Monday, February 18, 2019

Trev Tochnik's 'The Power of New Money'


I know I said this blog was done. But if I don't put these words down, then it will seem like this never happened. 


And while I haven't covered anything like "musical theatre" before, in any prior post, I won't sweat breaking precedence, as this will, now, assuredly be, this blog's final post. But what kind of theatre did I witness...?

Well, an artist calling himself Trev Tochnik created an interactive performance piece that he called "The Power Of New Money." An actress from New York, Mick James, collaborated with this admittedly esoteric Michigan-based artist, working as the co-director for this minimalist-and-yet-still-complex dramaturgy.

Now, there is conceptual choreography and very specific lighting cues that go along with the actor's mannerisms and movements, but its all set to music. In fact, what's really been brought to life in this strange play are the songs that Trev Tochnik created..., it's just being channeled into a surreal mime-like opera of sorts, rather than a typical trope for "a band," like a night at a "club." I couldn't see if there was a sound engineer or a lighting crew, but I have to imagine there was some bustling around in the dark shadows of the claustrophobic backstage area that was allotted to Tochnik and his troupe, at the Tonsle Estate.



There are a few photos from this performance at the Tonsle Estate woven across this "final" blog post. You can see how I wound up discovering that the "backstage" area and the actual "stage" were transient. We followed Mick and Trev from the kitchen, to the bathroom, to a landing by the stairs, a vestibule, and then back to those bathrooms, a long and narrow space that provided just enough space for this small audience to peer into, and witness the movements. Each elbow bend, or furrowed brow, each awkward stretch or somehow graceful hunch of the back seemed to express a range of emotions that were both pensive and fearful, in love and in dread, relaxed, and yet yearning... Yearning for the ever-restoring power of "new money..."



If you've never been to the Tonsle Estate, it's not really near anything. In fact, its situated between two empty lots. This assured that the rock-tempo drum beat and clanging, fuzzed-out guitars of a song like "You Come Back When You Arrive" would not disturb any "neighbors." But also, the more ambient, swelling whole-notes of the solemn space-gospel "Maples" could attain an idyllic resonance, enveloping the house-bound audience with proper reverberation. The spaciousness of the house, as well as the unique architecture of some of the rooms, meant that the urgency, the alarm, the suddeness of moments in the play that involved loud screaming or gunshots, could attain sufficient emotional impact, without restraint. I'm amazed no one called the cops..., but yet, how could they be frightened when the tranquilly-groovy orchestral-jazz suite "Hawaii" started washing over them....
You could see in Tochnik's eyes that he was both excited, and distracted... Or perhaps that was his character? Perhaps that's at the heart of the album's true emotional import..., that we are all eager, and yet anxious, in this endless (and hot) pursuit, for this "proverbial" "new money." I know that Tochnik is eager for more ears to hear the songs that accompany his play... He told me after the performance that they would be available this Friday (Feb 22nd).


There is something about the softly booming bass, the arcing feedback roar, the sonambulistic swells of "Homelooking," that palpably suggest a kind of elevation, or a detachment..., a striking outward for new territories, a longing for grander things, or at least just more grandness..., a full, heart-swooning  kind of ambient song that fills up any room that tries to contain it. At times, I felt like I was floating within the 10x10 confines of a certain room, as though the soundwaves had attained water-like qualities; the distortion curling after the chorus, the haunting synthesizers shuttering like curtains. I found myself forgetting to take every third breath. There is something about the softness and the ominousness, that makes me believe that Tochnik has a quiet and quaking ambition to use this music to only push his stage show further.

I only regret that I lost my programme from that night. It was seven pages worth about the play, with lyrics, credits, and thank-yous, that also included a diagram of the Tonsle Estate, it's unique layout; sort of a prepper on where we would be moving, with the performers/directors, throughout the night. But I'm still smitten with the music.... The Power of New Money; some kind of ambient-post-rock trip, threaded by croony, vibratto-heavy vocals that would phase in and out of a fuzzed-distortion, and a crisp, lilting lullaby.



These images you're seeing were captured by photographer Julie James. Tochnik and James forbade any other kind of camera, other than James'.

I won't be surprised if this play is never seen again. Though I know there's intentions to create it elsewhere. The songs will haunt me, sublimely, for a while... And now, you'll get to hear them yourself. I keep returning to the disco-beat and curiously cadenced bass of the title track, "Power of New Money...," where Tochnik sings "...we surrendered..." That's how it felt, as the spell of the songs was cast, and as Trev, the actor, took on each song's evocation, through his eyes, and his stare. At what point, he left me asking myself, do we catch ourselves...., to keep from surrendering? Or are we complicit, and even enjoying the psychic and emotive forfeiture....




Sunday, February 3, 2019

It Was Everything To Me

This blog started 11 years ago, this week. I like to believe that I'm just as madly inspired as I was in my mid-20's, but the reality is that I'm three times busier than I was back then. Of course I'll still be writing about music that's made in Michigan; I'll still be interviewing artists based around the Metro Detroit area, and beyond. But this is the final post. It's so strange to write that out and have the period fall at the end. This is the final post....

Thank you to everyone who stopped by this site. Thank you to everyone who read these words. Thank you to every artist who sat down with me over some coffee to chat. Thank you to everyone who let me listen to an album a week before it came out, so that I could string together a small tidal wave of emotions and adjectives onto these digital pages.

I have only glimpsed what might have been only a modest impact that this blog had... But, being uncertain of its sustained necessity, I am using this post to put a period on it all. The 2,100 or so posts that stretch back over the decade are all blips that fall together to form a grander collage... Not only a capturing of contemporary Detroit music history, such as it was, but telling the story of a kid who grew into his 30's and held onto that mad inspiration, held on to the enthusiasm he found at live shows and the modest transcendence offered in deep album dives, with headphones...

As I said, it's not a sad day, or a sad post, because I'll be writing over at WDET.org, or ecurrent.com, or via Local Spins in Grand Rapids, or maybe somewhere else... But this blog did bring me some joy, so it's bittersweet to move on... I hope it brought you some joy, too. Don't let the music you listen to ever recede into the background. That was the whole point of this blog. It's listening, rather than hearing. And I don't know what else to say or write... But here are 40 songs that have meant a lot to me, as I've updated this blog throughout the years. Some songs are older, some are newer. And there are at least 40 more, 80 more, that just didn't happen to be on this streaming platform..., which I regret. But anyway.... Wherever you go next, listen closely... Start a dialogue with the music.



Friday, February 1, 2019

Grove Studios Offers Automated OpenLIVE Platform

Grove Studios isn't a traditional Artists' Residency, but it is a haven of sorts. It's a colony where the pollinators of local culture--be it musicians, photographers, visual artists, voiceover artists and creative entrepreneurs, can find a space to work, to evolve, and to capture...That is, to record! This is a hybrid rehearsal space/recording space and can even function as a gallery or a podcasting venue, and its based in Ypsilanti Michigan.



And if you follow my writing, this isn't the first time you've heard me mention Grove. Grove got off the ground two years ago, but had its grand opening last Summer. Founded by musicians and partnering with community members and local businesses, the Grove team aims, above all, to create a space for collaboration and opportunity... And what they're featuring now, just seven months after their grand opening, is access to the digital recording platform OpenLive for the clients that use their Grove Room. 




OpenLIVE is a hardware and software solution that adds to Grove's internet of things solutions to great rehearsal spaces for musicians of all stripes. OpenLIVE allows artists to quickly create an account in 60 seconds, book their session on Grove's website and then book their recording time. Then, all they have to do is show up, perform and rehearse.  Minutes later, you get a recording. The artist could either release it right there and then, on their bandcamp page, or just keep it as a demo.




OpenLIVE comes from an Australian company, and this Ypsi location is one of only three venues in the United States offering it to clientele/artists. You'll get free access to OpenLIVE if you book Grove's "deluxe room." (They also have a "classic room," with just the basics, PA, guitar, bass amps, drum kit). If you want to utilize Grove, it's not like you have to pay monthly dues or rent out a space... There are peak, and off-peak times, with rates ranging from $15-$25 per hour. You can book time online, and there's 24/7 access, available, if you'd like to be a Resident, rather than an hourly renter. You can see some promotional offers currently running on their Facebook page. 

So you can essentially think of this dynamic web app as having Hal 9000 recording you as you work, and then wrapping it all up for you once you're done. "We want artists to control their own content," said co-founder Rick Coughlin. "We just want to support making the means of accessing great content for them easy and affordable.

That said, Grove isn't intending to become a Recording Studio. That might be the plan down the line, in the future, when they set up industrial-size shipping containers to offer artists who want flawless sound isolation properties for their recordings. Coughlin knows there are plenty of exceptional studios nearby, including TapWater in Detroit, Willis Sound and Big Sky in the Ypsi/Arbor area. "At $25 per hour (Grove) is between what a bonafide studio offers, and what you can pull off on a cell phone, or using Garage Band," said Coughlin. But with Grove, it's "...totally automated, so musicians can focus on what they are best at, and know that their content for audio is going to be on point." The next step, if you stay tuned, is Live Streaming. 




Thursday, January 31, 2019

Career Club Work Out



There is so much more that just two humans can manifest, musically...and yet still present as minimal. No, minimal's not the right word, it's just what you're compelled to write after you see two people locking in to a variety of grooves (danceable, funky, spacey, strutting, psychedelic, soulful), but shuffled into tempos that aren't in a hurry, but also aren't stagnant. With Career Club, you could be hearing bass from a synthesizer, an electric guitar that's been looped, vocals that arc across a range of notes that are veiled by just a touch of distorting reverb, walking beats from live kits that know just when to fill in, or you might notice that a video-gamey-new-wavy sample is the perfect ambiance for a wordless vibrato incantation.

Oh, and about those loops. If your ears are filled by the minimal magic that Leah Barnett and Mark Sleeman are conjuring up there on stage, you might not immediately notice that you're being entranced, more than anything, by repetition. Like the pocket watch pendulum swinging, the ambiance is in, as I said, the incantation, the spell is cast by driving it home, and then driving it home again...

Fittingly, I'm writing this right before Groundhog Day--a holiday known for resulting in elevated ennui for a season but for which also is tied to an existential dark comedy about being in a loop. My longwinded point here, if I could circle back around, is that their very name, Career Club, is a dig at the certain business-day choreography that lots of us fall into, the same reply-all, cc'ed, action-item, vision-statement patterns that could be surreal when analyzed at a distance... And so, Barnett and Sleeman are analyzing that choreography..., musically.

But whereas every business quarter concludes with the usual analytics, Career Club are capricious guides through your maze, because if they want to take a sudden left, they'll take it... The door of their sonic office is always open to one client: improvisation....


CC 1 from Career Club on Vimeo.


You came on to my radar at the Hamtramck Music Fest, so about 1 year ago... Can you tell me a bit of the origin story, how this band got started...?
Leah: We met in high school but didn’t start playing music together until  just after our senior year during the summer of 2008. We were geeked about the Line6 DL4 loop pedal and wanted to make our sound seem bigger than just the two of us. Once we introduced a second DL4, our sound as Career Club was born as we were each able to do multiple things at once. Almost every time we’ve worked on some type of musical endeavor, either solo or together, we’ve recorded each of those sessions on our phones – so now we’ve accrued about 10 years’ worth of musical data! It’s incredible to have this bank of recordings to pull material from, and this is how our current live show setup has come to fruition. We’re able to turn to our voice memos and say, “yea, I like this part” or, “let’s shorten this loop” which allows for us to make something old feel new and fresh for our current shows.

What was your first few shows like? How has your set up and live show changed over the last year or so? 
Mark: Our good friend Augusta Morrison of Neue Haus Booking asked us to play a show in March 2018 so we utilized that deadline to curate a lineup of tunes. Our first live show (and each gig since then) has been the same set-up as our basement sessions: we always play side-by-side. This configuration allows us to support each other and embrace our sound as one fluid machine rather than separate cogs spread around a stage. We also like the idea of allowing the audience to watch all of our steps along the way, and both of us being near each other/the crowd is a necessary part of our show. We like being able to see and feel our audience’s reactions and we’re so thankful for everyone who’s been along for the ride with us.


Your the first band I've seen that's brought a media cart up on stage... but it's practical! ...Still, can you talk about the songwriting/song-creation process...?  Are you pre-recording things to trigger later when the song's done live? What's the most challenging (or maybe fun?) aspects of this process?
Mark: Our writing process usually stems from a guitar loop or key melody, maybe even some howling, and then we build on top of that. Leah sits at the drums with her guitar and I stand at the A.V. cart behind the mic and keyboard to start an improv session. This ends up resulting in a track that we can fine tune and perform live. Once we’ve reached a certain momentum on a tune, we’ll generally know if it’s going to make it to the next stage: ...performance level... – and it’s so exciting to try out new things for an audience, even if it’s just a few days old!. Every loop is done live, which is both the most challenging and exciting aspect of Career Club. The whole process is fluid with a structure we attempt to follow each time we hit the stage.

Leah: ...and the AV cart isn’t only just functional but it’s also an integral component in the theme of Career Club – we like the idea of using everyday objects that one might use in school or an office and placing them elsewhere. We’re constantly poking fun at, and playing with the phrase “...don’t take your work home with you” … but what if you go to a dive bar and see an A.V. cart up on stage? How would you feel if you saw an office in the sand one freezing morning on Belle Isle?



If you were asked at a party, on the street, or at a coffeeshop, what kind of music you make or to describe your band...what would you say? Or what have you actually already said in the past?
Leah: We consider ourselves to be pop! It’s really hard to put in a box – we like simple yet complex and catchy layers. We like to reverse and reduce our loops to half tempo for some variety to the hypnotic and repetitious grooves. Our music sounds like when you win at solitaire and all the cards flash across the screen, the delicious eating scenes in Erin Brokovich  and/or Selena, and Burbank California’s dive bar the Blue Room.



I feel compelled to mention bands like River Spirit or Double Winter, in terms of local reference points...in that, just like CC, I can't put it into a box, or one set genre category... Can you talk about any bands, be they local or other contemporaries or from the past that you've drawn influences from, and what it is about what they did that inspired you? 
Mark: Double Winter & River Spirit make us weep! We fondly admire Ween, R. Stevie Moore, the B-52s, and Britney Spears to name just a FEW, too. Our obsession with highly produced tracks and the endearing quality of lo-fi home recordings is inter-meshed in how we think about our music and, eventually, how our future recordings will hopefully turn out. 

Leah: We hope to have ourselves a little tour, get some recordings onto the world wide web, and crank out some video projects along the way this coming year. Our friendship started with our love for music and to be able to play and create together is something truly out of our wildest dreams… ....oh, we’ve gotta go … our boss is asking us to use the T4 Server for the data files and percentages … all we have is a TI-89 calculator for the projections …
.........................

Career Club

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hamtramck Music Fest



The Hamtramck Music Festival starts on Thursday, March 7
More than 200 local bands
25 venues across the City of Hamtramck

More info: http://2019.hamtramckmusicfest.com/

_________________________________________________
Venues featuring Bands during HMF 
ANT HALL

BAKER STREETCAR

BANK SUEY

BARTER

BUMBO'S

CAFE 1923

DELITE CAFE

DETROIT THREADS

GHOST LIGHT

HIGH DIVE

HAMTRAMCK PUBLIC LIBRARY

KELLY'S

MOOSE LODGE

OUTER LIMITS

PAINTED LADY

PLAV #6

PLAV #10

POLISH SEA LEAGUE

POLISH VILLAGE CAFE

POLKA DOT

SANCTUARY

SMALL'S

TRIXIE'S

WHISKEY IN THE JAR



Locations Selling Wristbands
ARMAGEDDON BEACHPARTY

CAFE 1923

DEARBORN MUSIC

DETROIT THREADS

DR. DISK (Windsor)

ENCORE RECORDS

FLIPSIDE RECORDS

FOUND SOUND

HELLO RECORDS

MELODIES & MEMORIES

NOSH PIT

PEOPLES RECORDS

RECORD GRAVEYARD

ROCK CITY MUSIC CO.

SMALL'S

SOLO RECORDS

STORMY RECORDS

STREET CORNER MUSIC

UHF RECORDS

UNDERGROUND VINYL

WEIRDSVILLE RECORDS


THE BANDS......

1000 YARD STARE

3DMOTHERSHIP

3FT

ALEX KNOWS IT ALL

ALEX MENDENALL

ALISON LEWIS & STRING OF PONIES

ALL CITY CYPHER

ANNAMARIA

APOLLO'S DIN

BAD LIVER PISS

BANANACONDAS

BANGLA SCHOOL OF MUSIC

BANJOLECTRIC

BAVE

THE BEGGARS

BEN KEELER BAND

BENIGN APPEAL

BETA CAMP

BETH DZIERWA

BETTY COOPER

BLACK SHAMPOO

BLACKMAIL

THE BLITZERS

BLUEFLOWERS

BLUES PREACHER CREIGHTON

BOTANICAL FORTRESS

BRENT SCUDDER

BROTHER SON

CABIN 7

CALEB BYERS

CAREER CLUB

CARMEL LIBURDI

CAVEMAN & BAM BAM

CH'I MACHINES

CHOKING SUSAN

CITIZEN SMILE

CLOUDY

CONEY MEAL COMBO

CONNOR DODSON & QUICK DRAW

COSMIC LIGHT SHAPES

THE CREEPOS

DAMN THE WITCH SIREN

DEAD PEOPLE

DEAR DARKNESS

DEARBORN PUBLIC SCHOOLS STEM & DCMST JAZZ BAND

DENISE DAVIS & THE MOTOR CITY SENSATIONS

DETROIT PARTY MARCHING BAND

DETROIT TECHNO MILITIA

DINNER MUSIC

DIRTY COPPER

DISCREET DISCO

DJ DISC DETROIT

DJ ROACH

DJ SOCCER MOM & LONI K.

DOCTOR PIZZA

DON DUPRIE & THE INSIDE OUTLAWS

DREW SCHULTZ TRIO feat. MATT RYAN & EVAN MERCER

DRINKARD SISTERS

THE DROPOUT

DUDE

DUENDE

EFTHIMI

ELECTRIC BLANKET

ELECTRIC HONEY

ELECTRIC HULDRA

EMMA GUZMAN

END

THE END ELECTRIC

FAT ANGRY HENS

THE FORTY NINETEENS

FRIENDS OF DENNIS WILSON

THE GASHOUNDS

GO TIGER GO

GOLD CRAYON

THE HACKWELLS

THE HALEY RIOTS

HAMTRAMCK PUBLIC SCHOOLS ELEMENTARY HONORS CHOIRS

THE HAND

HANDGRENADES

THE HIGH STRUNG

HIGH TOTALS

HONEY & BUFFALO

HUNG UP

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

INFINITE LAND

INTRICATE DIALECT

J-ROSE

J. WALKER & THE CROSSGUARDS

JACKAMO

JACKSON & THE POOLSHARKS

JAKDD

JAMES LINCK

JAWS THAT BITE

JEFFERY WOODWARD

JENN'S APARTMENT

JENNY & JACKIE

JEREMIAH SHAW

JIBS BROWN & THE JAMBROS

JILL GOVAN

JOHN SALVAGE

JOHNNY ILL

JONATHAN FRANCO

JP FROM THE HP

JULIUS DE’VON

JUNKFOOD JUNKIES

KAMERYN OGDEN

KIMBALL

KIND OF ANIMAL

KRILLIN

KUBAT, FINLAY, & ROSE

LADY DARKNESS

LADYSHIP WARSHIP

LAK LOK

LEAF ERIKSON

LEGUME

LU FUKI & DIVINE PROVIDENCE

LXL

THE MAHONIES

MARBRISA

MARIACHI FEMENIL DE DETROIT

MARK WHALEN & THE BUTTERMILK BOYS

THE MARMALADES

MICHELE OBERHOLTZER

MIKE WARD:PSYCHOSONGS

MILK BATH

MISTER

MODERN MAL

NATE B. JACKSON

NERIAH REIGN

NIQUE LOVE RHODES & THE NLR EXPERIENCE

NORMA JEAN HAYNES

OBLIQUE NOIR

OLD EMPIRE

PALOU

PANCHO VILLA'S SKULL

PANDA HOUSE

PAPA VANYA I BRODYAGI

PARALLEL PEOPLE

PARKING LOTS TC

PARTY DAYS

PATRICK DAVY & THE GHOSTS

PEWTER CUB

POST IMPERIAL JAZZ BAND

PRIMITIV PARTS

QRB

QU'ELLE

RAISING THE DEAD

REBECCA GOLDBERG

REGISTERED NURSE (RICHARD NEWMAN)

REMNOSE

REUTHER

RICANSTRUCTION

RIPSHARK

ROGUE SATELLITES

SAAJTAK

SCARLET LIES

SCOTT HARRISON

SEXTEZ & THE VYBE

SHARKS NEVER SLEEP

SIAMESE

SLIZZ

SLO

SLOB

SOLD ONLY AS CURIO

SPACESKULL

SPLITTERS

STEFANIE COX & THE BLOX

STELLA'S GHOST

THE STOOLS

STRAIGHT RYE TRIO

THE STRAINS

SUBURBAN DELINQUENTS

SUDDEN DEATH SYNDROME

SUPER BIRTHDAY

TART

TEARS OF A MARTIAN

TEENER

TERESA CHAVEZ

THROWAWAY

TIGER SEX

TIMOTHY MONGER

TONY PARIS & SUGARBURN

TRUE BLUE

TRUMAN NOLAN

TSSR

TWELVE BRIDGES

VALID

VAZUM

VENA MORRIS

VIANDS

VSTRS

VVISIONSS

WAIL

WARHORSES

WASABI DREAM

WEIRDOZ GANG

WEREWOLF JONES

WEREWOLVES

THE WHISKEY CHARMERS

WHO BOY

WHODAT

W.O.M.B.

WUZEE

ZAC FORTIN

ZACH VAZUM

ZACK FEALK

ZILCHED

ZZVAVA