Tokyo-Based Experimentalist Noah Releases Fashion-Inspired Étoile EP

Étoile, the latest EP from Japanese musician Noah, is comprised of only three tracks and clocks in at just 12 minutes. Yet, the Hokkaido-born, Tokyo-based artist has packed in an album’s-worth of emotion that unfolds like a film score.

One of her influences in making this EP, out October 27 via Flau Records, was music for fashion shows. Noah considered how the music would sound as models walked down the runway while she was working on the transitions between tracks. 

Noah says that she did think of the transitions between songs in making the album. “I was wondering ‘Is this combination effective if used in an actual fashion show?’ Because there are various possibilities if so,” she explains in an email interview. 

“It’s a lot of fun to think about the composition,” says Noah. “I’m very interested in music which you enjoy with the visuals like you might see at a fashion show, versus a mix more suitable for dancing.” She adds that the atmosphere of Étoile, as well as making music that works well with video or live visuals, is something that she would like to further pursue.

One of Noah’s early influences is Readymade FC and she was particularly inspired by a Dior Homme fashion show from 2002 that used the French producer’s music. More recently, she’s looked to the work of brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. “They are not only elegant, but also deep and powerful. A mixture of tradition and new things,” she says. Noah has an appreciation for such juxtapositions. “I like the nuances with exquisite margins created by combinations. I feel that some of those things are what I want to express,” she says. 

That attention to both the classic and contemporary is evident on Étoile. She makes use of chorus-style vocals on the album. “The chorus helped build a more mysterious and romantic worldview. I tried to sing like an opera to create an old-fashioned atmosphere,” she says. 

She collaborated with designer Yuto Sugaya on the cover. “He was very intuitive and understood what I wanted to do and reflected it in the best way,” she says. In the process of working on the cover, Noah showed Sugaya Flexion, Readymade FC’s music for that nearly 20-year-old Dior Homme fashion show that influenced her. “He took the avant-garde spirit that was transmitted from the CD and made it into a beautiful shape,” she says.

In the end, Noah says that the individual songs that comprise Étoile weren’t terribly difficult to make. “I was in a state of accepting what I can and cannot do, so I think I was able to demonstrate my ability to be honest without overdoing it,” she says. “In fact, the working time was also very short. It took only a few months, including the completion of the three songs. This is a very short period for me.”

However, Étoile did come out of a time of creative challenges and revelations for Noah. “As I continued to work as an artist, it was getting more and more painful when I realized that I was pursuing my ideals and seeking results. I wasn’t motivated and even though I love music so much, I wasn’t able to enjoy it,” she says. 

“I’ve had a few years of wondering why I’m a boring person, why I’m not happy with myself, and I was feeling like I was getting lost in a maze with no exit,” Noah explains. “About two years ago, I started meditating and studying the spiritual world deeply, and gradually I realized that my heart was being left behind.”

She continues, “I faced myself thoroughly and I got to know myself little by little. Sometimes it was very painful to face the side that I didn’t want to see. Though I’m still in the process, gradually I learned to relax and take it easy. This isn’t just about behavior – the noisy voice gradually calmed down. I took a long time to rebuild the wobbling foundation.”

Part of Noah’s process has been to acknowledge and accept the myriad emotions that she experiences. “I was thinking that I was just a happy and fun person before, but I found hidden anger and sadness deep inside of me. I didn’t avoid those feelings this time because I learned that it is part of an identity, an important thing that shapes people, and that it is not bad at all,” she says. “I also learned that human thoughts and concepts can be both good and bad, so I began to love and accept my light and darkness. From there, Étoile was born when I wrote a song without hesitation.”

She adds, “I loved myself in the past when I was struggling, and it was an important time, and for it I am grateful.”

Follow Noah on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Michelle Rose Makes Her Own Dreams Come True “One Promise At a Time”

Photo Credit: Daniel Giovanniello

The same earworm plays in nearly every episode of the final two seasons of Comedy Central’s Broad City; it’s in the bodega, it’s on the radio, someone’s performing it at karaoke. Fans of the show are probably already humming (or belting) its singular refrain: “I am LEAAAAAANNNE!” Though Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson created the show’s most memorable Easter egg as a spoof on Lady Gaga’s Joanne persona, there’s a talented industry vet at the helm of the studio version – and our readers are likely already familiar with her.

Longtime Audiofemme contributor Michelle Rose, in fact, is the Leanne – and she didn’t just stop at tracking vocals for Broad City. She turned “Leanne” into a full-blown performance piece, evidenced by a karaoke-style video shot at Baby’s All Right just after the show’s fifth season wrapped. The opportunity came about because Rose was naturally doing what she does best – striking up a conversation with a random stranger at the right time. “I’m a sticky person who constantly just wants to enter new spaces and meet new people,” she explains. In this case, that person was the show’s music supervisor, MattFX, who brought in Ary Warnaar of ANAMANAGUCHI to helm production; the rest is history.

Rose’s professional history is long and storied: she’s a classically trained cellist and played alongside her sister Sarah Frances in Frances Rose off and on since 2011; she interned at PAPER and worked in experimental theatre; had a songwriting deal with Warner/Chappell; and most recently curated events as the Program Manager at Soho House, where she helmed their Future Female Sounds series. But when the pandemic hit, there was no more networking, no more booking, no more events. Reeling from the loss of her livelihood, in the throes of a toxic relationship mired in tension and distrust, and still grieving her father who’d succumbed to cancer in 2018, Rose set out to fulfill his dying wish.

“One of the last things he wrote down for me after he lost his ability to speak was to use my skills,” Rose says. Coming from a master of the flat-top guitar, music teacher, and mentor who played with Pete Seeger and Les Paul among others, she felt the weight of her dad’s last request heavy on her shoulders. But it would be years before she put pen to paper to write “one promise at a time,” premiering today via Audiofemme.

Written at the start of the pandemic, “one promise” channels the pop-punk energy Rose gravitated toward as an angsty teen coming of age in Hudson Valley, while its DIY production recalls the scrappy grit of Kathleen Hanna’s post-riot grrl electro project Le Tigre. She finally vents long-simmering frustrations built up over years of pushing her own ambitions aside to make other people’s dreams come true. “I love doing that, but I had to find a balance being an artist,” she says. “The song became an anthem for myself that I was ready to call out all of these false promises and expectations that were orbiting my life at the time. I was ready for not only a pivot, but a catalyst of growth.”

That growth is richly documented on Rose’s forthcoming EP, arriving early 2022 (in the meantime, she plans to release a new single every five weeks or so). The EP underscores the importance she felt in showing up as authentic and autonomous, to tell her story transparently, and to put the music first. Appropriately, the EP is called it’s about time, expressing Rose’s playful impatience, as well as holding space for all the weeks, months, and years that slipped by while life got in the way.

“A lot of these songs are about the literal passing of time and personal growth, and over time, coming to these realizations,” she explains. Minimal break-up jam “i don’t see you in my dreams,” for instance, was written before Rose’s doomed relationship officially ended; subconsciously, she knew it was already over. “These songs are a piece of self knowledge,” she says.

They’re also a roadmap to Rose’s eclectic musical tastes. There’s dance punk circa New York City’s electro indie golden era, when Rose first arrived in the city after studying at Bennington College. There are vocal nods to Madonna and Britney Spears and sonic odes to hyperpop and disco. “I just felt like the world really wanted pop music that was coming from a simplistic place, like direct songs from a place of empowerment that didn’t need to be theatrical and larger than life,” Rose says, her music biz savvy showing. “People want brooding, vulnerable, disco songs in simple registers that we can sing along to, these kind of pop punk-adjacent, female-fronted anthems.”

Photo Credit: Daniel Giovanniello

Rose is lyrically vulnerable on each track, but they also embody the lightness of the songs she loved in her youth. “I really love that bright, shimmery, escapist pop,” she enthuses. Surprisingly, most of her demos start out as “sad country songs,” but Rose never felt that was true to what she wanted her sound to be. “I really wanted to make something upbeat and fun and electronic. I have the language and vocabulary for electronic music but I know that I’m not the fastest engineer and can’t really capture my ideas in real time as they come.” She’d often thought to herself, “Why can’t I just meet some indie kid who makes electronic pop music in Brooklyn and like, make a record?” And then, she did.

After dipping her toes into performing solo again (or making a splash, depending on who you ask), a mutual friend introduced her to Godmode alum Tyler McCauley. It had been years since someone had offered to connect Rose with a producer (“Everyone thinks that I know everyone and that I’m just the queen of networking but I had no one to work with!” she says, lamenting the “elaborate coffee meetings” with so-called producers who wanted steep fees for unheard beats).

“I said to him: I don’t really have any kind of budget and no label. I’m looking to do something really collaborative,” Rose remembers. She and McCauley instantly found common ground, surprised they hadn’t met sooner via the one of the many serendipitous links between them. But most importantly, says Rose, “our skillsets worked well together – I was more experienced with pop toplining, writing quick hooks, and song structure, and my ear is really strong. He was a super fast engineer, really good with electronic sounds and synthesizers and disco and dance music.”

“But also, just the fact that he wanted to work together was so meaningful for me,” she adds. “We genuinely had fun together – it was something we looked forward to, an escape. It felt really cosmic and super cool and we just kept going.” “one promise” was the first song they finished together, and in the year since, they’ve completed more than a dozen.

As it’s about time began to take shape, Rose says she felt euphoric. “Any experience I had in the past that made me feel jaded or question if I should keep going totally washed away, because I was having so much fun making this music,” she recalls. “People can really get swept up in the idea of what something can become and then so much time passes you don’t get started. I was told that I’m too pop for indie but too indie for pop. Now that’s a whole genre and there’s space for that.”

And Michelle Rose is done waiting. “I want to re-enter the community with a more authentic sense of self than just being passive and longing,” she says. “I could go all these different directions, do whatever’s on my mind. But I want my passion within pop culture to have substance and to be rooted in something I’m creating. It took a lot to reawaken that, but now it feels nothing but honest to be moving into this next chapter.”

Follow Michelle Rose on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

New Chance Blurs Lines Between Digital and Physical Realms with “Two Pictures” Premiere

Photo Credit: Yuula Benivolski

In this digital world, the lines of intimacy and consumption can cross over and over until they blur into a single continuum – especially in the last year or so of global isolation, when millions took to the internet as their only means of connection or meaning. Victoria Cheong of New Chance meditates on the nuanced intersection of physical versus digital, meaningfulness and the meaninglessness in her new video and song, “Two Pictures,” premiering today on Audiofemme. The single will appear on New Chance’s forthcoming record Real Time, out July 16 via We Are Time.

The Toronto-based artist explores her relationship to the outer world by removing herself from it completely. Her face painted in skull makeup, she narrates her observations as w post-Earth version of herself, recounting the way she used to move through the world and the things that stimulated her. She reflects on her connection to the digital realm and the way it shaped her everyday life. “I woke each day to pass through the gate to relate to other people,” Cheong sings over extraterrestrial synths and sparse drums, letting woozy saxophone (courtesy Karen Ng) take over the bridge. Viewing the internet as a gate to an endless web of connection is a perfect way to represent it’s duality; the positivity of connection and closeness mixed with infinite opportunities to spar hate or sadness. 

Cheong explains that “Two Pictures” was inspired in part by social media algorithms. “There’s no meaning between images that follow each other on a feed,” says Cheong. “It’s actually de-stabilizing, because we can’t make meaning between images. Like, if you see someone celebrating someone and the next image is some horrible thing in the world, it’s like, ‘How am I supposed to feel?’”

She juxtaposes this esoteric phenomenon with the concrete sensation of physical touch. “How do we integrate this image culture into the realm of the senses and the realm of how we perceive or how we project and relate?” asks Cheong. When digital and physical intertwine, what does that mean for our relationships, and what if the two become unbalanced? If all of your intimate connections are formed online, you’re missing out on the essential human need of touching and being touched. But in a world where everyone is online, having no digital footprint can feel close to being non-existent to some. 

Cheong’s out-of-body voice contemplates this binary when she sings: “Two pictures/I got stuck in between/I couldn’t tell what either should mean/I knew I had a body/And I knew what it could do/And I could tell it just how to move.” In the wake of algorithmic-fueled confusion, Cheong turns to the simplicity of touch and physical intimacy to ground herself. The observations of her “future self” serve as a sage reminder to find stillness and peace in the things that can’t be found online – the warmth of the sun, a hand to hold, a deep breath.

Follow New Chance on Facebook for ongoing updates.

LIVE REVIEW: Xiu Xiu @ The Chapel

Xiu Xiu, touring with members of Swans’ live ensemble, played SF’s The Chapel on 5/28. Photo by Shomei Tomatsu

“Loner,” Thor Harris murmurs matter-of-factly, temporarily seizing the mic from Xiu Xiu frontman, Jamie Stewart. “Lonerrrrrr.” It’s a fitting accusation to thrust into this particular sea of transfixed eyes, as it’s just about halftime and the notion of being little more than jumbled limbs in a heaving crowd has been hastily forgotten. Not long after Xiu Xiu’s sonic slink into the ether, the average schmuck is far too agog to notice the quivering mass of those that are surely sweating on arms and breathing on necks. No, we’ve collectively embraced a healthy dose of social apathy, and we’ve got Stewart’s yowling to thank for it. So when Harris calls out for the loner, we silently respond en masse. Of course, he’s simply reading the first few lines of “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy,” the fifth track off of Xiu Xiu’s latest album, Girl with Basket of Fruit. But it feels as if he’s addressing each one of us directly, rubbed raw by Stewart’s aching bellows and the throbbing bassline of guest bassist Christopher Pravdica, best known as the longstanding bassist of Swans.

The Chapel (a former funeral home in the San Francisco Mission District) possesses the warmth and coloring of an internal organ. Indeed, the Suspiria-red walls fractured by Blue Velvet-hued lighting creates the sort of glow one might discover if they were to slip through a pulmonary artery. However, Xiu Xiu appear to be right at home. They graciously open with perhaps their most well-known song, “I Luv the Valley OH!” and Stewart ensures that that shriek of an OH! is just as gloriously cathartic as it is on the recorded track. Following this nod to their 2004 album, Fabulous Muscles, the trio eagerly launches into their latest, including the aforementioned “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy” (sadly performed without the intoxicating vocal contributions of lyricist Angela Seo), “It Comes Out as a Joke,” “Scisssssssors,” and the album’s namesake track.

Wasting no precious energy on mindless banter between songs, Stewart commits to the performative purge: jumping, jerking, and writhing onstage. His characteristically precarious wail travels from bellowing roar to splitting shriek to curious quack to seductive whisper and back again. In short, the man is seriously well-equipped. The instruments Stewart samples over the course of the show span an equally compelling range (including a slide whistle and what appears to be a makeshift maraca), and his cowbell clanging and cymbal slamming during “It Comes Out as a Joke” is absolutely no nonsense. Thor Harris, Xiu Xiu’s congenial drummer (like Pravdica, known for his work in Swans), also scrambles standard instrumental roleplay. In addition to his spoken word-esque reading of the “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy” (which nonchalantly closes with “And I am kind of a dopey-ass goofball weirdo so I can get why some people don’t like me”), Harris bashes a gong and samples wooden claves. Pravdica, too, is not confined to the bass guitar. One would be remiss to forget his brief affair with those castanets during the encore performance of “Sad Pony Guerilla Girl” (A Promise, 2003).

In pathetic sum, language seemed pretty superfluous by the time I stumbled out of The Chapel, lulled into an awe-bitten, catatonic state. I haven’t even mentioned the lolling lament of “Get Up,” (FORGET, 2017), the absolute blessing of “Clowne Towne” (Fabulous Muscles, 2004), and Stewart’s literal use of snapping scissors as percussive party to the performance of “Scisssssssors.” Fellow affected attendees sucked on cigarettes outside the venue, speechlessness the rule. Given the glaring limitations of the English language, perhaps it is best to refer now to the absurdist bio supplied by Xiu Xiu for their show listing, excerpted from “Ice Cream Truck” on Girl with Basket of Fruit:

“It could be handfuls of reds,” it begins, followed by absurdities that vacillate between the disturbing and the delicious. “It could be mescal in a bottle & baby on a boob, hair dyed blonde for nobody, nobody move.”

It could be that the act of writing this review was an exercise in futility.

It could be that was the best twenty bucks I ever spent.

PLAYING DETROIT: Krissy Booth Shares Eye-Opening Single “Lose Sleep With You”

After releasing her entirely self-produced experimental pop album, VIVID, in 2015, Detroit-based songstress Krissy Booth has fully transitioned to the bright side of pop with her single “Lose Sleep With You.” Where VIVID is built on dark warbly bass and the pain of a bad breakup, “Lose Sleep With You” shows Booth in a completely different light, embracing the bubbly optimism of pop music.

Part of the song’s uplifting aura comes from its subject matter — a whimsical whirlwind romance built around a love for nightlife. “I had just ended an on and off again sort of relationship that was very safe,” says Booth. “I got on bumble, started talking to a guy, and we met later that week and had this wild adventure… I felt really alive after being so sad.” Booth’s reinvigorated outlook on romance is made evident through her whipping vocal line that mirrors the heart spikes induced by a new crush.

Booth’s buoyant vocals are paired with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus drummer John Espy’s booming pop production. The match-up is Booth’s first full collaboration with another artist and brings her closer to mainstream pop’s center. However, the epicenter of pop is where Booth feels most comfortable anyhow. “The music I make feels true to who I am and I’m super proud of it,” says Booth, “It’s pop, I love pop music, and I love electronic music.”

Listen to “Loose Sleep With You” below.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Galen Tipton Sparkles on First LP Nightbath

As the dusk of May began to fall on Ohio, I discovered fireflies. The first time I saw them, flickering across my cobbled neighborhood street, my overjoyed reaction made my roommate laugh: pointing and squealing like a kid, I couldn’t get over the shock of them, the way that they zipped through the air, appearing as their lights turned on, and disappearing as they turned off. In California, I had dreamed of fireflies as a string of lanterns–as lazy, hazed orbs. But these fireflies were not like that at all; instead, it felt as though the air had gifted me with a thousand miniature spontaneous combustions.

Listening to Galen Tipton’s Nightbath feels like finding fireflies – the same rush of surprise comes to me as I listen to Tipton manipulate sounds, pushing and pulling elements so that, like the fireflies’ lights, they appear and disappear with heady energy. Tipton produced the entire album electronically, and I struggle to describe what they’ve produced with enough detail to match their accomplishment. Each sound used seems to be intimately crafted, as though in the making of the album, Tipton has blown thousands of glass balls, only to set them loose to smash against each other. The crafted quality, while difficult to describe, is also what makes the album compelling–each sequence of sounds brings with it the imprint of human design along with otherworldly effect. On Nightbath, Tipton has set up a carefully designed Rube Goldberg machine. One musical movement triggers another, and doubles of familiar sounds are tweaked to make them slightly new again. They walk a tricky line: if the sounds ring too close to home, they’ll come off as uncanny; too far, and they’ll lose any human context.

The record’s opening track, “endless black,” pours out in a rush of twinkling notes and scuttling, lurching beats. “I just feel everything, all the time,” a distorted voice says, about 2/3rds through the track. I feel that too–but on “endless black,” information overload, in the form of overlapping sounds, feels sorted. Likewise, on the album’s title track, Tipton builds an initially simple melody with layer upon layer of newly introduced sounds, recklessly changing the rhythm, tone, and octave throughout. But the song never feels like an onslaught. Moments of oasis, when layers peel back to reveal quiet, melodic beauty, serve as stepping stones throughout the track, leading the listener forward through the spinning sound elements.

Other songs, like “mutant,” featuring Atlas Moe, Tripp Fontane, T5UMUT5UMU, and Junior Astronaut, make me giddy. The song starts off with a syncopated, squealing beat, before a sound like the patter of footsteps on tin ushers the listener into a sequence of escalating pulses. After the pulses drop, shined, xylophone-like sounds spill into melody; it feels, only forty-six seconds in, as though while listening to the song I’ve parted the curtain into an alternate, brightly washed universe, where sounds as disparate as spooky Halloween effects and eating fruit on a beach make sense in tandem.

With Nightbath, Tipton has revealed the multi-modality of their talents: along with mixing and mastering the entire album, Tipton created all of the project’s artwork. But they are, above all else, a master conductor. Nightbath juggles fifteen collaborations throughout, mixing voices from Columbus’ electronic community, artists from Tipton’s label, DESKPOP, and featured artists and producers from around the world. It’s a testament to Tipton’s talent for composition that the album was even puzzled together. Yet Nightbath is an album invested both in small-scale craft and large-scale coherence, and, despite the number, each collaboration truly brings something new and needed.

The collaborations, too, reveal Tipton’s apparent interest in music as community; nine of the featured artists are, like Tipton, queer and non-binary. These partnerships have paid off: Nightbath succeeds as a multi-faceted sound project because each facet works in harmony. If handled poorly, I imagine that this album might have exhausted itself by introducing too many combative elements. But, while the project is clearly grounded in Tipton’s engineering, Nightbath treats each collaborative sequence as integral to the overall vision. As a result, the listener is not barraged by fighting sounds; rather, the sensation of listening to Tipton’s music feels much like taking in an elaborately woven tapestry. It’s a sensation representative of the lineage Nightbath comes from: experimental albums made by trans artists who specialize in manipulating sound.

Photo courtesy of Galen Tipton

Most remarkable, I think, is that you don’t need to forget about the crafting of Nightbath for it to be fun. Listening to the release for the first time, part of my glee came from marveling at the largeness of the music, at its unrelenting dips, inclines, and switchback. But the album also just makes me want to dance. It’s hard to listen without squirming in your seat, itching to realize the possibilities for movement folded into each beating sequence. There is something to be said, too, about what expansive music can do to a body: how it can unlock new ways to move, to travel, to understand oneself.

Summer in Ohio has been a surprise in many ways: I didn’t expect the rot, or the thunderstorms; the thickly humid air, or the sparkle of anticipation that comes before lightning. I didn’t expect surprise to feel good, either. But it does–I’m treasuring the shock of new seasons, and of new plants and bugs. There is freeness in feeling that any corner could bring wonder.

Back when I first saw fireflies, my roommate and I chased them in the cool evening air. He tried to show me how to catch one, fitting one cupped hand against the other. I failed each time I tried. This is what I’m learning in these high summer days: things don’t need to be contained to be felt. Surprise, when left expansive, can be difficult to share. But I am energized by the joy I hold secretly inside myself. Listening to Nightbath, I am struck by the way that it, too, resists my cupped hands. This resistance, the difficulty I have fitting my feelings about the album into words, is what will keep me going back to it.

Nightbath Is available via DESKPOP records. Stream the full album here:

For disclosure purposes: Kaiya Gordon’s poem “Roleplay as a Body” will be included in a zine released by DESKPOP to accompany Nightbath.

PLAYING DETROIT: Whateverfest Brings Detroit’s Disparate Music Scenes Together

When you think about music festivals, it’s easy to picture giant stages, overcrowded drink lines, and teenagers in various species of headwear. Whateverfest – an all-genre, all-ages DIY festival based in Detroit – is pretty much the opposite of that. Born from a “what if” conversation between friends in 2011, Whateverfest has grown from a few bands occupying every apartment in the Hyesta building to over 40 bands, spanning nearly every genre, playing at the Tangent Gallery. This Saturday, May 12th, the fest is returning for its eighth year and is set to go from 12 pm to 6 am the next day.

The fest’s lineup includes a vast array of Michigan bands as well as acts from Toronto (Rooftop Love Club), Chicago (Aathee Records), and Indianapolis (Gwendolyn Dot). One of the original festival organizers, Soph Sapounas, says that the event’s musical diversity comes from the laissez-faire ethos indicated by its moniker. “Whoever wants to play plays,” says Sapounas. “We’re all just trying to have a good time – it’s whatever. That [word] starts getting thrown around a little too much on the day of but it’s okay.”

Though the organizers strive to be as inclusive as possible, the festival’s popularity attracts a slew of submissions every year, which the team reviews in a democratic fashion. They host listening parties and make sure that the roster of artists performing represents the city as a whole. “We want to be a platform for artists and musicians in Detroit in general. Not just for rock, not just for techno – we want to include all of it,” says Sapounas. “That’s one of the things that keeps recurring, is people telling me that they think it’s really cool to see all the different scenes here and everyone having a good time together and not having that cool kid standoff.”

With groups like Spaceband (a nine-piece experimental funk collective), Ex American (new age electronic), and a handful of techno artists holding down the late-night sessions, the festival undoubtedly reps staple genres Detroit is known for and everything in between. If you’re in or around Detroit, this fest is more than worth checking out. If not, check out some of the amazing under-the-radar artists below – I’m betting they’re more eclectic than your Discover Weekly playlist.

PREMIERE: Lillian Frances, Timeism EP

Lillian Frances rolls with the punches. When she developed tendonitis, losing the ability to play guitar, she knew it was time for a shift musically. Her resulting sophomore EP Timeism is light-hearted romp on an electronic playground, made for early summer days by the pool.

Like many artists nowadays, Frances is in tune with her image, curating it from the ground up, musically and visually. Her collage artwork features the dishwater blonde amongst flying saucers or carefully placed atop a Polly Pocket toy. It’s this tongue-in-cheek attitude that translates easily to sound, displayed openly in tunes like “Netflix + Chill”.

We sat down with Frances to talk about her life in Davis, California, finding inspiration in Death Valley and how Spanish speaks poetry in a way English never could.

AF: I have to start out with a strange question: Is Lillian Frances your given name or your stage moniker? A google search brought up Lillian Frances Smith, a Wild West sharpshooter, so I was curious.

LF: I love that google tells you that. My middle name is actually Frances, and my real name is Lillian. So BAM! I’d say one in eight people tell me their grandma is named Lillian. Which is nice because I feel like I’ve already made a good first impression with them.

AF: Definitely a good first impression (#GrandmaStatusUnlocked). You grew up in Davis, California and you currently live there. Can you give us a little glimpse into life in Davis?

LF: You probably already know Davis because your cousin’s best friend studied agriculture there. But Davis is really a quaint town. Bike capital of the US. Surrounded by fields and farmland and we get the BEST tomatoes in the summertime. There’s not a huge music scene, but there are tons of students so the demand for music is always there—it’s just not really concentrated anywhere. We’re also right next to Sacramento, which has a much doper music scene.

AF: When did you first show an interest in making music?

LF: Apparently I was singing when I was two. And when I was a kid I would have my musician uncle notate music with me on the piano. I would love to find that sheet music now! So I’ve always sung, and picked up the guitar in high school. I started writing my own songs in college, and recording at my student-run recording studio.

In 2014 I saw Sylvan Esso perform at the Make Music Pasadena festival, and lost my gourd. I loved it. And standing in the crowd I was like… that looks like the most fun thing I could possibly do and that is what I am going to do. So after I graduated college I went to music production school at the Beat Lab Academy in LA, and I’ve been honing my craft ever since!

AF: Tell us about a song like “Bailamos con el humo.” Where does the song begin? Do you start with a beat, a melody, lyrics?

LF: Dang, where did that song start? I was just messing around making beats and playing with melodies. Collaging my sounds, you know. Basically anything I make that sounds good is an accident. I never go out to make a particular sound. I focus on experimentation, and eventually something sounds good or interesting, which to me are basically the same thing. So for “Bailamos con el humo,” when I ended pulling it all together it just hit. And I loved the melody.

Then I went to Death Valley with some friends for New Years. It was so beautiful. On New Year’s Day we all took acid and walked into the canyons surrounding the valley, and had a really fun and intimate experience with mother nature/each other. That sunset, as we walked out of the canyon, we watched the full moon sail out from behind the mountain, illuminating the world. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.

That night we danced around the campfire and smoked weed and just jammed out. I felt so full of life and love and new energy. When I came home, the lyrics immediately tumbled out, and matched that melody I had been working on. And I wanted to write it in Spanish because it felt more poetic to me. There’s a line in the song that goes “my name in cursive, escapes from your lips,” —which is how I imagine my name is spoken when someone really knows and cares for me. And for me, hearing Spanish feels like listening to cursive. So it just matched the vibe.

AF: You recently participated in NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert competition. What was that process like?

LF: The process is me hitting up my homie and going “Let’s make a video” and him going “Down!” So we just set up shop in my bedroom and recorded a session of me performing “Phone Keys Wallet.” The sun was shining through my window at just the right angle, illuminating my sequin jacket and turning me into a human disco ball. It was better than we could have planned! It’s my second time participating in the contest. It’s been an great experience, and I’ve made a lot of connections in the local music scene through my submission and by watching others. I already have two shows set up with people I met from the contest.

AF: “Phone Keys Wallet” is about you getting tendonitis and losing the ability to play guitar. Did your music change drastically in terms of story/tone as you shifted into the electronic space?

LF: Yes, absolutely. I think my story changed because I was just at a different place in my life and was experiencing different things. But in terms of tone, oh yeah. I had this whole new palette of colors I had never had before. The vibe is super different, it’s so hard to compare!

Electronic music lets me tell the story I want to tell a little more precisely. You immerse the audience in truly any world you want to imagine. That allows me to be very specific with the vibe and energy I want to invite the listener into. With an acoustic guitar… it’s always gonna sound like an acoustic guitar. I mean, in its unprocessed state, of course.

AF: I love the collages on your Instagram. How does visual art impact your songwriting?

LF: I am always fishing through magazines, cutting out images, and scanning them into my computer. Then I edit them in photoshop. The way I approach visual art is similar to music production. Because I’m not necessarily a trained artist in any sense of the word, and I can’t draw or paint with precision, or just play any instrument I touch, I rely on collaging to create these visions and textures and concepts that I wouldn’t normally be able to articulate.

In Ableton (the music production software I use), I can paste together and manipulate all these sounds to get a really unique soundscape, and I’m not held back by my lack of, say, bass skills. It’s the same with collaging—I get to use pretty pictures other people have taken—and give them a new life.

AF: What artists do you have on rotation right now? Any up-and-comers we should be aware of?

LF: Currently jamming out to Kali Uchis. I literally have not stopped listening to Isolation since it was released a couple weeks ago. Been listening to a lot of Milo lately. I heard his song “Souvenir” and it felt like a little puzzle piece slipped into my body I hadn’t realized was missing. Billie Eilish. All day every day.

AF: Do you have any plans to tour in the immediate future?

LF: I’ve got a lot of upcoming shows in the Sacramento and Bay Area, and then mid June I jump off to Spain for the summer, so my live shows in the US will be on hold… but we’ll see what I get into overseas. I’ll be doing the summer festival scene next summer, though!

Lillian Frances’ new EP Timeism is out May 4th. 

PLAYING DETROIT: Rowan Niemisto Releases “Gradient” EP

Detroit artist Rowan Niemisto has only been producing solo work for a year or so, but he’s already got two EPs and a handful of stand-alone singles under his belt. His latest EP Gradient dropped November 30th, written, recorded and produced entirely on his own. Niemisto deserves some serious props for being able to do it all – and make it sound good. Gradient is an ethereal fusion of soul, jazz and electronica that brings a modern approach to ancient themes of love, loss and nostalgia.

The four-song EP starts with “Without Trying,” a catchy breakup anthem that combines soul and synths. Niemisto maintains the simplistic lyrics and hooky melodies found in classic soul while adding heavy electronic elements that bring the song to present-day. The track’s addictive beat and relatable lyrics can make even the most brokenhearted people feel blasé about losing the loves of their lives – at least for four minutes.

Next, Niemisto bares his jazz influence on “Behave,” a sexy plea to keep a loved one. “I don’t want nobody but you,” could easily trigger an eyeroll if received in the form of a text from the everyday playboy; however, delivered in Niemisto’s sultry vocals, the generally overused line feels genuine and somewhat irresistible. He’s not reinventing the wheel by any means, but paying sweet homage to old-school R&B and jazz with silky falsettos and bluesy electric guitar.

“Behave” is followed by “Flips,” a modern, dreamy track where the listener is invited into Niemisto’s stream of consciousness. Minimalist, vacillating guitar is accompanied by the distant laughter of children, suggesting Niemisto’s yearning for a simpler time. He repeats “Tell me you’ll stay/Say you love me,” in an almost ritualistic way, making his trance-like state contagious.

After these lofty heights, we fall back to earth with “Honeymoon,” the EP’s grounding final track. The song reflects on the inevitable end of infatuation – something that anyone who’s ever been in relationship longer than two months can relate to. Niemisto sings, “I keep hoping that time won’t change us/I liked it better when we were strangers” – an arrestingly honest to capture the loss of a spark. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like Niemisto’s passion for making music will fade anytime soon.

ONLY NOISE: Aural Anesthesia

Last year, before the presidential election tore through the fabric of reality like Dr. Who’s Tardis, a friend invited me to indulge in her Groupon – for a float. “Floating” aka “Flotation Therapy,” is a physically simple practice achieved by resting your naked self atop a highly concentrated saline solution. The super salty pool (upwards of 1,000 pounds of salt for just a bath’s amount of tepid water) suspends your bod like a buoy, and allegedly alleviates you of any tactile sensation. Though comprised of rudimentary ingredients, this spa trend can cost exorbitant prices ($75-$130 per “float”) when paired with mood lighting and Pandora’s “Enya radio.”

But what is the purpose of Flotation Therapy? The answer might be found in the treatment’s other name: the “Sensory Deprivation Tank.” Aside from sounding like the title of a Ken Russell film, the name taps into a deeper human longing than relaxation: the desire to feel nothing. Sure the tank suggests the separation of mind and body, spinal alignment, and even hallucinations. Benefits of a good “float” nod at the metaphysical – spiritual transcendence that can be accomplished by many trips to the tank over a period of time – but it was the nothingness I was most intrigued by (in part because I don’t believe in spiritual transcendence).

“Numbness” and “nothingness” are concepts more foreign to me than “health insurance” and “good credit.” Truthfully, I’ve always felt all the feelings; and if there’s one thing I’ve never felt, it’s nothing. I can’t help but wonder – if there’s a new age miracle treatment for feeling that boils down to a well-lit, salty bath – could music conjure a similar absence of stimulation…or better: emotion?

For music to negate feeling would be a true feat of inversion, like a baker un-baking bread. Music was made for emoting; it’s an especially potent dialect of emotional language that can make us dance to songs we think are crap and cry during trite commercials. But is there a song in existence capable of evoking the anti-feels? If so, I am desperate to find it.

Just as I was skeptical of the tank’s pledge of “sensory deprivation,” I doubted I could find a song, let alone an entire record, that would act as an aural anesthetic, an antidote to pop’s poisonous love songs, rap’s wrath, and disco’s boogie. But despite my suspicion, I knew right where to start looking: the ambient soundscape. After all, what better to numb ourselves with than the a-rhythmic, a-melodic wanderings of the ambient-electronic canon? I set myself up for a series of highly subjective, uncontrolled tests after a period of distress when even listening to the new Harry Styles single would make me weep (and not because it’s bad).

I first selected a couple of records – my “test drugs.” Then, during a moment of particularly intense emotion, I would pop one of my pills and see what happened. The first tablet to swallow was William Basinski’s groundbreaking Disintegration Loops. In making this four-album saga, Basinski recorded fragments of ambient music through a tape loop that captured the gradual deterioration of the tape itself – the subtle corrosion of the magnetic strip barely audible, but somehow still palpable to the listener. The result is a somnolent meditation on repetition, impermanence, and decay. It is a beautiful and delicate work that could probably benefit someone with insomnia, but that wasn’t exactly my problem. Sure, “somnolent meditation” and delicate beauty sound all good and anesthetizing, but then I thought about it a bit more: the Disintegration Loops are literally the sound of something (though tape) dying. Dying is sad. Sad is an emotion. Next.

Surely I could turn to my trusty No Wave hero Glenn Branca for a good shot of sonic Novocain – he doesn’t even believe in melody! I swallowed the eccentric composer’s 1981 album The Ascension like a fistful of Advil, and awaited its sweet relief. Unfortunately, The Ascension goes down a bit differently when you’re having an off day, and though I’m all for aggressive music, the record should perhaps be labeled thus:

“Side effects of listening to The Ascension during a period of emotional distress may include: discordant notes, furious drumming, agitation, crashing synth-cymbals, blood-boiling rage, satanic distortion, terror, and face melting guitar solos.”

I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks. William Basinski was too soft. Glenn Branca, too hard. Where was my happy medium? And by happy medium, I mean complete and utter nothingness.

I trudged through countless artists; Michael Gordon, Nils Frahm, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Oneohtrix Point Never – each sound, though wildly unconventional, still managed to stoke that pesky human defect: feeling. I was about to call it quits on my quest…and then I remembered his name.

Steve. Reich. If I had taken in Basinski and Branca like vitamins, maybe it was time to inject myself with Reich’s 1976’s masterpiece Music For 18 Musicians. Reich has long been a pioneer of minimal music, and it’s silly I didn’t turn to his catalog for my little experiment sooner. Could his compositions truly make me comfortably numb?

The answer, at long last, was yes. I had found the song to feel nothing to.

Music For 18 Musicians, though technically an album, really functions as an unyielding 59-minute song. Its continuous nature (there isn’t one breath of silence in the entire record) is necessary for optimal catharsis, because while music is the space between the notes, those spaces can destroy you. Space allows for thought, and thought is no damn good when you’re trying to sedate emotion. Music For 18 Musicians on the other hand, is so relentless, so packed with notes, that your brain is constantly trying to keep up with them, and has no capacity for wandering thought. Perfect.

When looking into the history of Music For 18 Musicians, I found that Reich was inspired by Psychoacoustics, which is the scientific study of our psychological and physiological response to sound (noise, speech, and music). Knowing this I feel a bit less nutty for reacting in such an intense way to Reich’s piece. Perhaps he wanted to offer the ability to momentarily transcend sentiment in the same way Flotation Therapy seeks to transcend sensation. Maybe more than an aural anesthetic, Music For 18 Musicians is an antibiotic, obliterating the good and bad bacteria simultaneously, destroying all cells in its path. Like a natural disaster, it has no emotional motive; its dense mass is purely self-perpetuating.

Aside from being the anthem for neutrality, I must say: Music For 18 Musicians is also the best break-up record of all time – if you’re actually trying to get over the break-up, that is. Trust me, I’ve tried all the others, and a year ago my heartbreak playlist would be wildly different. I’ve bathed in Muddy Waters and drank Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” I’ve anointed myself with Nick Cave’s rage and drowned myself in the cold cruelty of Smog. But all they’re good for is salting the wound. Now, I don’t want a Hank Williams Band-Aid… I want a Steve Reich IV drip.

So what do you do when you’ve found the perfect drug? Get it approved by the FDA, patent it, and stock up. But the problem with any medication is twofold. Firstly, the effects wear off after a while, and secondly, you tend to build up a tolerance. Sure, the flotation tank and Steve Reich can suspend you in salty and sonic pools of beautiful nothingness – they can even eviscerate the pain for a whole hour. But what do you do for the remaining twenty-three, when you can’t be naked in a bath or listening to music? I guess therein lies the real experiment.

PLAYING DETROIT: Mother Cyborg Teases Debut LP

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shot for MetroTimes
Mother Cyborg by Ara Howrani

For Diana Nucera, a.k.a Mother Cyborg, it’s been a long time coming. Her long-awaited debut album Pressure Systems drops this week, and based on the two teaser singles “Earth Dreams” and “3souled Women” we are all wildly ill prepared (but so ready) for the journey.

Cerebral and enlightened, Nucera gifts us with an odyssey via invisible waves of transmission. “Earth Dreams” is, in many ways, an out-of-body experience as Mother Cyborg poses question after question after existential observation; “What will you do/With the information you’ve found/When you realize what you’ve been/what’ve you’ve seen/and how you’ve lived your life thus far?” The percussive synths trip and tumble, mimicking the dance of electricity across wires. The droning key buried in the background could easily be the sound of the mothership approaching. Nucera’s digital fortress is lush, refined, and made all the more omnipotent with her breathy, foreground vocals and sonic exoskeleton.

“3souled Women” is a different beast, entirely. Though still maintaining an atmospheric awareness, Mother Cyborg races here, an unassuming ode to light speed. More erratic than the serene dazzle of “Earth Dreams,” “3souled Women” mimics the sizzle of wires being clipped and fused while administering an intravenous dose of whatever mythical drug makes Earth more easily inhabitable to an extraterrestrial. “Could I pass as your human?” she challenges. “Would you take advantage?/Make your life worth more than mine?” Mother Cyborg does not ask for validation or for permission. Instead, she consistently presents us with a warning disguised as a question for which there is no clear answer. And for that, Mother Cyborg is perhaps more human than the rest of us.

Mother Cyborg plays her album release party at Detroit’s El Club on 4/29 at 8pm.

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LIVE REVIEW: The Radio Dept. @ Union Transfer


Swedish dream-pop outfit The Radio Dept. has long been revered for combining a mellow haze and hypnotic beats since forming in 2001. Live, this translates to a singular live experience that hits somewhere between being stress-free and imaginatively demanding. Their U.S. tour in support of Running Out of Love (which came out in October of last year via Labrador Records after long delays due to legal battles with the label) kicked off in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day, and proved to be a  thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable show.

A former baggage depot in Callowhill, Union Transfer was a fun change from the packed NYC locales I’m used to. It’s intimate and architecturally dramatic but still has a casual feel, with quick, friendly bouncers and a no-alchohol-on-the-floor policy that limits both excessive drunkenness and the nightmare of getting beer sloshed all over your shoes – perfect for Radio Dept. and their meditative set.

The band took to the stage quietly but began with a bang, playing a few songs from Running Out of Love, which has a more steady, rhythmic and electronic focus than a lot of their past music. This branching out of their comfort zone brought the album critical acclaim, but the new material wasn’t their only concentration on stage. The show featured plenty of old crowd favorites from the 2006’s Pet Grief and 2003 debut Lesser Matters, as well as their last proper full-length, Clinging to a Scheme, released in 2010. “David” and “Heaven’s On Fire,” both from Clinging to a Scheme, seemed to be big crowd-pleasers, while “Death to Fascism,” a single released in 2014, saw the band at its most exciting and dovetailed nicely with the subtle political messages on Running Out of Love.

With its impressive treble and the infectious robotic call of “Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!” (Croatian for “Death to fascism, freedom to the people”), the single had sparked new interest  in the band after a four year hiatus. Fans had shouted out its request all evening, and while it is doubtful that the heckling had much to do with its eventual delivery, the crowd’s hunger for this song seemed directly tied to the current American political climate. The band spoke through the messages in the music, rather than offering political speeches – frontman Johan Duncanson only spoke between songs to say “thank you” and “thank you very much.” He attributed this “shyness” to the fact that it was their first show on the U.S. leg of their tour. This quietness was reflective of the calm and repetitive motions of the music, a parallel I could certainly respect.

Everyone on stage – even frontman Duncanson – played multi-instrumentalist, switching between bass, percussion and synths. Even though every song had some pre-recorded element (due to the band’s electronic nature) there was a lot of power in the live aspects. The guitar parts were especially rousing; after various intensely rhythmic openings with limited or specific melodies, the guitar and vocals would break in and remind us that The Radio Dept. always tends to its dreamy qualities. There’s something plainly stunning about the combination of more dance-like beats and echoing, fuzzy shoegaze.

The high energy instrumentals from Running Out of Love were significant in keeping the audience from falling into a mesmerized daze. There was plenty of dancing to go with that mesmeric feeling and, although it was disjointed and varied from person to person (a couple basically dirty dancing on side of the floor, a fantastic bald man with glasses and a wool sweater with some incredibly unique and memorable moves, clearly in his own little world, on the other), there was a general agreement with the flow and mood of the music. Everyone bobbed their heads in some kind of unison.

At the heart of this performance was the inexplicable ease to the band’s sound. The songs were layered and complex, but they were effortlessly organic on stage. This contributed more to the natural ambience: heavy-lidded eyes and loose limbs. Buried somewhere in that was a covert political criticism of Sweden that unfortunately applies to the U.S. as well. Closing out with pop-forward “Swedish Gun” single, the clubby “Teach Me to Forget,” and the ominous “Occupied,” all from Running Out of Love, served as a reminder that dancing and resistance are not mutually exclusive.

The Radio Dept. close out their tour with two shows in New York, at Bowery Ballroom March 8 and Music Hall of Williamsburg March 9; the rest of the dates are listed here.

EP REVIEW: Black Heart “Alekto” (Remix EP)

Black Heart ALEKTO Cover

Black Heart is the creation of Vienna, Austria-based solo artist Corina Cinkl. Proving women can do it all (obviously) Cinkl writes, performs, and produces all of the dark pop herself. For her latest project, “Alekto” (Remix EP) she calls in the powers of fellow witchy-woman and skilled producer Vanessa Irena of Knifesex and long-time collaborator Normotone. Released December 21, the three-track remix EP creates a seductive concoction of dark wave and post punk, laced together with ethereal electronic spell work. Immaculately produced and carried with Cinkl’s haunting vocals, “Alekto” (Remix EP) is as ideal of a soundtrack for a long drive through the fog as it is for performing sex magic.

Calm your own black heart with “Alekto” (Remix EP) below. It’s music so powerful you’ll be able to blast straight through Mercury retrograde unharmed with this on repeat.

PLAYING DETROIT: Zoos of Berlin “Instant Evening”


It’s been three years since Detroit’s sonically poignant pioneers of quietly turbulent indie rock, Zoos of Berlin, last full-length release. Earlier this month, Collin Dupuis, Will Yates, Matthew Howard, Daniel I. Clark and Trevor Naud returned with an open door and a detour. An oceanic space dive, bridging the waters and atmospheric distances between way up and deep down, Instant Evening is a mystifying abstraction and a perilously purifying journey that renounces gravity in the same breath from which it praises it. The band is asking us to pretend that this is their first record which would displace 2013’s pleasantly unstable Lucifer in the Rain and their airily sedated debut record Taxis from 2009. But maybe they’re right to ask this of us. After all, what Zoos of Berlin has masterfully achieved with Instant Evening is the aural embodiment of time lapsed and time stopped and in several cases time reversed. A transcendental escapist mirror of the self and the whole, Zoos latest, first record is a new language in a native voice.

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Their emblematic cadence is more well-rounded here, more complete as assisted by their collective patient tonality and fluid melodic velocity. There are comparable moments to the likes of Belle and Sebastian, LCD Soundsystem and most notably the late David Bowie’s final opus Black Star, but the comparisons aren’t a distraction as they usually tend to be. In fact, what makes Instant Evening an instant “yes” is its commitment to not only sound but to its deeply personal and uniquely porous temperament and languish whimsy. The opening track “Rush at the Bend” is an upbeat whirling dervish that uncorks the intent of the record, a gentle tug and ripping of the seams. The delicate balancing of layers within layers never feels thick or overthought. Case and point, “Spring from the Cell” an echoey and deliberate lamination of vocal harmonies, twinkling prom-night synths and dreamy acoustics. As the album progresses, the sensationalized belief that night is approaching grows apparent. “A Clock Would Never Tell” is a parade processional love song that begs to come in from the dark and the cold and leads shortly into “Always Fine with Orphan” a glittering and robust longing-for-summer anthem that manages to braid melancholy with pleasant memories of making love under the sun. We are left with the orbit-less “North Star on the Hill” which poetically stands alone on the record. Like hands missing each other in the night, gracing only fingertips before the invisible tethers pull and draw them apart, the albums closer is unassuming in its heartbreak. A swallowing of stars and a ghost caress, Instant Evening ends with an ellipsis.

Listen to the full stream below:




“Come Around” is a song that celebrates that rare friendship you consider yourself lucky to have, if you can find one like it at all; someone who’s always there for you, wherever they happen to actually be at the moment. That’s the situation the GEMOLOGY duo found themselves in when they composed “Come Around,” with singer/songwriter Joanie Wolkoff living in Brooklyn and producer/instrumentalist Natasha Chitayat in Los Angeles. They started the project after being stuck together in a recording studio during a rainstorm, and though there’s a whole continent between them now, they haven’t let that diminish their friendship or their sound. They describe their process as writing together “through the digital ether,” which is reflected in lines like “I get my heart worked up every time you dial.” 

Propelled by synths and layered in a shimmery haze, “Come Around” is a reassuring burst of warmth. The track opens with a chiming melody that settles into a steady beat for Wolkoff’s voice to float over and takes its time opening up, adding layers and themes before ending with a soft whisper. 

TRACK REVIEW: Gunslinger “All of Your Life”


Light up your day with the electrifying new single, “All of Your Life,” from Gunslinger.

This anthemic house track has everything you look for in an electronic piece: tons of synths, bass drops that get your heart racing, and upbeat jams that make you feel like you’re on a musical journey. In addition to personal inspiration, Gunslinger also utilized the Infected Mushroom “I Wish” plugin as an aid in producing this single. If you’re bummed about missing them at Burning Man last year, keep an eye out because you might be able to catch them at an upcoming show.

PLAYING DETROIT: Humons “Underneath”

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Photo by Andrew Amine & design by Ellen Rutt

“Dream house” voyager Ardalan Sedghi is Humons, a kinetically electrified project whose atomic beats swell in “Underneath” the debut single from the Spectra EP due out this fall. Although Sedghi isn’t entirely new blood on the scene, “Underneath” delivers a freshness that rises with a palpable and cosmic humidity and is best experienced with hips magnetically fused to someone else’s: a symbiotic gravity grind.

Although Humons is technically one huMAN it can’t be ignored that the seamless production is a vital component as to why “Underneath” works as a living, breathing, pulsating soundscape and not just a party jam at a hazy house party in Southwest. Produced and mixed by mastermind Jon Zott at the Assemble Sound studios, the track lends itself to explore various abstractions. Consider an animated sci-fi journey riding the tail of a comet or a microscopic view of anatomical fascinations like blood cells bumping against artery walls, fighting illness or a time-lapse of vultures picking apart a freshly deceased roadside meal. Mixing staccato guitar with clashing synths and clapping wave-to-shore-like drum machine beats gives Sedghi’s breathy, minimalist vocals space to float. What this track masterfully accomplishes is its “choose your own adventure” vibe. It can be sad and brooding if that’s what you need or it can be your sexually ravenous anthem. Either way, “Underneath” ushers us from Summer to Fall and into territory undisclosed.

Get spacey with Humons latest below:

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TRACK OF THE WEEK: Black Marble “Iron Lung”


Black Marble is music for outsiders,” Chris Stewart, the project’s creator said in a recent Facebook post expressing mixed feelings about releasing a new song in such a tumultuous time. “Iron Lung” is the first track Black Marble has released since the 2012 EP A Different Arrangement; The Brooklyn synth-wave artist’s upcoming album, It’s Immaterial, is coming out September 30 via Ghostly International.

“Iron Lung” does have an outsider quality to it- Stewart’s vocals sound like they come from the shadows, obscured by darkness. I can’t help being reminded of New Order’s “Ceremony” while listening to the track, as they share similar qualities that draw me in: A driving dance beat with repetitive, stair-step guitar riffs, and the bittersweet feeling of hope mixed with inevitability. “Iron Lung” inverses the formula, though, creating something that leans slightly more to the positive side, with just a hint of darkness. Toward the end of the song Stewart breaks the form altogether with a classical-tinged organ bridge. It adds a “light at the end of the tunnel” quality to the song that works perfectly.

Preorder It’s Immaterial here, and listen to “Iron Lung” below.

TRACK OF THE WEEK: Psychic Twin “Lose Myself”


Erin Fein is a twin, but only to herself. Though she started as a solo recording artist, there’s a ghostly presence to her music, created with additional layers of her own vocals and melodies that seem to have a life of their own. While developing her music, she was “as overcome with the surreal but persistent feeling she was writing and recording with her twin.” So, she named her project Psychic Twin.

“Lose Myself” is the lead single from the upcoming album Strange Diary, out September 9 via Polyvinyl. Fein’s vocals have a floating quality, while the beat of the song mirrors an anxious heartbeat, or the steady pace of a runner. It feels like Fein is chasing something just out of reach, a shadow that is only visible as it slips around a corner. Her voice gets more and more desperate until the song’s end, as she chants “And when I go farther, I lose myself/ And get over you.” The emotional range of “Lose Myself” makes perfect sense when you learn that Strange Diaries was written as Fein’s marriage ended and she relocated to Brooklyn from Champaign-Urbana; she perfectly captures the bittersweet feeling of moving towards a new life while holding on to the last remnants of the old. 

Pre-order Strange Diaries here, and listen to “Lose Myself” below.

EP PREMIERE: Sam Greens “Rugs”



Premiering today on AudioFemme is Sam Greens’ new EP “Rugs.” In addition to composing his own experimental music, the Philadelphia artist has also worked as an engineer, and produced or mixed for variety of artists including Neef, Tunji Ige, GrandeMarshall, Rome Fortune and Spank Rock. His latest release, the EP “Rugs,” will be released May 13 via Rare MP3s and Grind Select.

My favorite kind of electronic music is the kind where you can’t immediately identify the human behind it. That’s why “Rugs” is so endearing; it sounds like a robot gained sentience but instead of overthrowing the human race, it decided to make some sick beats instead. 

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot of personality. Each track creates a distinct mood, from the celebratory “Soft Rugs” to the tough “SJMZ” (which features guest artist Jonah Baseball). Another local electronic artist, Moon Bounce, contributes soulful vocals on “Annuals,” while “Riding Shotgun” features a catchy refrain with a jazzy background. There’s an underlying, but not overwhelming quirkiness to the five songs. Production is more focused on creating the perfect atmosphere and letting choice elements stand out instead of throwing a million meaningless details into each track, and the result is as interesting as it is chill.

Grind Select focuses on interactive listening experiences, and this EP is no exception. Just follow this link, and you can create a digital drawing that pulses and changes color with the beat of “Soft Rugs.”

Listen to our exclusive stream of Rugs below, and pre-order it here.

EARLY REVIEW: Museyroom “Pearly Whites”

musey AudioFemme


Museyroom is named after a reference from Finnegans Wake, James Joyce’s last book that is widely regarded as having an experimental style meant to “recreate the experience of sleep and dreams.” According to the Brooklyn trio, it describes “a sort of alternate dimension the group would create with its musical output, sonically mirroring an unexplored, variable universe.” 

Like the plot of the book, the band’s upcoming album, Pearly Whites, is elusive but captivating. Their sound seems to exist in two worlds at once, due to the seamless mix of ancient and modern elements. Mournful organ, Victorian-esque keys and harp-like guitar plucking will give way to electronic drums or synth. Long, drawn out harmonies give the feeling that the band is holding on to the past as the floorboards tilt and they’re thrown into the present, while the oohs and aaahs on “Ranger” sound like a haunting by friendly ghosts. They tag themselves with the phrase “future nostalgia,” and rightfully so.

Jack Donovan’s voice has this pleasant, conversational quality to it, making even the gloomiest lyrics sound like they’re not so bad, from his lament about a “miserable routine” on “Ballad” or an experience of being “down on your knees, trying to breathe/ On wet tiles in the bath” on “Sleeper.” Pearly Whites has some ominous undertones, but they’re buried under a haze of soft guitars and gentle melodies; the album is pretty and calm on the surface, but for those who want more, there’s plenty to find if they dive to the bottom. 

Pearly Whites will be available on March 25 via Grind Select. Check out their video for “Ballad” below.



RYAL is Jacque Ryal, an alt-pop artist from San Diego, CA who moved to New York when she was 18. Although her earlier work was considerably darker and drew comparisons to groups such as Portishead, RYAL has challenged herself to write songs that were both optimistic and timeless on her upcoming release.

Though her new music aspires to be happier, I sense the same longing in the song “Wish” as I feel everyday from November to April: What happened to summer? Why did summer have to go away? It helps that the track invokes a trip to the beach; along with producer Aaron Nevezie, she’s created a bouncy, but focused beat with splashes of tropical guitar and synths that will have you missing the good days when the sun didn’t set before 6pm: “We had a good love/ Not just a summer fling…I miss you bad when the sun falls on to its knees.” Her words capture the bittersweetness of a fleeting romance, while the music reflects the brightness and happiness she experienced before she knew it was gone. 

The RYAL EP will be available on February 19, but we have the exclusive stream below.


PLAYING DETROIT: Moonwalks “Lunar Phases”


Few bands are as aptly named as psychedelic Detroit four piece, Moonwalks, whose upcoming release Lunar Phases could act as a wild, yet tailored, road map to uninhabited galaxies and black holes, alike. The band’s first LP, scheduled to release via cassette tape and digital download later this month (MANIMAL Vinyl) is as warm as it is cooly intergalactic and is as 1960’s retro as it is refreshingly modern. Collectively, Jake Dean (guitars/vocals) Kate Gutwald (bass), Kerrigan Pearce (drums) and Tyler Grates (guitar) admit to being moved by the production of old Lee Hazlewood records, which makes sense, considering Lunar Phases has an undeniably sultry, Western-shootout vibe. (If the shootout was between aliens and cowboys, directed by a 90’s Tarantino respectfully.) “We’re becoming more collaborative as a four piece,” says Grates. “When making music, it’s important for me not to consider any influences I have at the time. Anything can sound like everything. However, it’s a little different in the recording process. We all have similar taste but different ideas, so we’re constantly coming up with different landscapes of sound.” More than Brian Jonestown Massacre-esque jam rock moments or sedated Jeffry Lee Pierce vocals, Moonwalks’ sound is the figurative dusting off of something once lost. Like water on Mars, Lunar Phases taps into what you thought you knew, but with an exploratory freshness best suited for lovers of reverb, distortion, and unexpectedly emotive cosmic collisions of past and present.

What is most surprising of their debut LP is the seamless cohesion not only between tracks, but in Moonwalks’ shared cadence, notably in their confidence in letting each instrument/effect have space to swell, breathe, and explode. This is glaringly apparent on vocal-less track “Cream Cheese Ashtray,” a demanding instrumental that gives the aural illusion of bending time; warped but never “off,” askew but never elementary nor hesitant. Delay heavy track, “Painted Lady” (one of two songs named after beloved Detroit bar/venues) is reminiscent of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club minus the cliche hook/verse progression, artfully distorting your notion of what comes next; another example of Moonwalks’ ability to give new life to the already familiar.

Lunar Phases is, for the lack of a better word, mature. The album, a richly dynamic and attentive mosaic just under thirty minutes long, manages to achieve the robust fluidity that most bands don’t find until their second or third release (if at all). With extensive touring planned for the coming year and by the sounds of it, more studio time, too, Moonwalks exudes a completeness but with ample room to morph, grow, and reimagine. “I think were becoming tighter as a band,” Grates explains. “We’re getting more comfortable with playing shows and touring around the country. I think if the four of us weren’t in a band together, we’d still be hanging out all the time.”

While we await the release of Lunar Phases, satisfy your hunger by checking out Moonwalks’ 2014 EP:

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PLAYING DETROIT: Jamaican Queens “Wormfood”


I’m in denial and am disruptively nostalgic at 3am on a Tuesday. While I struggle to retire my sundresses to the back of the closet, this seasonal transition has me hungry for that time a few months ago when I had tan lines and bite marks and could keep my windows open without complaint. My time machine of choice is Jamaican Queens‘ 2013 release, Wormfood. I’ve always considered Jamaican Queens as the “cool” band from Detroit (and what makes them cooler is the fact that I think they would hate that I said that). Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy are Jamaican Queens: the band you wish you were in.

Wormfood captures, though paradoxically, a recklessly hazy lethargy that is exclusive to summer. There is an element of irresponsibility lyrically and in the squeezed and strained arrangements, like taking someone else’s prescription pills or having indiscreet public sex that makes the listener squirm with reflection. Honest and almost self deprecating, Wormfood is pleasantly shameless in its ability to wrestle with love, intimacy, and confessionary party fouls. Reminiscent of MGMT or sometimes Animal Collective, Jamaican Queens take the popular, palatable fuzzy, synth pop/rock aesthetic and knocks it over in slow motion, leaving a sweetly apologetic yet selfish collection of messy songs/feelings in its wake. In the opening track Water,” Spencer admits: “I don’t want to spend time with her friends/I don’t wanna do things for her/I don’t wanna go down on her/I don’t wanna tell you it’s the end/ain’t love a trap/aren’t you a mess/you wear it well.”

There is something achingly personal about Wormfood. It’s that conversation you don’t want to have (but have had). It’s driving drunk, wishing you were straight. There is a hidden sadness that speaks to the strange social pool that Detroit kids find themselves flailing in (and maybe it has nothing to do with geography). It’s like pretending you’re drowning to get attention, even though you can stand comfortably flat footed on the lake floor, head above water. Wormfood represents a bleeding dichotomy between wanting to change and knowing you can’t (or knowing you can but will wait a few years until you get your shit together). Wormfood is a party, start to finish. But not like a ‘90s teen movie house party, rather a party where that girl you sort of know sort of almost died, and where you give yourself a pep talk in a toothpaste splattered bathroom mirror convincing yourself out loud that you’re okay, as demonstrated by the chorus of the closing track “Caitlyn.” “I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry about the earth around you caving in/I’m sorry.” This sincere phrasing comes after the line “I’ve begun to think of love as an impossibility/do you agree?” A perfectly apt pairing of sympathy and complacency, which is what makes this particular collection strangely suited for feeling pieced together carelessly with chewing gum and being unabashedly intoxicated on summer, or in my case, autumnal dreams of the latter.