bit a darker "shade" to the songs. "...As for the darkness of the songs," McCune said, "...sometimes the songs just develop themselves, and they wanted to be dark, brooding, introspective, even wicked at times. Oracle is not light listening, but it wasn't planned out that way."

Willem agrees that going darker wasn't intentional, or conscious. "...we just channeled the songs and opportunity," she said. McCune mentioned 'Motor City Squeeze,' but Willem comments further, referencing the lyrics of that song. "I think of that as David's love story of Detroit..., of the people and places." She goes on to elucidate a song like the epic title track. "...the lyrics were written by David in the 80s while he was on an acid.  He requested 13 minutes of music, which we were able to provide!  What I think is pretty incredible about this song is that Duende got the song in one take and then David did the vocals in one take, made me think the universe was rooting for us on that one!  It sounds like we planned it.  Especially, when David says “AWAKE” about halfway through the song, but it really was magic."

Howitt says that his own lyrics can be a little more symbolic, with accidental melodies. "It's more enunciatively presented, and conversationally, stream of consciousness," he said.  He adds, poetically, about the experience of working with David J..."You walk into...or wake into David’s lyrics. See it!  Listen to “Alice Through The Windscreen..." (which features James). " spend a chapter in there. You breathe with it. On this record he primarily does spoken word, except for, “Motor City Squeeze”, where he did a near spoken take, and another with almost a Joe Strummer vibe to it. I was like, “Put a little duende in there.” Leave it a bit unrestrained. Raw. With “In The Shadow Of 45”, which David plays harmonica on, and, came up with the title, after I recited the lyrics. He was like, “Now, what are you saying?”. “It’s the right time to jump off the bridge/With whatever you have/He’ll think it is/They don’t always shoot/But they don’t have to miss/Whatever you have/You better keep it hid” The notion of, it’s better to, as some First Nation peoples did, to jump off a cliff rather than give yourself to an oppressor if necessary. Rumination’s on sacrifice and dignity...!"

But to return to the perspective of, say, the guitar...a strictly musical perspective..., McCune said: "...for me there was not a lot of conscious inspiration, but more subconscious designs. Musically there wasn't a lot of pre-planning. I prefer that. It allows you to surprise yourself. There are a lot of mistakes and accidents on this record that we used to form the song structures. It allows a song to end up somewhere you never would have "written" it to go!"

David brought in not only Joshua James, but notable producer (and leader of His Name Is Alive) Warren Defever. "(Defever) came into the studio to work on the last two songs – Alice Through the Windscreen and Oracle.  One of the first things he said was “You have something against bass?”  We laughed.  And Joshua James played saxophone (bari and tenor) and other noises. He also brought into Dave Vassella (trumpet) and John Raleeh (trombone).  They were in the studio for only a couple hours, but they added so much, especially to Alice Trough the Windscreen.  The horns in that song alone made it feel epic, but then they organized a gorgeous backing vocal melody which is at the end of the song.  Watching them work was amazing – our mouths were agape!"

Sanford said his big takeaway from the experience is that "... some things in life do not occur by chance. Working with David is a major milestone for us as a band and as people. I think this was all meant to happen. The songs that seemed to come from nowhere might have been out there in the cosmos waiting for us all along."

Howitt noted that Defever and David go way back, to when they met during the Love & Rockets heydays. Defever contributed some mellotron to Oracle, but also brought a Fender Bass VI. "'s a six string bass tuned to E to E, and an octave below regular guitar tuning with Jaguar style electronics. “It’s one of the best worst Instruments,” as Warren put it, “and probably never caught on because of the terrible name.” David J plays it on “Motor City Squeeze”.  Warren, who had heard “Alice”, and called it a “Fuzz Symphony”, not only played Mellotron on that track, but also “Oracle”.  Joshua James came in with a Sun Ra vibe, wailing his bari and tenor saxophones on “Oracle”. It just puts the song outside any time period or what we’ve done as a band. Very in the moment. Spontaneous but focused."

"Collaborating was great," said Willem. "I think we (Duende) were pretty nervous and excited.  David had some ideas for songs and lyrics. In the studio, I found David really easy to work with.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how he would be in the studio and once we got going, I felt very comfortable with him.  It was interesting watching him mix – he really dissected the various instruments and vocal tracks, yet worked efficiently."


McCune said that much of this whole experience is beyond words for him. Both David J./Bauhaus and Love & Rockets are musical heroes of his... "Bauhaus was, for me, what people must have felt about Bowie in the seventies," said this local master of stormy/atmospheric guitar work. "They were from another planet! They didn't break musical rules as much as show the irrelevance of them, while utilizing them to their advantage at the same time! They were the freaks that allowed a young me to embrace my freakness as it were! So to end up making a record with David, was (and is) beyond surreal." In a way, for McCune and Duende's bassist Scott Sanford (who also plays guitar), this feels like a reward for decades of tirelessly playing music. And, McCune said, a "surreal" award after a life spent " least attempting originality and trying to accomplish something different than standard songwriting and musical redundancy."
Jeff :  I am one of those people who believe that though we may live linearly, all time, every moment is happening simultaneously. David J mussing about his storage unit, and a book he wrote in opens to that poem. That moment decades ago was somehow connected to now. It’s not deja-vu. It’s beyond concepts of ancestors. We are our ancestors. Informing and deforming us as we are them with visions and terrors of the future. You might have been working on something for three hundred years, thirty years before it manifests. You read David’s book, Who Killed Mr. Moonlight?, and his relation beyond time with Genesis P-Orridge through Aleister Crowley, you start to sense how the work refines itself.

David J., meanwhile, is on tour: the "Ruby Rising" tour with Peter Murphy, celebrating 40 years of Bauhaus. The hope is that when Bauhaus tours through in February, some plans to perform behind this new material will solidify. "David Barker of Glass Modern Records has been immensely insightful and guided this project to completion," said Howitt. "He put out early records by bands I love... Oracle is in good company! There's a new (Duende) record that we finished just as we started (Oracle). What essentially times out to a double-disc...but it needs to have a needle dropped on it and played loud. We recorded (the new, yet-to-be-released album) with Tony Hamera (of The Blueflowers); he also engineered the Oracle sessions."

Willem said she's also excited about the double album's worth of new Duende material. "We have another video (for 'Out Of My Dreams') which was filmed in the Bohemian National Home in Detroit by Reginald will be dark, eerie, and Victorian. We can't wait to see it."

You can hear Oracle next Friday, Nov 16th, at the Ghost Light. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Striving Valiantly: Thoughts On Endemic Cynicism

I was talking with a fellow writer this morning about a tossed-off quip from a movie review I read in the mid 1990's. I vividly recall registering shock at the appraisal, making an effective metaphor to demonstrate their distaste..., but really going for it and cutting to the bone with it--it was cruel. It was cruel, but damn if it wasn't clever. The thing is, negative criticism's barbs would have seemed sharper in the mid 1990s, because there wasn't a cottage industry of cynical one-upping memes and long-knives-drawn comments sections. The ridicule of a work of art wasn't given amplification by a SHARE or a RETWEET button. If you read a negative review on your own back then, you could make up your own mind as to whether you would explore it for yourself; that was just one critic's opinion, after all, right? But now, with a zillion sites modeled as authorities on pop culture, you can see a torrent of takedowns directed at something--something you might have seen or listened to and loved--and now you see the horde has mightily discredited it.

It's just that I'm worried we are very close to it being that no one can give themselves over, fully, to a work of art, and to feel comfortable or confident in stating their admiration for it publicly. No one should be able to influence what you like...! And I know I feel like I'm giving preachy advice to a 12-year-old struggling against the prods and dress-downs of bullies, but that is really what it has become... We are not as secure as we could be; there is a knee-jerk compulsion to present your cleverness by way of a social media post and put yourself apart from anyone else who would be crazy enough or stupid enough to like this or that... Your cleverness is your mechanism--I won't say defense mechanism, but it is a way of tethering you from falling into full fandom. I'm here to advocate for a bit of healthy mania over a piece of must indulge with replays, you must sing along to it, loudly..., don't let the clever/cynical comments you see from hollow avatars hold you back.

Because everything can be ridiculed. And when that happens, it's not that "nothing is sacred," but it's that "nothing is precious...," or worse, "nothing is appreciated." Going back to feeling like I might be talking to 12-year-olds..., it's as though we experience art the way we would if we were out on a school night with our gang or gaggle of fellow 12-year-olds and we ambulated through a frightful and elaborately arranged haunted house attraction at the county fair... "That didn't scare ME..." ...we feel compelled to say. Nevermind the efforts of the crew who put together that haunted house. Or, "...that wasn't THAT good of a movie..." Or, "I don't see what the big deal is about so-and-so, their lyrics are weak..."

Are we consumers of art? Or do we more so enjoy being vandals of effort...??  Yes, the internet gives you access to almost everything. But it can't be true that everything, then, sucks... Whatever chemicals slosh around in your brain to give you a rush from being negative, you have to start ignoring them. Because it's just as exhilarating to give a work of art the chance to show you everything it has to offer. It's okay to admit that something scared you. It's okay to admit that something made you cry. Stand by it if it made you laugh. Stand by it if you like that chorus... Yes, you could think up something clever and seem cool when you get nine thumbs ups on social media for your meme that criticizes something..., but to what end?

Often, when I post a write-up on a local musician or band, it's shared with an elated preface, declaring the words I've composed as "kind..." The thing is..., all I ever try to do with posts is elucidate what I'm hearing, describe the mood/theme of a piece, comment on interesting experiments or arrangements, and just overall illuminate who this artist that a reader who has never heard them before or maybe even doesn't even know what techno, punk, post-industrial or backpack rap IS..., can be invited in to experiencing this music... But since cruel and cynical is the baseline for anything on the internet, my words are thrown into that contrast of seeming more kind by comparison. Writing about music is seriously fucking emotional for me... Because I'm letting it take me over. I would encourage everyone to try that exercise on a weekly basis....

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” --- Theodore Roosevelt 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Joe Jaber & the Last Divide - 'Made It On My Own'

Joe Jaber takes the fire and fury of rock and channels it into the elegance of folk. He takes the grit and passion of the blues and arranges it to the rolling majesty of Americana and alt-Country. It can feel sanctified like gospel, or it can be a high-octane composite of grunge bluster and riffy garage-rock. He kinda does it all! Jaber is backed by the versatile band, the Last Divide, and they're getting ready to put out a new EP called 'Made It On My Own.'

The release party, next Saturday (Nov 10) is also the launch of Jaber's new charity organization: "You're Not The Only One," to support those who struggle with depression, suicide and drug addiction. In fact, that heartfelt arms-open embrace of fellow souls wracked with weariness would follow thematically with the forthright, earnest expressions and cathartic storytelling style of his lyrics. With his low, gristly baritone and brisk guitar strums, he can often lay it all out on the table, whether its the intimate exchange of a sole listener putting on headphones, or a large audience in a big concert venue - there's always a heartfelt rapport established, albeit through rock music, but nevertheless, a bond forged.

What you hear on 'Made It On My Own' would easily be raconteurish tales shared in diner booths at stops along the highway of life - with lyrics of fortitude and resolve through all too relatable struggles or obstacles, conflicts or commiserations. Jaber's spry guitar playing and signature smoothly-gruff voice is mixed crisply and hovers with a heaving heart over the rustling drums, adorning Wurlitzer and sweetening harmonies. In the title track, Jaber is unafraid to treat a darker subject matter, the ever-reasserting strength of gives it that candle-flame flicker of hope that we can all come through to the otherside in tact (and tougher than before, for the better).  

The CD release party for “Made It on My Own” takes place November 10 at Hockeytown Cafe in
downtown Detroit. The event is also a fundraiser for the new 'You're Not The Only One' charity. Click here for more info.
If you see this post in time, you can catch him at the 20 Front Street two-year anniversary show.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Blueflowers - 'Circus On Fire'

The Blueflowers are going to be featured in a forthcoming edition of  the Metro Times. Their latest album is available digitally, TODAY!!

The darkly-dreamy Americana-from-the-Outlands quintet are revamped with a lineup shuffle and some fresh ideas coming into the collaborative songwriting process.  I'm eager for everyone to read the piece, featuring an interview with singer Kate Hinote and guitarist Tony Hamera...

Here's a music video of the lead single from their forthcoming album, Circus On Fire

...But what you won't get to read in the article are a few thoughts shared by singer/songwriter Hinote, here in this sort of preview feature...

I've known Kate for more than six years now, and I was curious to hear about their experience of sustaining and expanding a band and working as independent musicians in this unpredictable Internet-dominated landscape... 

Kate Hinote: As far as the hustle and sustaining the band, I certainly think it’s easier than ever to promote our band, but it’s easier than ever for everyone, making it harder to get noticed and have people engaged.  I find this endlessly challenging and always admire the creative ways people come up with to make the most of the tools we have available to us. The ability to connect with people through these platforms is going to continue to evolve, no doubt, and it seems we’re just kind of along for the ride.  Due to our general life circumstances, we’re going to once again be figuring out ways to promote our album without a tour, which still seems to be the thing to do to really get the music out there.

Kate Hinote: We’re going to have to get creative with social media, but will also do very traditional album promo and just mail out a disc and hope some people on the other end not only take the time to listen, but that it grabs them enough to want others to hear it. That still hasn’t changed. However we get the song to someone’s ears, it only spreads if they like it enough to want others to hear it. In that sense, it’s all the same.

I regretted not being able to share these in the article. But I wanted to include them here, because it's an experience (and a struggle) that I think lots (if not all) independent artists can identify with...

That said, we can now look ahead to the Blueflowers' Album Release Party on November 24th

Kate Hinote: I had Matthew Parmenter on an acoustic showcase I put together a couple of summers ago and was blown away by his voice and intensity.  That art and  theatrical element he will bring to the start of the night is perfect for the kind of show we want to have. Warhorses is very vibey and atmospheric, lots of fuzz too. We’re so excited to be back at Ghost Light Hamtramck for this show. Our favorite show last year was on that stage and they have been great in letting us make the night what we want it to be.

Doors are at 8p with music starting promptly at 9p.  $5 cover.

And while you're here, you might want to check out (not only the full album, streaming,) but my own personal favorite track, demonstrating the brave stylistic leaps and bounds of the album in terms of the Blueflowers canon.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Augusta Rose / Bigabite on the next Podcast Episode

Once a month, I invite a musician, artist, producer, or any kind of creative person into the recording space of my cohost, Chad Stocker, so that we can have a sort of atypical interview, one that's not tethered to the formulas commonly structuring "profiles" in newspapers, magazines, or blogs. I get that this is precisely what podcasts are for, but it's damned refreshing to select one member from a band..., say, Augusta Rose, from Double Winter..., and invite her on to talk about anything and everything, free of specifics and no pressure to promote a new release or plug an upcoming concert. I get to record me asking the kinds of questions that I usually serve up before and after my tape recorder is on for an ostensible freelance assignment.

Beyond that, it's a great chance to hear a musician (Chad) asking another musician (in this case, Augusta,) questions..., and those are questions that you're average "music journalist" won't always come up with. It's an opportunity for musicians to talk to each other beyond just the 2-3 minutes that they can squeeze in as they're passing each other on a stage, in a venue, swapping amps and pedal boards between sets during a loud, bustling weekend evening.

I'm looking forward to sharing this next episode, where Chad and I had a conversation with Augusta Rose. I would have never otherwise been able to get such an intimate portrait of her as a musician and as an advocate for social justice causes and an ever-more inclusive arts and music community. She plays violin in a rock band--so that, in itself, is a fun jumping off point. But in this forthcoming episode, you get to hear about how she's been trained in several forms of styles and disciplines, as well as the three of us getting philosophical on the mind-expanding depths of experimental/improvisational/drone-heavy music. We talk about stage fright, about the emotions that go into the experience of making music (as well as writing about it), and, inevitably, we talk about gear!

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Remembrance of Lavell Williams

Angel in the back of a Record Store...

Lavell Williams was (and forever will be) sage-like, to me... 

I never got to tell him how much it meant to me, an awkward, shy, naive, self-doubting 15-year-old, to walk into a sanctuary of sounds, of hipness, of preserved-and-emerging culture, like Downtown Ferndale's now-12-years'-gone Record Time store..., ... and navigate my way past the tattoo'ed 20-something clerks who gave me the requisite dubious look-down-their-nose at this JC-Penny-fashioned kid who probably just wants a Red Hot Chili Peppers album or something else lame, to scurry past so as to avoid their gaze and not invite any judging comments...and find this affable, radiant, chill-voiced Saint in the back, behind a counter, shuffling through vinyl records...

He greets me, invites me, includes me...., asking me what I was looking for, what I was into, suggesting the local section..., the techno section..., opening my mind! Making me feel welcome. He instantly initiated me into the cool club with such subtlety and grace...and kindness. He was the manager of this store, so if I was in with him, I was definitely IN! Best of all, he spoke to me as though I were a fellow adult. Nay, a fellow student of music - a fellow disciple of recorded sounds. It was as if to say: "'re here, aren't you? You must be passionate. You must be curious. You're arrival through the doors of my store demonstrates as thus--so let me show you around." 

And so, ...with music having become such an important and integral part of literally every single day of my life, 20 years later, I can't overstate the importance of him waving me into the store...I am heartbroken to hear of his passing this morning. Lavell taught me to never be closed to anyone...To invite those curious and help them discover more. We don't have to preach to them and we don't have to vent or be necessarily vulnerable. Just let them into your club. Admit that there shouldn't be clubs. Open up to them! 

If you are in a band, or if you work at a gallery, or if you paint, or if you take photographs, or if you teach Yoga..., you can just about change a life in the span of three minutes by engaging with someone--most likely someone younger than you--and encouraging them. You don't have to show them the ropes, per se, but--just like Lavell, you can gesture to the ropes and let that younger explorer go forward and start climbing. Thank you for being so bright, warm, kind, thoughtful and compassionate Lavell... RIP. 

An interview with Lavell, from the Detroit Sound Conservancy

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jonathan Franco - 'Swimming Alone Around the Room'

Jonathan Franco
‘Swimming Alone Around The Room’ will be out November 9
Next shows
***Monday, Oct 29
Deluxx Fluxx

*******Friday, Nov 2nd
Outer Limits Lounge

Franco's music can be found on Facebook

(New soundcloud single below)

He's also a member of Soviet Girls.

Local singer/songwriter/producer Jonathan Franco creates a sound that's chill, but heady... cerebral, but somnambulistic..., an aural evocation of it being somehow sunny and foggy out at the same time. On his new single, "Transition Lens," Franco's remaking the sonic capacity of the instruments he uses by measured manipulations of tone and timbre and splicing in field recordings from the natural world and reprocessing the otherwise mundane into something phantasmagoric.

The lyrical and instrumental motifs verge on something like a mental diary, or a transcribed timetable of conversations, errands, encounters and daily experiences with his friends or in solitude--be they remarkable or not--capturing the subtly surreal human experience of a nearly 2019-world. For inspiration, he channels other icons who have capably rendered quiet profundity into tapestries of equal sweetness and stark/haunting noise--like Mount Eerie, Yo La Tango, and Sparklehorse. But, as he was completing his forthcoming album, Swimming Alone Around The Room, he was also influenced by the visuals of films directors who create comparably odd-yet-everyday portraits that unpack the metaphysical nature of being.

Once you get your ears around the album, you'll find that his transfixing and garbled half-whisper/gliding falsetto vocals will also be detailing fictitious occurrences or give voice to characters other than himself. And, of course, it should also be said that Franco is a visual artist--and for as much detail as he's trying to weave into these post-modern shoegaze lullabies, he's also trying to give you the same kind of pause, the same kind of detachment from your daily disquiet and allow you to sort of fall into these songs the same way you'd fall in, for a stint, into a glossy stare deep into the canvas of a painting.

I remember a brief stint DJing for WCBN and digging through their stacked shelves--uncovering treasures like 1999's Don't Wake Me Up by the Microphones, or even older gems like Young Marble Giants. Brilliant but minimalist suites that were stitched up with love and an embrace of the strange, with poetic lyrics humming through distorted vocal effects. I'm feeling that same kind of eureka when I listen to Franco--albeit 20 years after the fact of those name drops in my anecdote. The sentiments are still as vibrant, the quirky-bliss and pensive swoon is still triggered...and I want those cymbals to get louder... "I hope this moment never ends..."

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

South South Million - 'Ain't Lines'

Ain't Lines is the third album from South South Million--an ambient recording project by co-composers (and singers) Daniel I. Clark and Trevor Naud. Singers is parenthetical only because this SSM album diverts from the previous two and goes all-instrumental.

photo by Dylan Reminder

If you've been following their Line(s) to date, though, it might not feel like too stark of a change, since their voices, however powerful and precious when fused in harmony, were often employed as extra layers, instruments adding extra (reverb-splashed) tones more so than purposefully highlighted lyrical statements that floated at the top of the mix, insisting upon full attention. SSM may make "ambient" music, but I feel like they effectively exemplify my own regard for the Eno-esque tradition, in that it is an arrangement of fleeting melodies, rhythmic patterns, and a trickily-discerned lattice of woven synthesizers, guitars, bass, live drums and sequenced beats, to where it is, by comparison to other forms, essentially unobtrusive--there are no catchy choruses to recapture your attention if it drifts, and there are several subtle motifs that trigger and coil and glide, but you might not hear them until you put headphones on. It's music that doesn't demand your focus, but rewards you for even a slightly deeper burrow into its 3-minute structures.

Like a proverbial 'rabbit hole' to go down, it shows you more, or allows you to feel more, the more you immerse yourself.

I found 'Ain't Lines' to be a perfect title for a South South Million ambient opera because, and I know I often talk about music as though I'm having altered experiences on controlled subjects is the kind of "dreamy" music that lets illusions or lucid dreams materialize into your waking gaze--blurring the tangible world around you... These vaporous synthesizers, these atmospheric guitars, these brief harps and strange flutes, all these misty blankets of reverb, invites healthy daydreaming. These are soundtracks to the movies in your head, and they can change every time; each instrument is a character, each whole note draws a new landscape, each rest is a scene change.

And in that sense of allowing this music to take me somewhere, I have found, nevertheless, a recurring image, or at least a recurring sense. I have the sense, in each song, as though I'm nearing a precipice. I can see light over the next ledge; I'm climbing, and the surrounding natural world is starting to clear back, because trees can't take root at this incline. There is a dramatic energy, electricity-in-the-air as they might say, that we can all sense when we intuitively sense a shift, a change, a redefinition, a profundity, a reckoning, about to hit us... It's spider-sense, call it what you will..., or maybe any hiker can relate to the deep breath we would all take before turning one certain corner and discovering something--even if it's just taking in something of quiet majesty with our eyes--discovering...

And as I wind down, I'll say that there are "vocals" in the final track, "Ad Parnassum," but they are beyond coherency. You'll lean closer, you'll listen harder, but you won't be able to discern them...and you'll want to find a place where you can, not maybe hear them, but at least FEEL what they're saying. When the album returns to track 1, after a full spin-through, you come back to it's opener "Almost To The Well..." And that's how this album feels...Every song feels like the second-to-last music cue before the closing credits of your movie...the final five or so minutes before a single tear forms or a forgiving reconciliation is made with a hug between your main characters, or a car drives off into the sunset, or the lights are dimmed in a room beloved by your protagonist as she locks up one fleeting dream and walks off into the unknown to find another...

It's me, getting to the precipice and finding a well, a source, something I can draw from...nourishment! There won't be answers in that well, there are never strictly defined answers in ambient music, there ain't lines delineating any shape or charting any course. But you gotta give it one pulls you (or pushes you) somewhere. It gets you dreaming.

You can find more sounds made by Clark and Naud via the band Zoos of Berlin.
~~time no place records~~ 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Writer Steve Hughes' New Book: 'Stiff''

by Steve Hughes
WSU Press
What's stiff in Hamtramck-based author Steve Hughes' forthcoming collection of short stories is the resolve of several of his characters. What's stiff is the way they're grasping to hold on to a stability that's slipping away. What's stiff is the formidable circumstances that some find themselves stuck in... What's not stiff in these stories is a foundation of reality, as metaphors are admitted free manifestation into 'real life,' making the surreal seem right at home amid the otherwise mundane.

Hughes is a bit of a renaissance man around the local arts and culture scene of Detroit. He co-founded and helps facilitate the Public Pool art gallery, he oversees the Good Tyme Writers Buffet group, and he regularly creates new editions of Detroit's longest running zine, Stupor, an anthology of strange stories curated from patient bar-side/stool-set chats and interviews. Hughes has heard more strange stories than he's told--even though he's been managing to tell quite a few, especially with this book. But with his ears so attuned to astonishing, sublime, scary, or fever-dream-like anecdotes, it allows him to infuse refreshing strangeness into gruff but poignant 10-page portraits of otherwise-highly relatable underdogs, outcasts, anxiety-cases, ambitious dreamers, and affable working-class heroes who find small shreds of sanctuary or fleeting bliss.

I particularly like Hughes writing style--tending to keep sentences to a rhythmic 9-10 words. It feels like the way in which we would be talking if we were sitting at the bar with each other--in too much of a hurry to get to the good part or the weird part to indulge in floridly long ribbons of adjective-heavy sentences and instead sending you straight to the ID or the Ego of the character and letting them spill their rawest emotions in first-person narration. And there will be particular resonance for workaday artists, for folks who do give a damn about not just the art that they make but even more so the ones who give a damn about the artists, the dreamers, the musicians... Being an artist can be surreal, and it's fitting that Hughes applies his own signature flavor of magical realism to properly portray that. I don't want to give much away beyond saying that you'll find a weird familiarity in even the most fantastic moments of these (often Detroit-set) stories.
Upcoming Events:
October 27: The Good Tyme Writers Buffet
@ The Public Pool
3309 Caniff, Hamtramck
November 8: Book Release Party
@ Outer Limits Lounge
5507 Caniff, Hamtramck