Friday, March 30, 2018

Jemmi Hazeman

Jemmi Hazeman & the Honey Riders
Releasing Kozmic Maze
Sat., April 7
Northern Lights Lounge
featuring: Shady Groves / Honey Pot / Fire Flower / Young Punk

Jemmi Hazeman creates a gliding kinda groove on this debut album, Kozmic Maze. Bouyant guitar phrases are given a dazzling effect, producing spacey, "cosmic" sounds as they're threded through curvy coiling riffs. The soundscape has a sustained splash of serotonin and lush vibes, the kind of arrangements that are eager to carry you away with caprice, rather than snap, crackle, riff as insistentily into your senses as some indie-pop may attempt...and those guitars are set to launch into swelled crescendos through many of the song's resplendent bridges, always keenly woven around the buzzy midrange croon of Hazeman's lead vocals. There's a lot of character and expressiveness to the playing--and the time and care taken to craft it all together shows: Hazeman, otherwise known as Jeff Yateman, has been working on these songs in his home studio for more than a year, placing himself at each instrument on the record, and then mixing it all together in the production process.

Yateman worked on similar refreshing takes to pop with the dreamy-surf/intricate progressions he brought to the songwriting table of the band Shady Groves. A song like "Oh Well" stands out to me, blending the whimsical riffs of British Invasion and paisley neo-psychedelia with an
extraterrestrial/theremin-like effect to a melody line that soars along a set of minor keys that give it a curious kind of angst, as though the instrument itself is anxious for the adventurousness suggested by the velocity of its aural contours but yet knows its necessary to keep advancing...

Or am I listening too close? I think that's what's best about this album - is that it offers you the chance to cue in on any sonic element or melodic evocation that catches your ear, however specific or detached... Because once you get to the title track, and the variety of timbres and tones wash over you, like the series of mini-solos conveying across it, you'll wanna call this modern/post/neo-prog, and maybe that's what it is... But what it really is is aptly described by Hazeman... "The Kozmic Maze could be considered a metaphor for Life Itself, or: An expansive, spiraling journey into the existential musings & melodic consciousness of Jemmi Hazeman." Because, at the end of the day, this is an alter-ego. And that makes music, and this music, a means of opening a gateway to that alter-consciousness. 

Joining Yateman for this Jemmi Hazeman release party is an ensemble that features Caleb Nettles - guitar, Jamie Dulin - bass, Colt Caron - synthesizers/keys, Shane Fleisher - drums

Releasing Kozmic Maze
Sat., April 7

Monday, March 26, 2018

Troy Gregory - Xaviera - Here To Be Enlightened, Beyond The Unknown

For all the years I've known Troy Gregory, I've never known his mind to be quiet. I intuited early that he was appraising, approaching, and engaging with the art of music from not just a different perspective, but multiple perspectives.

Gregory would always elude any categorical box you'd attempt to put him in, slipping out, wraithlike, to go haunt other boxes, aisles, ideas... The imaginative essence of Hammer Horror Films, of 50's comic books, of 60's British Invasion, of 70's glam-rock, of 80's metal....combined with experimental new wave filmmakers, surrealist painters, and a uniquely strong connection to, or channeling-of, the spirit, or a spirit, of rock 'n' roll.....all of these vibrant energies are part of what manifests so much color, character, and immersive-qualities to something like Xaviera--it's not just a matter of those being influences on him, or being things he grew up with...., it's that he's found a way to inhabit those perspectives, almost to the point where they possess him...all at once.

And thus, Xaviera's stylistic conveyances are myriad, but the lyrical libretto is steadily paced, coherent, and keeps pulling you along from movement to movement. There are poetic glimpses into the ever contemplative hub of his mind, and the weariness of his heart--but there is also a radiance in moments that sound like resolve, or a renewal of the soul.... "I was wise to have loved a turn from the loom from beyond the mind..."

And, again, thus..., Xaviera cannot be reduced to a review, to just a few paragraphs of summation. Each movement is several songs at once. But what can be said is that the segues are utterly graceful--you could put this on and let all 80 minutes play, but it wouldn't have to be "experienced as four songs," you could try interpreting it as 28 songs, if that's an easier way to digest it, or an enticement for entry. It's a journey inward as much as it's toward something... It's a following of a light... It's discovering, surprisingly, what the source of that light may be....

Troy Gregory
Release Party at the Ghost Light in Hamtramck
with The Idiot Kids and Cosmic Light Shapes
Saturday - March 31st

Saturday, March 17, 2018

YAK - Bardo

YAK make music where it seems like nothing much is happening, yet somehow it conquers your attention.

Or maybe I should say that it rewards your attention.  The more you open yourself up to the neo-classical hybrid of electric and acoustic drone spells, the broader your perspective--it's a cerebral spreading... Somehow a sparseness nurtures focus. And the closer I listen to a cello, the more startling the violin's entry becomes....the closer I keen in on the violin, my ear starts to pick up the cymbals...and the wider I open my ears in general, the more attuned and sensitive they become to the subtler dressings of synthetic sounds...

"Obelus" may be one of the shortest tracks on this Detroit trio's latest album, Bardo, and yet it is exemplary of their sensibility for creating a spacious sound, with tones tiding in or tiding out individually but never intersecting. "Missing Stimuli" is almost gossamer in its drift, nearly evaporating at points before reaccumulating, manifesting the illusion for the listener of thinking and maybe believing that their own slowly-rhythmic breathing is entangled in the essence of the swooning instruments. 

YAK are utilizing classical instruments, typically the purview of a theater, something of the old world, something tangible and familiar, and sliding through some an ethereal curtain into the realms of the intangible. It's curious how the absence of rhythm, the absence of a melody, an absence of a hook or a downbeat, can cause you to hyper-focus on what is being said amid the sparseness. And it starts to create the effect of a lucid-dream state, where you don't know if you've quite passed into a state of reverie and elastic consciousness, or if you're still firmly present in your living room, your office, or wherever else you may "be" while listening... It's not that this explicitly experimental "takes" you somewhere or serves as escapism. But damn it if you don't start to imagine...what's beyond and what's lies in between....

Thursday, March 15, 2018

White Bee Holds On To Harmony

White Bee
photo by Carmel Liburdi

Shannon Barnes lost her band for a second, there.... Maybe 'lost' is too strong a verb, but members of the band known as White Bee essentially did disband a few months ago, sustained briefly and solely by Barnes, the band's lead singer/guitarist & songwriter. Barnes is as luminous a guitar player as she is a singer. She's been developing her powerful voice all her life, attaining a soulfully radiant tone that comes from years of experience that include church choirs and even some opera. I've been following her songs for a couple years now, so I wanted to catch up and talk about the future of White Bee and the momentary scare of almost losing that band.

Last month’s Hamtramck Music Fest saw a triumphant reinstatement of White Bee with a dynamic performance featuring new members. And now, on April 3, this same lineup reconvenes at the Pike Room (Crofoot) in Pontiact Crumb and Combo Chimbita.

White Bee’s last show at HMF felt better than it has in almost two years,” said Barnes. “It felt good to have something like a comeback after those last few months. I felt lost. But, I think the feeling-lost thing pushed me to find new musicians. I was searching every day. And I found some tight players; they’re all very talented jazz musicians.”

More importantly, Barnes has been writing new material lately and reinvigorating her inspiration with a handful of recent solo performances. "What I'm most excited about is how I have more of an understanding, now, of what I'm really passionate about. I felt like I was in a comfort zone for a while (with White Bee). But once it almost pretty much went away..., I just knew that no matter what that it was still, really, the only thing that was going to make me happy. And it's going to always be the only thing that sticks. It's going to be the only thing that stays there forever, for me."

White Bee will still retain Barnes' inclinations towards funk & soul. She's an expressive guitar player with a really fluid/groovy style, but even though she riffs it's more nuanced than rock. Some of her biggest guitar influences are more recent artists like Britney Howard from Alabama Shakes, Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote, and Lianna La Havas--each exemplary of a sophisticated/fusion style of rock/funk guitar playing.

"But David T. Walker might be my favorite guitar player of all time, now," said Barnes. "He was on some Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder recordings--just this awesome rhythm guitarist who was a session musician on a lot of the 60's and 70's funk and soul records; very finger-picky, sweepy, jazzy chords. And very dreaming sounding too..."

For Barnes, soul and funk music "was just more powerful" than rock. "Especially a lot of the women soul singers, throughout history, they've just been extremely empowering to me and all women, so that aspect always had a draw for me."

Barnes has been singing all her life. She's played saxophone since she was 12, though she kinda let that fall by the way side when guitar took over in her teenage years. She started writing songs when she was 20, having moved over here to Detroit from the west side of Michigan (from a small city near Big Rapids).

Once she got into town and on Wayne State's campus (as a music student) she actively sought out friends and potential collaborators. Some of her most formative experiences were from her first couple years in music school--utilizing weekend nights to immerse herself in the house-show scene. Connecting with fellow musicians and establishing herself as a part of a community was key to keeping her going even after the near-fallout of her band. "I'm so appreciative of everyone who's been supporting me these last few months," she said, looking back. "It's really refreshing."

Part of her drive, in both creating songs as White Bee and as a creative component of the local arts/music scene, is "harmony....The most important thing in music is harmony! That is how you capture the emotion in music--through harmony." Thus, with harmony in mind, she's hoping to make White Bee a more collaborative/cohesive project in the summer and fall, while still doing solo shows here and there. Meanwhile, Barnes is hoping to get some new recordings some time in the very near future--so stay tuned.

White Bee
Wed. April 3
Pike Room
with Crumb & Combo Chimbita

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Piscean Dreams Pt 3: The Imaginatron (Interview)

The interesting thing about the band known as The Imaginatron is that you are a member of it. You even sort of play an instrument in harmony with its primary performers when you attend their live ceremonies. I'm speaking abstractly, I know, so I'll go ahead and say that, if you've never heard of the Imaginatron, then you would encounter three musicians on a stage in a fitful trance, blending psychedelic rock, interdimensional punk, or a tripped-out howl-heavy kind of Beat Poetry by-way-of portal-conjuring incantations.

photo by Brian Rozman

"People start to see it materialize as the set goes on... Like with a synthesizer, you have to warm it up. The more it warms up, the more you're going to get from it, you close that gap a bit. People can see it, but not everyone will seeit or feel it as the same thing."
---from "An Attempt to Explain the Imaginatron," -quoting lead singer Steven Pivalsky. The other band members include Nik Landstrom and Wotter Lettis.

"I wish I could tell you how my body started doing this thing...." says Pivalsky, earlier this week.

"I don't see a choice but to perform this way," said Pivalsky. "It's the truth to me. And, to be honest, I'm confused by people who just stand on stage and play instruments.... but I just have a ravenous glow inside me and it's why I'm always searching, always moving, and trying see combinations." And the moving doesn't stop "off-stage."

And Pivalsky admits that he "knows there are disadvantages to 'this...,'" in that it is a band and a style of music that is difficult to describe (or difficult to "sell..."). "It's difficult to capture," he said--and that puts it perfectly.

The idea, as came to light in our earlier conversation, is that The Imaginatron is something you're already tapped in to... The band's performances just activate it.

You can see The Imaginotron this Friday night at MOCAD for "Piscean Dreams: An Evening of Inward Swimming," with Matthew Daher and vnesswolfchild.

The concept came from Daher, and Pivalsky said that when it was presented to him, he was immediately attracted to it's design, as a ritual experience. "Since starting this iteration of The Imaginatron," he said, "I had a feeling I didn't want to do just concerts, but experiences."

For those experiences, the canvas most readily available to Pivalsky just happens to be "rock venues," but he's particularly excited to have the more nuanced/unique canvas of the MOCAD to work with...

"Its inherently collaborative what we do," said Pivalsky, "but to add the extra minds and spirits of vnesswolfchild and (Daher), and together creating a temporary synchronization cult of our combined metaphysics and this ritual, I feel it will respond very much to our present world, with its minglings and with our own immediate cosmos and the osmosis of each of our own interactions with those energies."

I don't know if I could have put it better than that.

Pivalsky considers Daher a conduit for the moving spirit of the artist. "I think this lineup is very much like his controlled cataclysms of the interaction of thought and execution. This is a Zen- and honest-way of letting the drums speak. And vnesswolfchild emobdies a lot of how I desire, greatly, to connect and make people feel good. I think her way of doing it is accessing some kind of love-energy that I get toward in jigsaw lightning bolts. I feel glowing beams of heart from every piece of what she does, and always benefit from even a wisp of that wisdom."


Monday, March 12, 2018

Piscean Dreams Pt 2 - Matthew Daher (Interview)

What follows is the first of three consecutive posts about an event hosted this Friday evening at MOCAD, featuring vnesswolfchild, The Imaginotron, and Matthew Daher.

The MOCAD event is a pre-party for the vernal equinox...a spiritual thawing, if you will, where we can melt and meld. Each performer will incorporate new explorations in sound, light, costume, installation and audience participation. Local astrologer Alexander Weyer will also be there providing prose, stories and insight into the planetary energies of the night...

...and today, I'm sharing a recent conversation with Matthew Daher. Daher takes neo-soul and electronica and takes it to the interplanetary spaceways. He is an explorer, a sculptor, unstuck from convention.

photo by Lisa Spindler
Asked what attendees of Piscean Dreams: An Evening of Inward Swimming can anticipate, Daher responds: "Wonder... Unabashed positivity.... Immersion. Cozyness... A change of pace from your typical night out...." 

Each of the three artists will be doing what they do best, pushing boundaries..., but also dissolving boundaries. This could be a powerful evening where you can attain a further, very further, appreciation for the binding essence of music and its affect over the human experience. 

"Vnesswolfchild and the Imaginatron are two of my favorite Detroit acts to experience live," said Daher. "And it’s interesting you put it that way – ‘dissolving boundaries’ – because this is resonant with the title for the evening as well – “Piscean Dreams.” Pisces is a sign associated with the dissolution of boundaries, with murkiness and oneness."

Daher came to my attention around 2014. A multi-faceted artist, musician, producer, he released the eclectic, elastic and kaleidoscopic arrangements of Dwelling Lightheartedly in the Futility of Everything, a fusion of ambient-noise, expansive post-rock ruminations and cerebral cyber-soul. 

" addition to boundary-dissolving I think we each all share an orientation towards facilitating healing, transformation, and self-love through performace. It comes out in different ways for each of us. vnesswolfchild leads the crowd in repeated communal expressions of gratitude: “I love my body.” (The Imaginotron) closes sets with a group huddle/cheer/celebration of the present moment that creates a sense of belonging and inclusion among strangers. A lot of my music addresses struggles with depression/anxiety/codependency with a sort of playfulness and positivity that seeks to ease the burden of stigma and remind people that they are not alone. I think recognizing that commonality played a big role in my wanting to work with the two of them on the same bill." 

Daher, it turns out, is the initiator of this super-group of psychedelic healers. He had been fantasizing about linking up with these two artists for a while and finally hit them up. From there, the concept developed organically, as Daher has been fascinated with astrology a lot more in recent years, and the date came to coincide with his birthday (as well as a nearness to the vernal equinox). "We’ve each been approaching this as an opportunity to go deeper into our practices as performers and facilitators of group experience," said Daher. 

But they also wanted, aside from their three performances, to link up with another energy source (i.e., artist/person) who could serve as a common thread throughout the night--so Daher's friend Alexander Herbert Weyer will be joining as Master of Ceremonies, infusing the collective experience with his astrological knowledge and spiritual guidance. 

What I'm most curious to know, as I interviewed these artists, was what drew them towards a performance style that was intuitive, improvisational, exploratory, avant-garde, experimental, or just taking conventions and throwing them askew...

"Well, about five or six years ago I reached a point where a band on stage playing for a uniformly seated or standing audience started to feel one-dimensional for me as an audience member, as well as a performer," Daher said. "I wanted something more. In saying that, I’m not implying a hierarchy where experimental or interactive performance is objectively more valuable or refined or something, it's just that at the time, my spirit was moving me in a different direction." 

Daher had also been reading Brian Eno's biography at this point. Eno had already been a major influence on Daher, sonically, and learning about "...his brazen willingness to explore, create in different art forms, and try new things without letting his lack of 'proper' training shake his confidence or curiosity..." was a timely inspiration on Daher. 

And after that shift, Daher started seeking out video artists to collaborate with, and experimented with integrating his meditation practice into improvisations on a drum kit. After that he started working with dancers and exploring his own movement practice. And pretty soon Daher was working as frequently (if not more) with dancers and visual artists as he had been with other musicians. 

"Working with dancers in particular shifted my approach to a lot of things," he said. "From performing to how I interact spatially and socially with other people, and especially to my playing on the drum kit. I’m more present in my body, and more aware of the senses through which an audience is experiencing what I am sharing with them. There is a synesthetic quality of experience that arises when watching or participating in kinetic and sonic energy exchange between dancers and musicians. It’s reactive, it’s responsive, it’s present, it’s the body’s wisdom and intelligence expressing itself. I haven’t been performing with dancers or other artists as regularly over the last year or two as I’ve been trying to hone in on the music for this solo set."

"I think that cultivating a grounded, intense, embodied quality of presence is necessary to hold space for a room full of people in that stillness," said Daher. "That’s one of the ‘several extra miles’ for me – one that’s not necessarily as tangible."

Daher's focus over the last year or so has been his solo project, “Wisdom to Know the Difference” – which is what he'll be performing at MOCAD on March 16th. His approach to composition, recording, and performance has shifted a quite a bit over the last few years. 

"When we last talked I was releasing “Dwelling Lightheartedly In The Futility Of Everything” and was living what felt like a sort-of musical double life," he admitted. "As a percussionist playing improvised music my practice was to be a vessel for realizing transient sonic possibilities, and in a flash un-preciously leave them behind. As a producer my practice was the opposite -- to dive into one momentary sonic gesture for days, weeks, months at a time, basking in and nurturing it until it found its home. There was a sense that had been growing inside me for a long time -- a sense that a confluence of these two streams of creation was imminent...."

“Dwelling…” was a pure studio project, he said, with the temporal and energetic disconnect between his experience of realizing the music and the listener receiving it were a major source of pain for him. He said that he "...could commune and connect with audiences playing purely improvised music – but there were more dimensions that I wanted to be able to offer/share with them in a live setting. I also wanted to scale everything down to a solo performance to keep things nimble..." 

"The Wisdom to Know the Difference” is a set built for performance that integrates his practices as an improviser and producer. Each piece in the project is a song-structured web of intended and unintended sonic consequences. His vocals and improvisation on drumkit are effected, blended with lush and nuanced textures and samples, and trigger other samples/textures/sonic events at varying degrees of randomness/predictability. "I’m essentially building environments that are a playground for exploring intention and control," said Daher. "This project is an exploration of control on both a creative and spiritual level. It is an analogy in sound for the human predicament that the Serenity Prayer illuminates and interrogates."

Stay tuned for a new single from this set to come at some point as well…

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Piscean Dreams - Part One: vnesswolfchild (Interview)

What follows is the first of three consecutive posts about an event hosted this Friday evening at MOCAD.

"Piscean Dreams: An Evening of Inward Swimming" brings together three especially distinctive artists that utilize music as an element, arranging sounds more so like alchemists, and activating the potential of an otherwise perfunctory event--such as a concert--into something that exceeds any possible expectation you may have held. It's vitalizing for me to get to write about vnesswolfchild, Matthew Daher,and the Imaginotron, because while I spend much of my year writing about music that is comparably more "conventional," it dawns on me, listening to all three of them at once, that the majority of songwriters tend to regard music as a vessel of inquiry, something to work out frustrations over tough questions that don't have answers yet...

But these three artists come in to my ears sounding as though they've each caught a different, further-off orbit of ideation, spinning around the musical cosmos on a comparably more obtuse track, and coming back to Earth enlightened. Maybe music isn't for posting questions. Music is for accessing answers. Or that there are answers within the amorphous essence of music. But then they get me to expand my gaze and it dawns on me that the exchange, the listener, the participant, the audience, and the artist, their sounds, their works, the exchange is about so much more than music, music, and what it sounds like...

Anyway, I knew I was going to wind up going deep with this, and I couldn't just snip the thoughts shared by each of the three individual artists and thread them together in a cohesive narrative. Their philosophies may align at MOCAD this Friday, but their music is too unique, not just in style, texture and atmosphere, but it's unique to each of the three artists' personalities and experiences.

The MOCAD event is a pre-party for the vernal equinox...a spiritual thawing, if you will, where we can melt and meld. Each performer will incorporate new explorations in sound, light, costume, installation and audience participation. Local astrologer Alexander Weyer will also be there providing prose, stories and insight into the planetary energies of the night...

"Piscean Dreams is going to be a very special show,"performance artist Vanessa Cronan (aka vnesswolfchild). "It's a continuous two-hour interactive immersive performance that takes the participants through a musical clearing, healing movement, gratitude reflection, and ecstatic chaotic absurdity...Themes we will be working with throughout the night are the healing power of water, gratitude, grief, completion, and putting things to rest."

vnesswolfchild creates the kind of music that causes me to hesitate before describing it in haste. In fact it causes me to question even attempting to do so. Drum machines, sequencers, loop-pedals, mesmerizing vocaliations; mid to slow tempos give every instrumental element room to breathe and enough scope for each percussive arrangement to effectively entrance. Bass, beats, and te human voice..., synthetic and organic, cosmic and primal..., a singular sonic path towards a new kind of reverie...

But more accurately, vnesswoflchild is, yes, a musician, but also an interactive ritual healing performance artist. As a healing movement facilitator, she uses sound, sculpture, installation, video, and movement, to create performances that encourage an audience to uncover, to understand, and to further integrate the more subtle aspects of existence.

She said that her most recent works are exploring "...inner strength through a practice of moving contemplation on hero and goddess archetypes..." as a means " learn how to more deeply hear, commune with, and protect Mother Earth. Each work is an act of reverence for the divine feminine."

Piscean Dreams
with The Imaginotron, Matthew Daher and vnesswolfchild

I asked her naive questions, sort of taking on a Devil's advocate role of being tied-down by my preoccupations over conventional forms.

"I'm simply trying to stay true to the visions that feel compelled to birth themselves through me and more align with my sense of purpose," she said. When I catch inspiration its never in a singular dimension, meaning, rarely does an idea come that wants to be expressed just as a song or just as a sculpture or just as an experience. The sculpture is a song or the song is a dance or it feels like people will be aided if i create a situation where they feel this, etc. The common formats for presenting expressions feels very constricting and so i'm doing the best I can to expand within the current structures. Most of the things I want to make don't even make sense to me yet, I think the technology isn't here yet for the things I'm being asked to do, but I have the sense VR is going to get me closer."

I asked about going beyond the simple intentions of "putting on a good show," and where that proclivity sprang from, in terms of a formative experience.

"When I was in high school and college, my boyfriend's Mom was a High Priestess in a Wiccan congregation. In that tradition every six weeks, aligned with occurrences in the natural world, gatherings are held to celebrate and commemorate. Everyone would bring food and wear clothing they felt sacred in. We would sing songs, drum and dance, open to spirit, create support for each other, honor ancestors... My art practice is very informed by this time of my life. For me art is the place where healing wisdom gets digested and offered back to the world. I think this a driving force for why I create, but to be honest, I feel like I don't actually know whats going on... At the end of my life maybe I'll be able to look back and have a better idea."

She said that a small and specific list of artists have had further influence upon her own process/approach. "When Tracy Chapman performs the quality of her presence feels like truth itself singing. This has always been a goal vocally. Fever Ray's live show influenced my understanding of how theatrical story telling can work as an extension of music performance."

Over the past year, vnesswolfchild has continued developing the immersive ritual aspect of her practice, often shifting the focus on crafting an experience, rather than being a performer. She's been performing regularly around Detroit, along with going on a couple of tours around the Midwest, the east coast, and down to New Orleans. She led a performative parade at the Broad Art Museum, participated in ceremonies at Burnside Farm and performed a two-day immersive sci-fi storytelling at Eaux Claires music festival in Wisconsin.

"So, within  the last year I have been able to grow into a more full version of who vnesswolfchild is and connect to others who are working in a similar way.  I'm excited for the upcoming performance at mocad because i'll be blending both ritual experience curation with performance in a sculptural installation. This feels like another step toward the full expression of vnesswolfchild..."

Friday, March 9, 2018

No Body's Alter Egos

The ever-contemplative Sean Lynch was once known round these parts as the voice and guitar-wizard behind 800Beloved. While that textured and sonically lush shoegaze/dream-pop project wound down in 2016 (after 10 years of life), the studio-maven and audio-experimenter would switch musical gears to another side of the spectrum when he essentially became the host of a austere graft of political/social commentary known as Lyle Lynch. Lyle was a fiercely, even darkly, satirical reaction against a rising tide of hateful energies that crested you-know-who into the White House.

At first a fractured reflection of a severely troubling regression/devolution of civility, coherency, equality, an affront to the progress made in areas of science, a debilitating speedbump to any hope of progress going forward for civil rights, education, the economy...we could go on..., Lyle Lynch became, on a four-song EP, a sort of crusading folk-singer of sorts, but not at all in the Dylan/Baez/Seeger schema of style or presentation.... was post-apocalyptic-Americana, an essential following-through-to-what-could-be-inevitable-conclusions or culminations; a poetic and musical depiction of what might be, if the ship isn't steered away from its current course.

...and it weighed heavily on Lynch, not just emotionally but psychologically. Music writer Jerilyn Jordan documented the necessary death of the Lyle character in the Metro Times two months ago. Thusly, I'd like to shift the focus of this interview with Lynch toward the veritable reemergence of No Body. No Body was another creative entity of Lynch formed a bit before the completion of 800Beloved's third & final album. The Uncanny Valley came out a few years ago, a darkly vibrant composite of organic and synthetic elements, interchanging potentially more palletable 4-minute electronica-pop arrangements with more atmospheric, eerier and textural compositions that could take experimental drones and post-industrial chills and weave them into something with such presence, as though even a digitized sound could attain a lifelike intake and exhaling of oxygen.

But back to Lyle Lynch, for just one second...
"What ultimately motivated me to turn outward (with Lyle Lynch) came from, and God bless Nina Simone for saying this, that it is, and I'm paraphrasing, an artist's duty to reflect the times, their own times, particularly. When I heard that, I thought: I personally don't feel authentic or right talking about some dark love affair (in a song's lyrics) or the angles of my personal loves (in a song) at this moment. It's not about being relevant, it's about...compassion, maybe? It's not like I was trying to be some guerilla revolutionary. But someone who records a couple tracks in their basement can maybe reach 30 people? Maybe those 30 people know 90 people? And those 90 people can know a couple thousand... That's just from one lonely kid in a basement with a four-track. I've been that lonely kid before. But I'd never felt the nudge, until then, just like a lot of these young kids are feeling right now." 

Lately, I'm personally growing more and more beyond trying to situate a piece of music or art in a genre, or tie it to being part of a continuation of a paste decade's movement. No Body is curtained by a vaporous distortion but pulses with a persistent beat, while guitars snake minimalist melodies like lilting thoughts through a lightly-tremored brain that, with each drone, loop, or delay, is steadily settling into a meditative state. The "uncanny valley," to me, when I hear this album, is the manifestation of an idea of a place, or even a mindset, something to seek. And this music sounds as though it is ever-seeking.

"No Body is strange in that it's kind of archaic equipment with new equipment," said Lynch. "Anti-laptop type o' shit. It's very modular, very in moment. I'm building the sound in the moment and having to worry about the responsibility of singing the songs in the right time; there's really no prerecorded material with it. I get to play in a different way when I'm able to change filters while singing; it just feels different, I don't know how else to explain it." 
No Body has only performed live three times since 2012
Coming up: April 14th at Russel Industrial Center with Krillin, minihorse, and Exposure Therapy (7pm)  MORE INFO

"There are a lot of elements that I'm involving, live, that are now completely random and beyond my control, which is really fun for me. When you involve too many machines, it's possible to have too much control. I don't even wanna have 60% of control; that's no fun." 

Throwing oneself into an expanse like this, adrift in possibility and creative chaos, is one thing. Then there's the concept suggested by the name, No Body. Lynch has often, it seems, obfuscated his identity, if not downplayed his personality, with previous projects. 800Beloved was all about the aural experience, Lyle Lynch was about making a statement, (to be reductive), and No Body seems to be similarly diverging away from the cult of celebrity that can sometimes come along with one's desire to be "an artist."

"I love the idea of the context that there was this sort of strange character (with No Body), delivering virtually identity-less music; some of it masculine, some of it feminine, some androgynous, or at least I hope it feels that way. For me, I've always gotten my thrills in the studio, when those rare moments come that you're able to get the sort of chills to run down your back from a sound that comes to you or words, or whatever it is...."

"I know that's not an original impulse or thought, but I think most people, if they could dissect it, that's really the narcotic that's keeping them in the game (of music) and especially for a person in their late 30's, like me, where most of my friends' music (projects) have died off or they're not producing albums every two years, anymore. Don't get me wrong, I wish, sometimes, that Uncanny Valley could pop up on a list somewhere and rise out of its strange obscurity. I do think I'm the most proud of that record, as a record, from start to finish, because to me, it doesn't feel like me, all the time, which is the nicest thing." 

Lynch isn't subtle when I ask about No Body potentially being a form of ego-killing or ego-reduction.

"To be honest, I think if you ask most people, they'd think I have a huge fucking ego! But if you can sidestep that word, ego, it's not about that, it's that, as most people who are nearest and dearest to me can tell you, I just don't know how to live without focusing on things..."

...Lynch may not pop up on the pages of this blog, or in the local zines, or be gabbed about after shows at various venues, of course because he's comparatively more M.I.A. than most local musicians. But all this while, he's in his home studio over near Milford; purple curtains drawn, headphones on, trading out instruments, trying out pedals, creating drum parts, tweaking, experimenting, reconfiguring, remixing....

"I'll hyper-focus; sometimes I don't know how to turn the brain off. And sometimes my energy strays to different directions so that sometimes it creates a recoiled negative effect where I can come off as abrasive or it might seem ego-driven. But it's more that I'm just fucking totally hyperaware of myself. People talk about being self-aware, I just don't know how to shut that off." 

...and No Body becomes an exploration into his own mind, in this regard...

"I'm truly interested in all these innerworkings in people--and especially in myself. I want to know how to get a character like Lyle again. I don't want to get that specific character, but something just as interesting can manifest. What combination of ticks do I have to go through to find another character like that? So, I just think that life's more interesting that way. Not to treat yourself as this one-sided ego-driven character, but maybe to develop alter-egos. It's safer to challenge things through (alter-egos)." 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Electric Honey - Primtetime Garbage (Interview)

Electric Honey are releasing a new album on March 14th (Pi Day). It's called Primetime Garbage and its been pressed to vinyl at Third Man Records here in Detroit. The local quintet blend intricate art-pop, post-prog, new-wave and space-rock with baroque elements like violin, trumpet, ukulele and a mandolin. Power chords riff with urgent punk aggression into the sweet, sinewy glide of a bow sawing over strings. The vocals are emotive and contemplative, something like Costello-meets-Grohl, while the post-punk and aerodynamic riffs of something like the Pixies might attain headier sophistication of a Radiohead-esque atmosphere.  In fact, Electric Honey's knack, overall, is an atmosphere. It's atmospheric power-pop! It's grunge for the theater. It's new-wave from Neptune...

I caught up with each member of the band to ask about their development over the last five years. This is a tight-knit ensemble of dudes who have each been around the band-block a few times already so they know how to serve a song and how to serve each other's strengths. The album was mastered by Tim Smith at Soundscape Studios, and you can find more info here

photo by Brian Rozman

EH has been really busy the last couple of years... What have been some of the most fulfilling or aspects so far, as the band's steadily made its way onto the scene? 
Patrick: The relationships I've built with fellow musicians and fans around Detroit are the most important aspect to me. Without people to play on a bill with, people coming to shows, or people writing about music, bands end up staying in their comfort zone and never develop to their full potential. My wife Ann has always told me this and urged me to meet people and build relationships with other bands. You can't just be an outsider looking in and expect to get shows or hook up with other bands. You have to be involved. You have to tell your fans about other bands. You have to go to shows where you aren't playing. You can't mail it in. And to be honest, it's a lot of work when you already have a full-time job and countless other things going on in your life, but it's worth it!
Evan: Having the opportunity to be in the same room (occasionally) with such great musicians and friends, creating music that we really care about, has been rewarding in itself. Couple that with the community aspect of live music and the whole thing is awesome. 

I think this band's able to manifest an interesting kind of energy, prog, funk, art-pop, all in one... 
Chris:  Oddly enough I think having the violin caused a shift to a sound, with more angst and energy than on Vanadium. I love that we can get a little crazier on stage now because of that added energy!

What's the key to the chemistry? 
John: When we got started, our shared collective music history and roots going back to childhood meant we were already speaking the same language without saying a word.    Rehearsal and the collaborative song writing process has never been forced for us. There is something beautiful about being able to speak to each other in the middle of a song with a look, a raised brow, a lift of the guitar neck, or a divergent lick.    We speak to each other, during both rehearsal and live shows in a language that is universal and requires us to listen to each other or risk never being heard or understood.   Individually, each one of the guys are the best player at their position that I've ever encountered, so the challenge of keeping up with them pushes me to new limits, and it doesn't get better than that.      

So let's go back to when you guys first got into bands years' back in high school/college, or whenever...what are some of the ways Electric Honey is distinct-from, or, n-harmony with those lifelong influences? 
P: It's funny to think about high school. All I can relate to is the hall scene that dominated the suburbs in the early 2000s. It was catchy and it had some gnarly guitar work, but until I started listening to bands like Return to Forever, the Pixies, Stephen Malkmus, Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, and Talking Heads, most of what I wrote lacked substance and cleverness. When Electric Honey finally formed in 2012, we all had a lot more to bring to the table in that regard, and over the years, the parts that we wrote together reflected those influences. Whether it be Phish inspired bass-lines or Wilco-esque guitar licks, our style has morphed into a mixing pot of indie rock, americana, jazz, and punk. 
E: Though I feel I’ve grown a lot as a musician since high school, many of my biggest influences took root early on and made a huge lasting impact (see the majority of Pat’s litany above). I came to really know things I like from a band: thoughtful musicianship, interesting harmonic content, rich tone, production values, great songs! I didn’t know my own voice as a musician though. As we’ve become more focused on developing the sound of EH over the years, I’m learning to put those sensibilities into practice, and in that way the influences come through. I think we also influence each other a lot, which has contributed to this snowballing of energy we’ve experienced. 

Matt, John, what's your take on EH's progression over the last few years? 
MattWhen I joined up with Patrick and Evan, the music was a little more...artsy. In the sense that the technical difficulty was high, but the songs didn't really groove well. The music probably would have been better received in a coffee shop than a bar. You can hear some of that on Vanadium. It's good stuff, but a little more niche. Each song we've made since I joined has been a little more energetic, a little more in-your-face. I've put away the mallets for cymbal rolls and now I'm ride-crashing the chorus. Which of course is way more fun as a drummer. 
J:  I think the key to our maturing sound is layers of flavor, like a well made Ragu Bolognese.   We keep improving the recipe, but have started to hit upon a consistent blend and sound that is approaching magically delicious.  

You've got an album coming out on Pi Day! Can you tell me about the overarching themes, concepts, and energies of 'Primetime Garbage.' Also, what inspired the title? 
P: Primetime Garbage is sort of a tribute to evening television programming and the lifestyles that people created around that schedule. The fact that people would wait an entire week to watch their favorite TV show or watch the evening news religiously is intriguing to me, mostly because of how simple it was. The news didn't have to cater to extremes because people would watch it regardless, but now, you could get two completely different accounts of the same event and based on your beliefs take one account as fact. The concept for me was nostalgic, but in a tainted sort of way. People tend to reminisce about how good things were or how simple things were, but they were viewing the world through rose-colored glasses (sorry for the cliche). A big theme of this record is to do what makes you happy, and to do it for yourself, unless it's immoral...Don't do immoral things...  
M:  Primetime Garbage is a declaration. It's an album that says 'this is who we are' as a band. It's the first album that's true to our musical influences and tastes. You can hear some Talking Heads, Foo Fighters and The White Stripes. Patrick came up with the name Primetime Garbage and had to sell it to the rest of us. I think it means something, but I can't be sure. 
P: (laughs at Matt) 
E: Musically I think we wanted to make an album that really comes at you with fresh ideas and bits of ear candy (and ear pi) from start to finish. In terms of lyrics and the title, I think it is about both the individual experience and some social commentary as well. Pat has a knack for leaving just enough room for interpretation to make you think. 
J:   Remember when 2 4 7 9 20 50 56 and 62 were your options?  It was either that or you could go outside and grind a stick in the gears of a boat crank or ride bikes until the street lights were on?  We have the unique ability to remember best the parts of our past that bring us joy and fill us with truth, family, and love.    As good as it was, it's not as good as it gets, and those skeletons on the cover art remind me to look forward to the future, get up and give a damn.    

Don't take this the wrong way - but the hooks and riffs you guys arrange are poppy! They're catchy! And yet, each tune always has its own atmosphere, and a bit of flavors, be it baroque-Americana, post-punk, or some indie-funk... Talk about what you guys enjoy most about the songwriting process and what's unique about your approach... 
P: Yeah, we try not to take ourselves too seriously, and we are not good enough as musicians to be pretentious, so we kind of settled on coming up with riffs that are fun to play but also delectable to the more music-minded folk. As far as our styles go, we really do try to make each song a bit different. Listening to this album will be like walking through different rooms of a house, or driving clockwise around the island of Maui (which has 8 climate zones) or tasting 8 different spices... I could do this all day. The best part about the process for me is the layers that we build when we're all together. I might come up with a riff and then Evan will completely change the mood of the song with something he adds. It's a really collaborative process that is quite addicting. 
M:  You have to give credit to Patrick for the songwriting. He does the heavy lifting. He'll record maybe 30 minutes of different ideas and send it over and say 'what do you think?' We'll all listen to it and find bits and pieces that get us excited and we'll run with it. Sometimes he'll just nail something, practically start to finish and we'll just fill it out. Each band member is coming from a very different headspace, so things kind of push and pull in different directions which gives us those different flavors. Into The Clouds is a good example of that. The goofy intro, the upbeat chorus, punky verses, then you have the bridge. Which is a wacky combination of baroque-y guitar work and a floor tom blasting 16th notes. Somehow it works.

What's the songwriting process like? 
C: When we “write” songs we just start playing random riffs and if something sticks we roll with it. What starts as a disorganized improv session will usually develop into our BEST songs. I think all the guys would agree with this. We just need to get the creative (and sometimes alcoholic) juices flowing and then we come up with our stuff.
E: Pat is so great at writing hooks, whether it is a lyric, melody, or instrumental part. We really get a head start because of that. As we collaborate to create additional parts, it’s really fun to watch and appreciate the musicianship in the band. For example, Matt will have some really spot-on detail in a drum part and if you ask him about it, he’ll say it was absolutely considered. Pat is right that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do care a lot about making music, and it’s awesome to see each of us contribute to make something better than we could have done individually. 
J:   I'm excited at the range of people that have given us similar feedback - all walks of life, all different ages, and fans of a variety of genres can find something they like and that gives us a bigger Megaphone...see what I did there?

What was the recording experience like - because there's a lot in the mix: really distinctive/fuzzy guitars, punchy snares, violins! What was most challenging/rewarding about putting these songs together? 
M:  Our music is really geared towards live performance, but we love to record. Really love it. Like 'I may not go in to work today because we are going to record instead' love it. A few tracks were recorded at Soundscape (which is an awesome studio), but we typically do the recording ourselves. We've found a way to get really good sounds without having to pay for studio time. I think we ended up tracking at Soundscape almost as a test. Just to see if what we did stacked up. It did. Our recording process is kind of funny because scheduling is so tough. It's really patched together as each person finds time to go record. Patrick handles the mix, and he's always sneaking creative things in there. Every time he sends a new mix out, there's a new guitar part, new hand claps, it's fun to hear what he adds to the songs. Sometimes I feel like I have to reel him back in to make sure we are staying on point. It's a fun dynamic. I think the back and forth about mix ideas is my favorite part about recording.
C:  The recording experience is just another aspect of the fun. It’s not a run-of-the-mill recording experience especially for me. Pat and I would consistently work on the violin parts for the actual album as opposed to when we play live. I think this is because the violin just tends to be overpowered when we play shows, but in an already busy mix it can make things all mucky if it is too showy. So we always worked to take the parts I came up with for live shows and add refinement and some more musical depth to those parts. It is always just a creative effort and it’s always a good time.
E: The challenge is always everyone’s schedules, but we press on however we need to in order to communicate and get from point A to point B. By far the most rewarding thing is the way the recording process puts every aspect of a song under a microscope, forcing decisions to be made and helping us to elevate the songs. Fortunately these guys possess such great musicianship that it is a joy to hear what they come up with and discuss the direction of a song as we work out the parts. We can then take it back to the live performances and it makes us better and makes the songs more fun to play. 

Preorder Primteime Garage on vinyl here

Friday, March 2, 2018

Ancient Language - 'no in / no exit'

photo by Paul Stevens
I've had to reconfigure interpretations of Ancient Language every year, as the project has grown in size, scope, and evidently style, bringing together players from the realms of jazz, ambient electronica, post-rock, techno-pop, folk...and wherever else... The six-piece Detroit ensemble released a new single last week called "no in / no exit" and its exemplary of the band's increasingly adventurous, atmospheric musical conceptions

Ancient Language perform Saturday, part of the 5th annual Hamtramck Music FestNew Dodge Lounge
with Brother Son, White Bee, and Honeybabe
More info

The major operative is to build a swell of sounds that spread and envelop, evoking a sense of immersion into something..., well...., awesome. I don't mean awesome... I mean awe-some. This is the kind of song for quietly powerful spells, be it meditation, contemplation, or rejuvenation, be it morning, or be it just past midnight, it's a song that rewards anyone mindful enough to just stop the rest of their day's comparatively hurried blurs and absorb a song.

Fading in gently after an almost silent 10 seconds, a faint guitar drone brings you in until you're taken by the hand of a heavenly violin's saw that starts to curtain around a piano with a minimalist melody that sounds uncertain at first, before the guitar takes it over and matches its steps, soon to be propelled by the bass into more of a march. Then AL's poetic lead vocalist adds his poetic ruminations "Tough luck / in a life that's taken more than it could have / from a world that's slowly fading from the past..." and it cascades into the crest of a fill of percussion that only continues the arrangement's steady elevations. 

Something erupts after the 3-minute mark. The six-piece symphony combines their intonations with this harmonic churn, edging on, ascending on..., and if you've got headphones at this point, then it's where the rest of the world can fall away as you start floating. A certifiably head-banging beat kicks in around the 4-minute mark but it pares away for just one more verse, for just one more precious moment where the violins and pianos can arc to the top, before another liftoff, with the beat coming back in--augmented by a sweet, emotive baritone sax.

It's all about atmosphere..., and yes, we'd normally call it post-rock. But with the sax, violins and vibes commingling with the guitar/bass/vocals, I'm going to call it post-baroque.... or....ethereal jazz.... or atmospheric-indie... Ya know? Let's hold off on categories until the late Spring, when this single will be joined by a full length album's worth of new songs.