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.

Kesswa Collabs with Shigeto on MOCAD-Commissioned Short Film “Is My Mind A Machine Gun?”

Photo Credit: Ian Solomon // Makeup: Jay Orellana

Is My Mind a Machine Gun? This is the question vocalist, songwriter and producer Kesiena “Kesswa” Wanogho asks on her latest collaboration with interdisciplinary artist and musician Zach Saginaw, a.k.a Shigeto. The audio/visual experience exemplifies two artists in their rawest, most honest forms, willing to experiment. Released exclusively on January 1st via The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s (MOCAD) brand new media platform, Daily Rush, the film gives the viewer a look inside the minds of the artists and finds chaos, introspection and growth. 

Mantra is at the center of Kesswa’s work. Highlighted by her 2019 EP, Soften, Kesswa has an inherent ability for distilling the most complicated of dreams, desires and anxieties into only a few simple words. Is My Mind a Machine Gun? starts with her chanting, “Oh my love, tell me now if you want me.” Slowly, she builds an entire world around those words, layering her voice to present a sense of urgency. It’s not immediately clear who “my love” is, which leaves space for the listener to reflect and insert themselves. Maybe it’s the voice of an artistic self left behind, coming now to reclaim its vessel. Maybe it’s our own voice, calling out in uncertainty to a love we’re afraid to lose. 

Whomever Kesswa is speaking to, she responds to her own question with calming reassurance – There’s no doubt about it – all while flashing lights, street view vignettes, and Kesswa’s body language suggest forward motion. The visual echoes Kesswa’s centering message: as long as you are true to yourself, you are on the right path. 

The ephemeral visual is accentuated with soothing waves of harp played by Ahya Simone; its sedative sounds contrast with the disorienting flashes of light, replicating the feelings of dissociation and anxiety that can accompany a dream. Slowly, the harp fades and is replaced by deliberate percussion. This sonic change seems to signal clarity and determination, as Kesswa transitions from repetitive chants to a string of crystal clear affirmations: “I’ve got a creeping intuition/I’m on a mission, clearly/It’s in my heartbeat and my eyes gleam/The stillness inside of me/I’m impulsive but I’m brave/Insisting on myself/I’m determined but I’m earnest/I am kind, I am worthy/Inherently.”

I caught up with Kesswa to find out more about the creative process behind this project. 

AF: Can you tell me a bit about the writing/recording process? What’s the flow of collaboration between you and Shigeto?

KW: The process with Zach and I has been really experimental and grounding. In the beginning of our collaboration, I was thinking a lot about finding my voice, which I think comes out in the composition of the track. A lot of our collaboration has been us just going with the flow of our lives and bringing our influences and emotional needs to the work. Sometimes, we jam. Sometimes we create structures to work within. 

AF: How did this piece in particular come to be? Is there a story behind the music and lyrics? The title?

KW: This piece has been evolving and still kind of is. The version in the video was made specifically for this particular commission. When we were working on the track, Zach felt it would be really awesome to incorporate a narrative, and I’m always writing. The title is an excerpt from Assata Shakur’s “What is left?” poem. This line really stood out to me, because I often feel like thoughts are things we can weaponize against ourselves without close attention. As a person who exists at the center of many intersections of identity, I find myself internalizing and reacting to the projections of the outside world on my body, my creative potential and my values. If my mind is in fact a machine gun, I want to point it towards the projections.

AF: The visual feels just as important to the story as the music does in this piece – did you have a visual in mind when writing the music? Which came first?

KW: The process of creating the visual component of the work was as free flowing as the soundscape. Zach was the director and camera operator, and Vinnie and Robert did assemblage and animation. Zach and I knew that we wanted to give some insight into the world we’ve been building. We wanted to create a visual language, and things kind of unfolded organically.

AF: Do the two of you have more projects like this one up your sleeve/in process? 

KW: It’s a surprise! But things are in process.

AF: I know a lot of your music focuses on mantra – is there a certain mantra you repeat everyday, or one you’re feeling specifically lately? 

KW: Great question! I’ve been sitting with the fact that my body is finite and paying attention to what feels draining and what feels invigorating. Using that awareness to free up some extra energy and let stale things [and] conversations go. Times are too heavy to be stressed about things within my control!

Follow Kesswa on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Trimmo’s Experimental Electronica Manages both Warmth and Resonance on twin sister LP

Photo via @trimmo_garden on Instagram

Photo via @trimmo_garden on Instagram

DIY and electronica have always gone hand-in-hand. With only a computer and some music software, you can create tracks from basically nothing; you don’t need a good voice, and you don’t need to be good at playing an instrument. But here’s the thing – regular musicians don’t need that shit either. Crap electronica and good electronica are subjective, and therefore eminently debatable, but in some ways, the sloppier you are without the padding of lyrics or vocal stylings, the more likely people will be able to point at all your rough bits and laugh.

I am not really a “chill” music person, both in the personality sense and in the genre one, and generally will gravitate toward discordance and noise. Yet I still know that good electronica that manages to be contained — even repetitive —without being boring is worth its weight in gold.

This is how I feel about San Francisco’s Trimmo and their new LP release, twin sister. The album is a strange entity in many ways. Labeled “gothstep” by its creator, Sean McFarlane, there is something very pasted together about it, with its blurry, inconsequential cover photo “of daniel,” its stalwart reluctance to embrace logical spelling or track naming structure, and a deeply unsettling choice to name track seven “twin sisters” while the album title is the singular. Was this an accident? I doubt it, because in all good, seemingly random things, the chaos is coordinated.

The collage-like tactics on twin sister almost make my head hurt – thousands of hours of sounds and possibilities, the simple random chance of things coming together. “hunt you liek doggie” is the opening track, and also my favorite of the lot. If there was a way to condense the feeling of a long drive home with friends into a song, this would be it. There are vocals here, but they have been looped into a melodious, mantra-like hum that compliments both the acoustic guitar loop and a deeply-felt heartbeat sound that could recreate panic as easily as it could joy.

Overall, the album leans into a more subdued — though not morose — vibe, with the exceptions of “pis,” and “anime guuuurl” which both have moments of thorny roughness that cut through the arrangements like snags in your sweater. Both are songs you really have to be in the mood for, the former sounding like a drugged out 90’s dial-up tone  and the latter a hyperpop song that got ground through the garbage disposal a few too many times.

Trimmo knows how to make a memorable impression even without leaning into roughness. I appreciate the attention paid here to acoustic instruments, which show up in most of the songs as major players; track two, “JUNE24 LIVES IN INFAMYYY” is backed by piano, while the kinda-title track, “twin sister” has a very homey addition of that warm wa-wa guitar sound. “queeen” relies on a syrupy, surfy riff that crashes headlong into a heavy drop of distorted piano and cymbals on “te pwincess,” which immediately follows – given their names, the two tracks seem deliberately paired, even if they feel distinct. The last two songs round out the project nicely – “dri drip (bonus)” is super synth-heavy, and the final track, “not a song” is, of course, the most distinctly traditional track, with soft, largely indiscernible vocals over doubled guitar.

Fundamentally, twin sister is mutable, in its best moments able to take soft, dampened sounds and make them resonant, both emotionally and musically. It’s DIY, it’s experimental, it was surely made (or at least completed in quarantine), and even with the warmth and tenability afforded by Trimmo’s mindful, tender treatment of acoustic instruments, has its rightful place in electronica.

Follow Trimmo on Instagram for updates. 

Detroit Artists Keep the Music Coming During Quarantine

courtesy of Vinny Moonshine

As we move deeper into the quarantine vortex, Detroit musicians continue to use their open schedules to release new songs. While most things are still up in the air, it is a simple comfort to know that there will always be a steady stream of more music. From Saajtak’s experimental jazz stylings to Zilched’s apathetic noise pop, this smattering of releases shows the breadth of Detroit’s creative well. I’m at a bit of a loss for words this week, so I reached out to the artists to give us a little insight into what the music means to them. Enjoy!

“Unknown Landscape” – Vinny Moonshine

“’Unknown Landscape’ is Vinny Moonshine’s first collaboration with the group Future Trash and was recorded at Medieval Times studio in Detroit a couple months before the pandemic. The song is a deranged lounge mantra for a failing world – as the title suggests, it describes the confusion of living in strange territory, tearing away from the past, moving forward into an uncertain future. The individual often feels tethered to preconditioned states of being; in the song, the ground breaks apart. The road ahead is paved in gold.” – Vinny Moonshine

“Hectic” by Saajtak

“Hectic” is the first music video of Detroit art rock band saajtak (pronounced “sahge-talk”), whose music has been described as an impressive, explosive combination of electronic music, free jazz, opera, noise, and chamber music. The video, composed of iPhone footage and 35mm stills, was shot, edited, and directed by Pittsburgh filmmaker and crooner Elliot Sheedy with additional visual processing by saajtak’s own keyboardist, the multimedia artist Polyhop. You can find the members of saajtak working on their debut album or recently collaborating/sharing stages with the likes of My Brightest Diamond, Deadmau5, Meshell Ndegeocello, Xiu Xiu, John Maus, Toshi Reagon and more.

white ceilings – whiterosemoxie

“I’m surrounded by white ceilings. Every room, every studio, every basement that I have grown in, created in, partied in… they all have white ceilings. My life has been full of people putting limits on me, constantly putting a ceiling on my potential. This project is about those ceilings and how they don’t actually exist. The only ceiling I allow in my life is white. A white ceiling is a ceiling undefined, a ceiling whose limits have no definition.” – Moxie 

“Sleeper” – Zilched 

“’Sleeper’ is basically about biting your tongue in conversations that make your eye twitch. I wanted the music to reflect that repetitive, performative communication where you’re internally screaming or rolling your eyes but outwardly you just go along with it. Maybe you tell yourself you won’t put up with it again but chances are you will.” – Chloë Drallos (Zilched)

“Get Your Love” – Jacob Sigman  

“‘Get Your Love’ was one of those songs that happened all at once. It’s about falling for someone you’re not supposed to, like someone who’s already seeing someone else. I was in that situation and just needed to vent and the whole song just kind of came out that one night. I spent the next month trying to re-track the vocals because I had recorded them on a shitty sm58 but, couldn’t recapture the emotion from that night, so I kept them the same.” – Jacob Sigman

“Last Money” – Sam Austins

“I wrote ‘Last Money’ about times when I wasn’t able to have shit. My money was so low, my back was against the wall so I had to find a way to make the bread. The song and visual takes you through the journey of the bottom, the quick come up, and how fast it can all turn. The inspiration behind these different scenes is that I wanted to take scenarios from TV shows, movies like The Wire & The Dark Knight, and use it for the narrative of ‘Last Money.’ I turned my seemingly normal life into a visual experience, based on the media we used to watch as kids… plus getting away from the feds in my joker fit was fucking amazing.” – Sam Austins

Quarantine – Ytl77232 (Prada Leary)

“This project ‘Quarantine’ is the first under my new artist name YTL77232 (formerly Prada Leary). It’s a newer sound that I’ve grown into over time with smooth and aggressive beats throughout. I made half of this project in Cali and the other half in Detroit. Changing my name is an evolution for me. The YTL means young Timmy Leary and the 77232 means Prada in T9 text. I hope you all enjoy the growth.” – YTL77232

Avery Leigh’s Night Palace Pairs Opera and Dream Pop on Debut Single

Photo Credit: Bao Ngo

At times like these when it feels like the world is ending, one of the few purely escapist activities we have left is getting lost in music. Avery Leigh’s Night Palace gives us that on “Into the Wake, Mystified,” a lushly arranged meditation on the “gossamer thread that connects us to certain people in our lives forever.” Avery Leigh Draut, songwriter and lead vocalist, explains that the song took many shapes and sounds before settling on the final piece, released on March 10th. The evolution of the band’s first single more or less mirrors the shifting tides of Draut’s own path in music, from classically trained opera singer to frontwoman of a shimmery alt-pop ensemble, to whatever comes next.

Growing up the daughter of two service industry professionals turned business-world parents, Draut hesitated to consider music as a viable career path. Though she and her father would perform in musicals together and singing was always a huge part of her life, she saw it as more of a hobby than a way to earn a living. But when she was applying to universities, her parents surprised her by encouraging her to follow a less conventional path. “I had this chat with my parents and they were like, you love this and you should try to do this,” says Draut. “Their transparency with me about their long time struggles with making ends meet before I was born prepared me and helped me to understand I would need to create a piece-meal, gig-centric way of making a living, with (hopefully) many small sources of income that are (whenever possible) related to my creative endeavors.”

Armed with that knowledge, Draut auditioned last minute for a few music programs and was accepted to the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia. She recalls her first lesson in the classically-oriented program: when one of her professors asked her what she liked to sing, she told him of her affinity for musical theatre and jazz. He responded, “No – we’re gonna sing opera.” Luckily, opera proved to be just as enticing to Draut. “I loved it. I totally fell in love with the nuance,” she explains. “Obviously there’s nuance in all music, in so many different ways, but classical music is the most challenging that I have experienced.”

Draut describes the next few years as a means to find her way creatively. After realizing that double majoring in theatre and music was next to impossible, she tabled her love for musical theatre for the moment and exercised her voice through opera. While she loved performing, there was a part of her that always wanted to write music as well, but it was at war with another part that told her she couldn’t. “I always wanted to write my own things, but kind of didn’t really think of it as an option. I was like, ‘other people do that,’” explains Draut. “So, it was kind of just figuring out that that’s not true and all art is for everybody and you can try to do anything.”

After graduating, Draut felt disenchanted by some aspects of the classical music business and found herself in a moment where she wasn’t petrified by the thought of writing a song. Thus, the early iterations of Avery Leigh’s Night Palace were created. She collaborated with musicians she met through the scene in Athens and took years to land on the dreamy, crystallized sound heard on “Into the Wake, Mystified.” “This song has been through a million different lives as you can imagine, existing for four years,” says Draut. “I wrote all of the structures, chords and melodies for the song on this electric organ I had in my living room in Athens called the Magic Genie.”

Draut transformed the stripped-down organ-and-vocals arrangement to a bubbly, orchestral tune filled out with elegantly simple string and woodwind parts, written by Draut herself. Though she views her operatic life and the Night Palace project as two separate worlds, Draut thinks her tendency to seek sweeping arrangements comes from her love of opera and its grand accompanying orchestras. “There’s such lush writing in opera and these huge orchestras and that is so magical and beautiful and I would love to incorporate [that],” Draut says. “I think there are a thousand different directions I’m going at all times with this project, but they’re all closely related and will sound like they make sense.”

Since starting Avery Leigh’s Night Palace, Draut has relocated to Brooklyn, where she works part-time as a production coordinator for the Met Opera and has sung backups on shows for musicians such as Jo Lampert (tUnE-yArDs), Kadhja Bonet, and Eric Bachmann. She travels between New York and Athens, where her band is still located and where she’s currently waiting out the pandemic with her boyfriend and the Magic Genie that astoundingly found its way back to her.

“This organ was living with me in Athens, then when I moved to New York, I moved it into my boyfriend’s house at the time, so it lived in Athens. Then he and I broke up and I didn’t know what happened to the organ,” Draut recounts. “I came back to Athens to visit and went to my friends house and it was sitting there. It turned out that my ex had given it to a friend who had given it to this guy. He was moving, so my boyfriend and I moved it into his apartment in Athens which is where I am right now, with the goats in the yard.”

Avery Leigh’s Night Palace will release more music later this year, and presumably, Draut will brush the dust off her old friend, Magic Genie, in the meantime.

Follow Avery Leigh’s Night Palace on Instagram and  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.

ONLY NOISE: Glenn Branca’s Final Ascension

I wound up at the Kitchen sort of by mistake. It was a Tuesday – February 23rd, 2016 to be precise. It had been a year since the worst week of my life, and sitting at my desk after a long day of designing women’s underwear, I longed for a little culture that evening, a little date with myself. So I scrolled through concert listings on Oh My Rockness, hoping for a name to leap out at me. February is not the most happening time for live music in the city, and my backup plan involved a movie and/or overpriced meal for one. But the backup plan wasn’t necessary; as I scanned through the concert listings, a name did leap out at me, and though I wasn’t positive why I recognized that name, I bought a ticket without hesitation.

That name was Glenn Branca, and in the days since his death last week, headlines, tweets, and obituaries can all agree on one thing: if you weren’t familiar with Branca’s music, there’s no way you have escaped the music he’s influenced. His brash guitar symphonies were loved by the likes of David Bowie, and imitated by Sonic Youth. He was a pioneer of the No Wave movement alongside John Zorn and James Chance, and he pushed the boundaries of music, noise, and everything in between. His first two solo records, 1980’s Lesson No. 1 and The Ascension from the following year demolished and restructured the contemporary approach to the electric guitar, rock’n’roll, and classical composition. Branca’s work was loud, dangerous, and so cutting edge that it moved legendary avant garde composer John Cage to feel “disturbed” by it.

Branca was the man that conducted serrated, unnerving orchestras with 100 electric guitars, slapped punk rock into something more upright and threatening with his early band Theoretical Girls, and released early music by Swans and Sonic Youth on his record label, Neutral. His legacy coincides with the explosive art movement in ‘70s and ‘80s New York, but unlike many of his contemporaries, Branca never lost a scrap of relevancein fact, his mystique and ability to stun an audience only seemed to intensify with age. It must have been some peripheral knowledge of all these accomplishments that congealed in my gut when I saw Branca’s name on the concert listings for the evening. Perhaps it was the faint memory of an interview with him I’d read in a copy of The Believer’s 2014 music issue. Either way, I am glad I trusted my gut.

When I entered the Kitchen in Chelsea, the staff was passing out earplugs as guests took their seats. I remember thinking that I’d never been encouraged to wear ear protection at a venue with bleacher seating and a median age of 58, but I figured they knew best. I sat down with my packet of foam plugs and leafed through the pamphlet I’d been handed, which gave the whole event a whiff of the fine art or theater world. I still wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. And then Branca and his six-musician ensemble crawled out onto the sunken stage.

It was rapturous. Branca, who had stopped playing guitar years prior during Symphony #1, was a dedicated conductor until the end of his life, though his methods of conducting were unconventional to say the least. He used his entire body to communicate with his ensemble, who that night included one drummer, one bassist, and four electric guitarists (one of whom was Reg Bloor, his widow). That evening’s rendition of the Third Ascension was marked by Branca’s spasmodic movements: flits of the wrist, flicks of his hips, and general shimmying that somehow effectively communicated volume, rhythm, and attitude to his performers. It was in fact loud, and so dissonant that it was blissful, like the moment pain becomes cathartic. I remembered a quote from that Believer interview I’d read two years prior, during which Branca said, “If you don’t like loud music, don’t bother with my music.” This, I learned, was a characteristic thing for Branca to say. He was a fabulous curmudgeon, who wore the same black outfit every day, his blazer pocket crammed full of pens like soldiers standing at attention. His teeth were chipped, and he looked like a more brawny, attractive older brother to Shane MacGowan.

In between songs at the Kitchen, while his group fiddled with odd tunings, Branca felt obligated to talk the crowd. His raspy voice and mischievous demeanor felt instantly familiar, perhaps because he seemed a kindred spirit to Tom Waits, or perhaps because he was simply the embodiment of the crotchety old man I hope to become one day. In an attempt to fill the silence, Branca told the audience, apropos of nothing, about the best hot dog he’d ever eaten. It was on a hoagie roll, not a bun. He talked some trash about John Zorn, and introduced his wife Reg Bloor, who seemed delightfully peeved by his antics.

I left the kitchen that night with my mind completely blown open, a side effect of the shrapnel storm Branca’s ensemble hurled toward the bleachers. Walking to the train I felt like I was floating, or maybe vibrating like a struck tuning fork. It was the same feeling of intoxication I had only experienced once or twice before: watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen for the first time; seeing Diamanda Galas live at a temple on Halloween. Considering the weight of my experience at the Kitchen, I checked weekly to see if Branca and his ensemble was playing in town. I did this in 2017, when they performed at BRIC, and I remember feeling particularly lucky to live in a city where one minute I could be sat at my bedroom desk reading, and the next I walking to see one of the most original and exciting musical performances in existence.

The week before Glenn Branca died, I typed his name into Oh My Rockness’ search bar to see if he had any upcoming gigs. I didn’t know he had throat cancer, but I wasn’t surprised by the news when I found out. Upon hearing about his death, I felt both devastated that I’d never experience his music live again, and immensely grateful that I got to experience it at all. Glenn Branca was a New York treasure you had to really dig for, if not allow yourself to stumble upon, and like all of the best things New York has to offer, he was liable to disappear at any time. Sadly, that day has comebut while the man is no longer with us, his work will be obliterating musical norms for decades to come.

PLAYING DETROIT: Jonathan Franco Gets Inventive on Debut LP

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photo courtesy Jonathan Franco

Finally, someone has been able to put what it feels like to be a 20-something into words and music without sounding devastatingly hopeless. That person is Detroit songwriter, poet, and musician, Jonathan Franco. In his debut album, Swimming Alone Around the Room, Franco puts his deep anxieties, rare moments of euphoria, and goddamn heart on the table for all of us to pick apart and reassemble into our own realities. Written and recorded over the last five years, the 17-track labor of love is a diaristic journey, oscillating between spacious moments of reflection and dactylic snapshots of feeling, accurately mimicking the ebb and flow of, well, real fucking life.

Experimental, yet accessible, Franco uses an unorthodox orchestra – combining traditional instruments with field recordings and experimental sounds – to portray salient feelings and moments. In the album’s stripped-down instrumental opener, “Apartment Pianos,” Franco melds incandescent synths, low machine hums, bells, and indiscernible field recordings to create a feeling of serenity and peace. It’s as if he’s encouraging listeners to clear their heads before delving into the deep and daunting themes that follow, like someone attempting to get their shit together before entering a sweat lodge.

He fully enlists his collage-like composition style on “Applause,” an exploration of mortality and the passing of time. The song starts off with a solo organ note, bare acoustic guitar, and Franco’s vulnerable opening line, “I lay in the grass in a flyover state / Feeling like I am everything you hoped I wouldn’t be,” sang in a low whisper. It feels like Franco is talking to himself here, reflecting on the past and what has led him to this specific place and time. But the ruminative mood becomes unnerving as Franco recalls seeing the ghost of his grandmother over ethereal synths and radio static; the guitar re-enters along with what sounds like a ticking clock or metronome and stack of papers used for percussion. The tension resolves with a sweet trumpet melody at the song’s finish, and Franco is freed from the weight of time – at least for a moment.

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photo by Noah Elliot Morrison

While many of the songs follow this winding, experimental path, Franco also scatters a few straightforward indie-rock tracks throughout the record that reveal considerable influence from bands like Bedhead and The Microphones. Along with alternating between traditional and experimental instruments, Franco occupies different parts of his voice throughout the record. He touches on everything from an apathetic lo-fi drawl in “Wine Lips” to an Elliot Smith-esque falsetto in “Season” and finds a sweet spot in between the two in “18A.”

While Franco adapts a linear storyline into these compositions, he doesn’t sacrifice his poetic lyricism. On rambling stream-of-consciousness tale “18A,” the singer spends north of seven minutes recounting days spent on the same bus and reminiscing about someone he used to love. Throughout the ride, Franco thinks he sees his former partner in various places around town, but he’s not sure. “For my eyes are two weak telescopes and your face is just a crater on the moon / And I hope to see you much more clearly soon,” sings Franco, perfectly encapsulating the disillusionment of estrangement and the longing that comes with it. Although Franco utilizes his talent for metaphor throughout the album, he never comes off as a pompous or melodramatic poet, but more of an old soul who knows exactly what to say.

Add the insurmountable pressure of simply existing to confronting mortality and lost love and you will arrive at the “early adulthood triad.” Franco accomplishes this with “Crashing,” a beautifully unsettling ode to not knowing what the hell you’re doing in life. The song starts out with what sounds like a shower running over a broken transistor radio then shifts to airy vocals and calming acoustic guitar. Throughout the song, Franco’s atmospheric background vocal hovers like a ghost over the lyrics “I don’t know how to keep my world from crashing down.” The phrase is repeated over and over, representing the debilitating paralysis brought on by anxiety.

But, like I said, this record isn’t about hopelessness. It’s about acknowledging and capturing the impermanence of emotions, and that includes the happy ones, too – nostalgia, love, clarity. In “A Topiary,” Franco indulges in replaying messages from loved ones while reminding himself there are still more blissful memories to be made. “I can still call myself young / and it tastes good on my tongue,” sings Franco, atop a collage of bells, knocking, synths, and lo-fi guitar.

At its core, Swimming Alone Around the Room hints that existential dread is sometimes kinda nice. It offers a cathartic safe haven for the uncertain, unconcerned, or over-concerned (so basically, everyone) and an original take on experimental indie music, if confined to any genre at all. Franco’s tendency to shapeshift both instrumentally and vocally elevates the album to a work of art that emulates the human experiences of indecision, change, and growth. 


TRACK REVIEW: Dia “Covered in Light”


Composer and singer, Danielle Birrittella, under the moniker Dia, is releasing airy, ethereal tracks that’ll transport you in space and time—or so it’ll feel like.

After performing ceremonial ragas on a Hindu ashram where she was raised, she went on to train and perform as an opera singer, which is a background that clearly shines through in her current music, with its rich and velvety baroque pop sound. Her music utilizes a variety of string instruments: guitar, ukulele, and cello, to name a few. Her single “Covered in Light” is a perfect example of her unique background; she draws heavily on classical elements and gives them a unique experimental twist that’ll make your head spin.

Dia just released her first EP Tiny Ocean on Manimal Records. Check out “Covered in Light” below, then head to her SoundCloud to complete the journey.

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.

PLAYING DETROIT: Best of + Most Anticipated

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wolf eyes
wolf eyes

It’s New Years Eve-Eve, and I’m flooded with the sounds of the past year. 2015 saw the rise of Detroit music in an unforgettable way. Our musicians took to the stage and to the studio with an unmistakable fire under their asses, in turn producing one of the most emotive soundtracks for the year as a whole. Detroit had something to say and people listened. I could go on and on about how I feel about the textural landscape of what this city produced this year, and how for the first time in years I felt moved and compelled to share my findings with the same enthusiasm one might reserve for opening Christmas gifts. I could talk about how Wolf EyesI am a Problem: Mind in Pieces broke my heart in ways I thought impossible, or how MoonwalksLunar Phases pushed me back to being in smokey concert venues, chasing after psychedelic rock bands when I was 16, making me feel younger than I did when I was actually young. So instead, I asked a few Detroit artists, most of whom released music this year, what local release stood out to them in 2015, and what they are most anticipating in the coming year. If what we heard is any indication of what’s to come, my suggestion is to brace yourselves: Detroit just got started.

Mike Higgins of JRJR

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Photo by Todd Morgan
Photo by Todd Morgan

FAVORITE OF 2015: My favorite release is a single track. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” hit me hard out of wintery nowhere in early February of 2015 (and I’d been working in studio with Jon Visger on and off for a while at that point) – but that’s how he works. Lurks, rather, within shadows. Jon Visger wrote, produced, and released this song himself. Nostalgic alarms reminiscent of mid-90s Boards of Canada fire the song into motion and are quickly joined by the fast-approaching outer edge of the track’s structural spine: the drums. They weigh about a thousand pounds each and somehow I feel weightless upon their anticipated arrival. (Sweaty like Black Moth Super Rainbow, yet crisp like Com Truise.) You’re soon swallowed up by the groove in its entirety, where bass is vicious and Visger’s vocals emerge. Lyrics speak out from a character’s entangled, love-sore point of view: a last-ditch effort farewell letter/self-evaluation. Love’s magnetism paired equally with its potential volatility.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: Recently, I listened to a bunch of new demos at Assemble Sound studio in Detroit with bassist Jeff Cuny of the band Valley Hush. I was pretty taken aback by how much things have blossomed sonically and vocally for them since hearing them in 2014. They’re a newer band, and for me it’s exciting to watch a group’s sound evolve and sometimes quite rapidly. It sounded like they have been experimenting, which is great, so I’m excited for what’s to come.

Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus 

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photo by Stefano Ferreri
photo by Stefano Ferreri

FAVORITE OF 2015: My local release would be All Are Saved by my good friend Fred Thomas. Deeply personal and universal at the same time, in Fred’s finely honed and idiosyncratic style.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: It would have to be my bandmate and roommate Anna Burch’s new batch of solo songs that I’ve been thick in the midst of watching her create over the past year or so. Her melodies and lyrical voice are both really captivating. She hasn’t officially said it will come out this year, but I’m hoping.

Natasha Beste of Odd Hours

Photo by Kevin Eckert
Photo by Kevin Eckert

FAVORITE OF 2015: Dwelling Lightheartedly In The Futility Of Everything by Matthew Daher was an early 2015 release, but stuck with me for the whole year. It’s not a pop or dance album and the songs are challenging – they seem to be five different animals that live together in the same cave. But like magic, they opened up and travelled through me like a dance. “Cyclicity” seemed like it was written just for me, and I was lucky enough to collab with Matt and produce a video for the song. Just a beautiful exchange of energy on that collaboration.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: My most anticipated local release is whatever Ritual Howls put out because holy crap, their 2014 release, Turkish Leather, makes my eyes roll back in my head with my tongue hanging out like cartoon dog drooling over a steak or bone or whatever dumb food item cartoon dogs like to eat. I’ll be spying on them online until I see something released!

Sean Lynch of 800beloved

Photo by Santa Anna
Photo by Santa Anna

FAVORITE OF 2015: I would by lying if I said a local release stuck out enough to be regarded as a favorite in 2015. Most of what I heard locally was a recollection of once unsuccessful “indie” bands until the 90’s came back, hip/trip-hop and grunge were openly repurposed, and Ableton was accepted as everyone’s backing track. If anything, Tunde Olaniran had a track I dug off of Transgressor. In my opinion, the only good thing that happened in Detroit and nationally in 2015 is that more female artists demanded and took the attention of listeners. At this point in time and in the bigger picture, this is more important than any best of the year list.

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MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2016: The local release I am most anticipating is our own final LP as 800beloved because I don’t know how it’s going to end. Rather, I’m dying to hear how it will end.



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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The first half of my conversation with Natasha Beste of moody electro-pop duo Odd Hours is instantly dedicated to playing six degrees of separation between the two of us until we are able to piece our social puzzle together, realizing that we run in the same circles and are friends with the same people and both conclude that Detroit is a lot like high school.

“In Detroit, it’s really easy to make things happen if you are really motivated and dedicated. If you are snotty or mean or not serious about what you’re doing, it will get around fast,” Beste says. “I’m lucky to have met and become friends with people that make doing this fun, it never feels like work.”

This non-work-work Beste is referring to is Odd Hours latest EP noreprinphrine + dopamine, an assertive and pouty collection of songs that are as glittery as they are confrontational. Beste’s attention to duality, both in her personal life and in her Odd Hours world (she is also a teacher and video artist) resonates as a playful game of tug-of-war sonically. Beste describes the toggling of themes as a “constant up and down.” From asking for what you want and ending up bored by the instant gratification to feeling left out or misunderstood yet worthy enough to exert power, Odd Hours challenges themselves by provoking a polarizing experience. As it turns out, this very balancing act of various selves and influences resulted in what Beste considers to be the truest version of what they’ve been trying to accomplish since they formed. “I think with artists there are things that come out of you naturally. And for me things were coming out of me that weren’t matching what I was listening to, or what we were making,” Beste explains. “We’ve been morphing and changing our sound and we finally feel comfortable in our skin. We want to keep going with how we sound now.”

Odd Hours have been making noise around the city for five years. Beste and her collaborator and Hours guitarist, Timothy Jagielo, assembled after exhausting previous projects, wanting to expand beyond their old work and Detroit city limits. “I was in a lot of different bands before I met Tim but after a while I really wanted to do something that would allow me to be loud and raunchy,” Beste says “We were both in a place where we wanted to start something new.” With additions bassist, Clint Stuart, and drummer Randy Hanley Jr, each track on noreprinphrine + dopamine is a banger in its own right, successfully and collectively fulfilling Beste’s aforementioned desires of sounding loud and raunchy while remaining a compelling and polished production. When asked about the possibility of a full length release, Beste is uncertain, but unwavering in her convictions towards quality vs. quantity. “It’s the way that my brain works. My whole life of music I’ve really stuck with EPs. I’m not saying we would never release an LP. Everything that needed to be said was said within these songs.” she explains. “It could be the next thing we do, but it has to feel right.”

The accompanying video for their first single “SWTS” is a true testament to Odd Hours theatrics; a great introduction to their provocative landscape, their lust filled, odd world. Full of if-David Lynch-cast-Lindsey Lohan-in-a-music-video vibes (Beste laughs excitedly at this comparison) aligns with the estranged bossiness of the song where Beste howls: “I thought someone told me / Like Christmas / I would get to make a wish list,” a vulnerable plea paralleled with warbled rock vocals, a sensibility carried throughout the EP.

By the end of our chat we realize we share a friend in noreprinphrine + dopamine producer Jon Zott and that we were both on set for Tunde Olaniran’s video earlier this year and it is with this strange connectivity that we are able to commiserate over the special brand of small world-ness Detroit offers. I finish by apologizing for referring to her music as bratty, though meant as a compliment as it’s a trait I regard as honest and unapologetic, to which she assures me is a perfectly apt description. “It’s funny because my boyfriend Kevin (and partner in Gold House Media) as well as my guitarist Tim and Tunde all call me a brat because I get what I want. But I have a vision,” Beste explains. “I am always three steps ahead.”

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TRACK OF THE WEEK: Vacationer “Go Anywhere (TAPES Remix)”


Where are you going for summer vacation? Well, Vacationer wants to take you on a trip via a new remix of “Go Anywhere,” a track from last year’s release Relief. TAPES, an experimental electronic artist, transformed the track  into a sultry song for the summer by slowing down the original’s bongo beat and adding tribal elements to the rhythm (and, of course, more reverb). The original “Go Anywhere” is a poppy, hopeful anthem, while the new version has the perfect touch of danceable playfulness: the sound of waves crashing on the shore, a pulsing beat, and squealing, squawking synths.

Check out both the original and TAPES remix of “Go Anywhere” below! (And, you can soften the blow of the end of summer by catching Vacationer on their Fall tour with Great Good Fine OK).


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ALBUM REVIEW: Girls and Gods “You Are Copper Greening in Open Air”

Girls and God _You are copper greening in open air._

Protecting us like a fluffy new jacket from the harsh cold as we walk to and fro happenings, a pair of headphones playing a proper album will do a lot more than ear muffs. Girls and God is Dave Scanlon of Leverage Models live band joined by Alena Spanger from Tiny Hazard, Angelo Spagnolo of Parlour Tricks, and Rob Lundberg from killer BOB. They just got together and created a lovely new album, You Are Copper Greening in Open Air. The result of their labors is a soft yet warms-your-soul-like-whiskey coherent album that stays true to taste and form open to close.

As you stay, loosely committed.. ” Dave and friends observe, on the aptly titled “Loosely Committed.” The album is tailored with comfortably fitting reflections on snapshots of minute details of life and reserved relationship revelations.

Rhythmic yearnings and inner dialogue entrances on “New Bodies.” “Don’t tell her, don’t tell her…” the lyrics warn, leading into the powerful muse described in “Woman with her Hair Down to her Down to her Waist.” Girls and Gods indeed, the female form and all its mystery’s influence on the album is obvious, but gracefully so. The musings and stories sung are enough to make you fall in love.

You Are Copper Greening in Open Air comes out February 27 (via soundcloud, youtube, bandcamp, etc).

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VIDEO PREMIERE: Celeste “More Lives”

Celeste Green_Hi Res_Alan Siegler
Monday morning doesn’t have to be glass half empty. With the video premiere of Brooklyn based Celeste‘s “More Lives” your glass can be half full, like the dirty martini you left on the record table as you drifted to sleep after an indulgent Sunday.
Directed by Elizabeth Skadden, the black and white video features Celeste in an evening gown and elbow-length gloves posed on a chaise lounge with the majesty of an Egyptian cat, purring “I’ve got more lives…” Celeste creates electronic R&B with southern-soaked vocals (her roots are in Birmingham, AL). A dancer turned musician, she makes sure she creates “music she can dance to.”
The current EP More Please combines the singer’s soul with elements of her producer Louis Sherman’s electro-psych influence. In the video her dance moves are utilized to seductively tell in motion the message she sings. Celeste captivates the camera with natural talent writhing from both her body and voice. Southern roots mingle in your eardrums with a hip hop snap as she drawls layered vocals while your eye lips peel back to admire the calm, collected cool of her satin-r0bed figure classically strut to the music.

We’ll keep this a post full of pleasures and include below a stream to the full EP More Please.


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weyes blood

Twice a month, AudioFemme profiles artists both emerging and established, who, in this industry, must rebel against misogynist cultural mores. Through their music  they express the attendant hurdles and adversities (vis-a-vis the entertainment industry and beyond) propagated by those mores. For our sixth installment, Amber Robbin profiles Weyes Blood, a one-woman psych folk powerhouse that challenges notions of waif-like femininity with hauntingly dynamic vocals, darkly emotional lyrics, and unexpectedly melodic sound effects.

Artist Profile: Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood is the otherworldly musical persona of folk-suffused, musique concrète-inspired artist Natalie Mering. Based in New York City with prior roots in Philly and Baltimore, Mering has previously collaborated with experimentally driven acts such as Ariel Pink and Jackie-O Motherfucker. Her second full release, The Innocents,  came out on Mexican Summer October 21st, following The Outside Room, her 2011 album on Not Not Fun which was recorded, mixed, and produced by Mering herself.

Music is in Mering’s wise blood (which, by the way, is the play on words intended by the literary-inspired pseudonym, “Weyes Blood”). Her father was a rocker in 1970s LA turned Christian parish leader, yet Mering has cultivated an aesthetic undeniably her own. Her mellifluous vocal sound is pure and ancient, driving forth compositions that are rich with artfully-chosen sound effects she seamlessly strews over traditional instrumentation. The result ranges from whimsical to profoundly heart-wrenching, with darkly psychedelic passages and hopeful glimmers of choral brilliance throughout. From the warped piano arpeggios of “Some Winters” to the acoustic simplicity of “Bad Magic,” Mering’s bereft, hovering bay unhinges the listener’s soul and carries it between intimately familiar portraits of a past life, conjuring memories that still breathe with tangible emotion.

The album is, indeed, an imprint of the past for the deep-timbred songstress. The Innocents chronicles the lost, wandering soul of an early twenties Mering and captures the distress and abandon felt by many in that age of angst and aching. Although written in the thick of her experience, Mering’s work echoes with the mature understanding of an old soul painfully aware in the midst of its own torment. She ponders her loss in “Some Winters,” the second single off the album, and faces what’s left in the aftermath of a jilted love affair…

You won’t hold me in your arms anymore

We paid our price

Lead from the soul

I’m already gone

The house of stone we built has turned into sand

and you know I’d still hold your hand

A hope I can’t conceal

A memory how we used to feel

A potential third single, “Bad Magic,” was recorded in Mering’s apartment. One of the most beloved and bare tracks, the ballad unfolds as if Mering is slowly, solemnly rallying herself yet again to face the day, despite her enduring anguish. Harboring a bursting chest and eyes forever wetted, she pushes on, for she knows instinctively that there is nowhere to go but forward. The minor melody tugs and lilts from verse to chorus without pause, like the perpetual pep talk of her heart that refuses to come up for air. It is her salvation, this inner monologue…

Make the best of death

and love what’s left

You’re not just a time bomb

Just cause you went off don’t mean you’re scattered everywhere

It’s still there

in the palms of your hand

Just give it one more chance

Don’t wait to understand

Just find a new way

Every melody is “a new way” to move forward, each chunk of poetry a new pearl to bolster her resilience. Every track of The Innocents introduces yet another approach to coping with life as we know it, cracking open our chests for the sake of remembering how we ourselves coped in the face of those most formative, and innocent, years.

Femme Unfiltered: On Natalie Mering

When I was a Broadway hopeful going to musical theatre/circus school, it became abundantly clear to me that only a few select roles were available to women. Just as in most artistic industries (see also “the world”), the options were: virgin or whore. Ok, there might have been slightly more variation, but seriously…ingénue = virgin, sassy sidekick = whore. (If you were lucky enough to have the breadth, you could also play women over 40 – the hag.) However, there was one other, lesser known category which I incessantly fit into – the dead girl. The dead girl was sometimes a ghost, sometimes an angelic symbol of love, innocence, or some other idyllic value. More a spin-off on the standard virgin with a dash of saucy see-through-ness, she served all celestial purposes of the play. She was imposing, she had sway, but she was meant to be known of, more so than seen or heard.

It was intriguing to me, therefore, when I came upon Weyes Blood and its continuously-dubbed “ethereal” front woman Natalie Mering. Mering demands to be seen and heard, and is by no means a waif beyond her waif-like appearance. Her instrument is deep and resounding, and her otherworldly musical concoctions are far too all-encompassing to garner any sort of comparison to a gaseous existence.

It hit me that Mering’s persona challenges all familiar notions of what it means to be “ethereal,” for her art is feminine, celestial, and powerful, all at the same time. Mering spoke in our interview of how all humans have an animal side, so I began to wonder if, perhaps, we all had a self-reflective, otherworldly side to us as well – one that normally lies undetected by our fumbling, animal radar. Mering extracts this element of our being and magnifies it, keeping intact all of the inherent characteristics of a flesh and blood human being: the strength, the raw emotion, the jagged edges. She uses her spiritual presence to embody the essence of her suffering, her perseverance, her enlightenment, every discovery along her epic journey, forging an otherworldly image in solidarity with the human experience. She demonstrates just how ethereal we all are when consumed by our emotions, and especially when we manage to beat the odds and, miraculously, transcend hardship.

INTERVIEW 10/17/14

I had the chance to chat with Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood. Here is what she had to say.

AF: So Ms. Mering, how did you come to create the very specific sound of Weyes Blood? And how has your past work with Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink informed your style?

Mering: Well, I was already making more improvisatory music when I met Jackie-O Motherfucker, and they’re more improvisatory. I don’t know how much they influenced my sound. I feel like Ariel inspired me to be more personal about my songwriting and write more from a conversational perspective. But mostly my sound is cultivated through my love of sound effects and early music, which is old church music, and trying to combine something super futuristic and also ancient.  

AF: What about a musician’s personality, both as an artist and a person, makes them better suited to solo work? Why are you a solo artist?

Mering: I think it was because I couldn’t find anybody who had the same standards as I did to be in a band with. In high school and college, I always wanted to make music, but it was the ultimate, most important thing to me, and it was kind of impossible to meet anybody like that.

AF: In terms of work ethic?

Mering: Yeah, in terms of work ethic. In terms of wanting to pursue it as their career. In terms of where I was coming from artistically. It just wasn’t in the cards for me, so I just played solo.

AF: How do you feel about the word “ethereal”? Does it describe you, or just you in relation to your art?

Mering: Probably just my music. I think ethereal is a fantasy element. That, as human beings, we have ethereal elements – all of us. But we’re pretty much animals, so ethereal is kind of the escape word that we wish we could transcend to. I take it as a compliment.

AF: How did you get into music? Especially, what’s your vocal training background?

Mering: My whole family are musicians, but I was in choirs a lot in middle school and high school.

AF: Where do you get your song ideas?

Mering: Just life experiences and how insane life is.

AF: How does the creative process usually begin for you?

Mering: It’s either music or lyrics, and it’s usually kind of like a lightning flash, but it’s also very half-baked. I get little imprints of songs and melodies, and then I flesh them out by playing them over and over again. And listening. Really listening is a huge part of it. I think I have really good ears.

AF: When and how do you decide upon the unconventional sound effects you use on each track?

Mering: I guess in any atonal sound there’s usually a melody, even though it is atonal, that will kind of sync up and match with the melody of the song. So, it’s almost like pairing…it’s kind of like a wine pairing. (Laughs.) Like some things go better with other things. It’s not all totally random. And once again, listening is the biggest thing. Listening to its relationship to the song and deciding if it adds to the song and brings it more life, or if it’s distracting to the song and takes away from it. Because with sound effects it’s pretty black and white.

AF: Do you find that you face discrimination and adversity within the music industry as a female?

Mering: Yeah.

AF: Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is your definition of feminism?

Mering: I am a feminist. The definition of feminist is to want equal opportunities and rights for women, paying women the same amount, etc. etc. But really what happens in music, is music is really just a big cult of the personality anyway. So, like a male personality is usually more appealing to everybody on a marketing level or an excitement/popularity level. I feel like women have to get in there and make incredible music to get the same amount of attention while a man could make music that’s more based on having a crazy personality, being a kooky guy, and everybody loves it. I think that that is what attracts a lot of people.

I don’t know, it’s also more difficult for men because it’s a little easier to be more singular as a female. So I wouldn’t say it’s totally this terrible thing being a woman in music. It can work to your benefit also. I just find that in terms of the people that I have worked with, it’s easier to get pigeon-holed as “mellow chick music” even though I think I can bring a lot of intensity and excitement. I think that’s happening less and less as more women are doing solo music than ever before, but some people just hear a female voice and that’s the first thing they think.

AF: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your work?

Mering: Probably hearing something in my head and then trying to make it a reality, in real life, only to find that it always comes a little short of the fantasy.

AF: What’s the most rewarding aspect?

Mering: Getting to connect with people and make people feel that living is worthwhile via creation and art. I think that’s a very elating experience.

AF: In multiple interviews, you talk about The Innocents being about disillusionment and innocence ending in a person’s early 20s, and how once this album was recorded, you realized you’d already grown past that theme. What themes are you exploring now?

Mering: I don’t know, probably ones that are just more existential. Things beside heartbreak.

AF: What’s beyond heartbreak?

Mering: I don’t know. Like not having a heart anymore and trying to figure that out. (Laughs.)

AF: That’s dark! Alright!

Mering: I mean, it’s existential, it’s dark, but there’s also a lot of lightness – I’ve been writing some happy songs too.

AF: So what’s next for Natalie Mering and Weyes Blood?

Mering: The album comes out next week and then I’m gonna do some heavy touring. I put together a backup band, so still kind of solo, but also with a full band. I’m gonna record my next album next year and just get cookin’ because time is flying and things are changing, and the new set of songs that I wrote are already getting old. Which is one problem with the music world. Creativity kind of comes so fast and albums are these laborious, long events. I look forward to recording the next album. That’s what’s next for me.


ALBUM REVIEW: Tomorrows Tulips “When”

Tomorrows Tulips Burget Records

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Tomorrows Tulips Burget Records
photo by Taylor Bonin

Tomorrows Tulips was born from the ashes of front man/pro-surfer Alex Knost’s previous venture, Japanese Motors, and a fortuitous experiment with his girlfriend at the time, Christina Kee. The twosome embarked on a musical union inspired by Kee’s fledgling foray into drumming, and by the next day, the group had the seeds of several songs. Following the pair’s only release, Knost was joined by Ford Archbold (bass, vocals) and Jamie Dutcher (drums) to create 2013’s Experimental Jelly and now, When – both on Burger Records.

Much exploratory elbow grease has gone into crafting the sound of this curious collaboration that prides itself on a “shambolic” approach. With every rendering, the group has fallen more fully into a chaotic, DIY sound that is completely their own. Originally motivated by 1960s rock & roll, Knost took refuge in the genre’s penchant for guts and creativity over technical ability. With When, their wave-riding nature has paid off, and a commitment to process has fed their efforts in creating a sound which embraces emotional transparency.

An acoustic, lo-fi wash and ear-catching chord progression serve as the canvass for “Surplus Store.” The track paints its subject vividly: “He pulls his tricks out of three-quarter sleeves / And combs his hair like the 90s / Hides a shoebox full of his broken dreams / A dirtbag revolution airing out in the seams.” On the bridge, Knost demonstrates his guitar chops, jamming on a solo that peals with rich, elastic groove.

Resounding with achy rumbles and feedback on the edge, When‘s title track stops and starts in husky contemplation. Haunting and dreamy, “When” captures what Tomorrows Tulips does best. The grainy, amped guitar line runs alongside the heavy echo of Archbold’s bass, eventually fading out and giving way to “Favorite Episode,” a mostly instrumental, experiential journey that rises and falls with reincarnations of a single, entrancing theme. Grunge-rattled growler “Glued to You” picks things back up, marked by breathy vocals and the perpetual pulse of the bass. The deep, uneasy grind of the guitar burrows into the darkly melodic refrain that chants, “Stay glued to you,” tapering off into ethereal, reverb-soaked oohs.

The appropriately-named conclusion of the record, “Clear,” closes the album with melodic reflection. Meditative and uplifting, it flows forth gently with tumbling riffs, steady strumming, and whimsical flits of flute, triangle, and strings. Both the vocals and lead guitar carry the melody line through, lulling the listener with the simplicity of a doubly-delivered refrain.

Mellow, lo-fi, and California-infused, it’s no wonder Tomorrows Tulips has culled such descriptions as “loser rock” and “bummer pop,” yet the band’s heart is anything but lackadaisical. Knost has been quoted saying that his ultimate muse is isolation in a world “masked by media, fashions, trends, and technology.” With When, Tomorrows Tulips has ventured their farthest yet, daring to put expression first on a mission to transcend vapid means of existence and reveal an inner life marked by authenticity.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ALBUM REVIEW: Duologue “Never Get Lost”


The many worlds traversed in Duologue’s newest album, Never Get Lost, must be revisited time and time again in order for each crevice of its ethereal soundscape to fully reveal itself to the listener. The emotional experience of this London five-some’s latest work, however, is best summed up by the cover art – a soul continually falling through mist towards a dark forest bathed in unexplainable light. Like a dream remembered in vivid detail, Never Get Lost runs through the mind with a fervid passion for the story it has to tell.

The story is, according to its own creators, that of people isolated in a digital age, and the metamorphosis that their existence and relationships must undergo to adapt to this harsh new reality. Despite this inner dialogue on melancholy and seclusion, the album is no foray into despair. From the onset, Duologue insert their intention to make a statement about this oddly plastic reality we live in. They start with “Memex” (or memory index), a hypothetical technology proposed in the forties to store information and supplement the mind. From those first resounding notes of Never Get Lost, the listener is drawn deep into the swirling undertow of a pensive pulse, the gateway to Duologue’s mysterious land stalked by the beasts of both darkness and light.

Among the most achingly plaintive tracks is lead single “Forests,” a venture into the most mystical corners of the imagination, sparkling with plucked strings and enduringly wistful vocals from frontman Tim Digby-Bell. Each layer of the composition pierces the next with strangeness and mystery; meanwhile, its lyrics mirror the urgency of the beat that anchors the track: “Say the things you need to say / Let me down the easy way.

“Drag And Drop” is sure to leave an imprint, albeit in an altogether different way, yet complimentary to the album’s scope and the band’s remarkable versatility nonetheless. Imbued with sexy electric rhythms and an intensely addictive refrain that coos and cracks, lamenting in sardonic simplicity “You’re stuck inside my heart,” the track makes good use of Digby-Bell’s richly elastic falsetto. It’s representative of the ways in which the group has grown – for this, their second studio album, they’ve carved away at their eclectic sound to craft a masterful style that melds booming electronic beats with eerily captivating melodies that drift from plaintive vocals.

Never Get Lost is an ironic title for this 45-minute journey steeped in myth and introspection. Above all else, you become exactly that – lost – deep in the folds of cascading melodies and electronic beats. But when you eventually come up for air, breaking the surface to bob a moment before the blue-grey sky, you long to submerge again into that deeply haunting space, finding yourself looking through wider eyes with a pulse calmed by the rocking motion of the waters below. When the pause finally ends and you are ready to move forward, you step off of that visceral cloud and firmly onto the ground, your insides expanded and your consciousness greater than before.

ALBUM REVIEW: Helado Negro “Double Youth”


After a slew of collaborations (Bear In HeavenDevendra Banhart, Julianna Barwick, and others), Roberto Carlos Lange retreated inward to make Double Youth, his fourth full-length release as Helado Negro. Recorded largely in Lange’s home studio in Brooklyn, the album is constructed with simple tools: easy, percussive beats and lullaby-like vocals that swing between Spanish and English. The whole thing falls somewhere between abstract and danceable.

Double Youth‘s guiding theme–and its cover art–comes from an old poster from Lange’s childhood, which he had forgotten about until he pulled it out of the back of his closet one day, in the early stages of recording the album. The image of the two boys posing together, looking both twin-like and not, resonated with Lange. Twosomes crop up everywhere in the making and music of this album: the poster reminded Lange of the warmth of a familiar memory, but also of how far away from that memory he had come; his vocals overlap Spanish with English; the beats recall block party bass lines booming from car speakers, but they easily turn tranquil, with a delicate motif of watery arpeggios that cycles forlornly through this collection. Its components laid bare, Double Youth feels like a conversation, and a kind of imperfect twinship, between voice and computer.

The album’s front half floats by like a pink cloud: the bouncy single “I Krill You” and subsequent track “It’s Our Game” are the two catchiest songs on the collection, and Lange’s lullaby voice is like melted chocolate drizzled over the beat. But over the course of Double Youth, the music develops a huge amount of texture. By the time we get to “That Shit Makes Me Sad,” the cyclical and moody closer, melodies have grown into landscapes, and the early tracks’ sweetness subsides into a strangeness that’s still vaguely benevolent.

On September 2nd, Double Youth will waft gently down to earth, courtesy of Asthmatic Kitty Records. If you simply cannot wait that long to be soothed by smooth vocals and delighted by playful beats, you can stream the whole enchilada over at Pitchfork, in anticipation of the album’s release. Check out “I Krill You” to get a taste:

TRACK REVIEW: Turn to Crime “Forgiveness”


Turn to Crime, Derek Stanton’s new experimental art punk creation, will soon be releasing their debut. The album, titled Can’t Love, is full of what Stanton has described as “post-whatever” music. A keyboardist, drummer, and vocalist, he recorded most of the album himself. The track “Forgiveness”, recently released, has obvious influences from art rock and punk masters Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop. It’s a fun, modern examination of that milieu with a wildly different geographical focus. Turn to Crime herald from Detroit where “stepping on” others is not like it is in New York.  In smaller towns, Stanton says, when you get stepped on you “tend to feel it more.”

From the start there’s a pleasant simplicity in the relationship between the instruments. They seem to be having a casual conversation with one another. Stanton’s vocals definitely recall the late 60s/early 70s style of Bowie or Iggy. There’s less Lou Reed in the vocals, but definitely a bit of the Velvet Underground in the music. The singing is not particularly smooth or soothing, but rather shaky and dramatic. This performative quality is tempered by the easy instrumentation. The kind of in-between Stanton created fits perfectly with the forgiveness concept: to forgive may seem like a straightforward action, but there’s a lot of weight carried in the interior decision to let things go. It also distances Turn to Crime from David Bowie by emphasizing the “small town” quality and uncomplicated acts between more ordinary people (as opposed to Bowie’s rock star focus). This is a rather effortless look at pain and compassion. It could definitely have more insight. But it’s an enjoyable, classic ride.

Look for Can’t Love when it comes out July 1st and in the meantime give “Forgiveness” a listen:


LIVE REVIEW: Slasher Flicks at Bowery Ballroom

Embracing their name’s camp vibe, Slasher Flicks had the Bowery Ballroom decked out last Monday night in floaty columns of oversized white plastic skulls that hung ghoulishly in the pre-show spotlights. Skulls notwithstanding, there’s nothing all that spooky about this trio, unless you happen to be afraid of painfully hip indie musicians. The evening had been billed as “Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks,” but that maneuver was mostly strategic. To be sure, Animal Collective’s experimental guitarist Avey Tare, alias Dave Portner, was the biggest name in the lineup, and Slasher Flicks’ recent full-length Enter The Slasher House does bear plenty of family resemblance to Animal Collective’s dissonance and oddball angularity, but when they played live, it was ex-Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian who had the biggest presence onstage.

“How you guys doing tonight? I can’t heeeeear yoooou,” she doofused between songs. “Just kidding. I can totally hear you.” The stage was lit up in technicolor, pixellated neon flashing across the skulls’ white faces and then, with similar effect, Deradoorian’s. Pockets of color lit up the band members’ faces, and between them, abysses of darkness cropped up. The shows’ aesthetic had been planned within an inch of its life.

Avey-love ran rampant in the crowd, even if Deradoorian was doing most of the talking. “I love youuuuuuu,” bellowed a slack-jawed, flannel-clad stick figure standing beside me. Between songs, he’d been overcome by emotion. “Play ‘My Girls’.” Portner looked up and grinned appreciatively. What looked like hundreds of super-fans were standing around the stage, all agog–stoner nerds who looked young and overgrown, many of them stand-spooning their girlfriends and staring up at the stage as if they were watching history get made. “Wow,” one of them huskily murmured into the hair of the girl he was holding the first time Portner emerged onto the stage. Very few of them danced–not even to Slasher Flicks bouncy and thoroughly dance-worthy single “Little Fang”–though standing squarely front-and-center was a blond guy who spent the entire set shaking his chin-length hair wildly in the technicolor beams of light aimed for the skull decor onstage.

The riffing between Portner and Angel Deradoorian–who, unsurprisingly, are a couple in their extra-musical lives–is at the crux of Slasher Flicks, and it was easy to feel a little sorry for drummer Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon), whose complex, meticulously shaped lines resuscitate many of the hazier moments of Enter The Slasher House. He came across as a supporting member to Deradoorian and Tare’s musical synchronicity. In fact, Hyman hadn’t known the pair before Portner recruited him to be part of Slasher Flicks, but a bandmate from Ponytail, Dustin Wong, was there to open for Slasher Flicks’ set. It was a stark performance–Wong played alone on stage, with only a mic, a guitar, and the skulls that hung all around him–but the set’s minimalism added to the intensity of his vocal acrobatics. He zoomed in towards the microphone and then cut away just as quickly, with powerful vocal control. It was a pretty extraordinary set, with a sense of order and minimalism that contrasted effectively against Slasher Flicks’ chaotic and kooky performance.

The difference between studio renditions of Slasher Flicks’ songs and their live performance came mostly in vocal delivery–though much of Enter The Slasher House was catchy, I thought that its angularity often manifested as muddled, overworked production that stood in the way of the emotive power the album was able to hold over a listener. Like the group’s live aesthetic–the glowing skulls, the bursts of technicolor between abysses of darkness–Enter The Slasher House was too flinchingly self-conscious. However, “Catchy (Was Contagious)” and “Roses On The Window” were two surprising highlights of the evening. Deradoorian belted out her vocal line, flecking the songs with unexpected drama, even diva-ishness, that drastically dialed up their power.

Check out “Roses On The Window,” off Enter The Slasher House, below:

ALBUM REVIEW: “Enter The Slasher House”

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks

Avey Tare has put out some nine-odd albums with pioneering psych-electronic quartet Animal Collective, but this decade, he’s focused more on solo work than he has on the band that originally made his bones. His latest creation, Slasher Flicks, feels like a deliberate push towards something new, in part because it’s really more super trio than it is side project, featuring ex-Dirty Projectors multi-instrumentalist Angel Deradoorian and Ponytail drummer Jeremy Hyman, who recently collaborated with Dan Deacon. Enter The Slasher House bears obvious family resemblance to Tare-fronted Animal Collective tracks, with similarly off-kilter harmony and a grab bag of digital effects and reverb.

With a name like Slasher Flicks, you might expect the album to sound cartoonish–and you’d be correct. It’s more funhouse than b-movie horror, though. The album is packed with bouncy synths, surreally poppy hooks, and rhythms that appear to operate at the whims of a metronome gone psychotic. Often, the latter is a highlight. Hyman skillfully controls his ear-catchingly angular drum lines, which never shy away from being the focal point of the tracks on this album. In fact, sometimes they’re the scaffolding the rest of the music hangs around. On songs like “Outlaw” and “Catchy (Was Contagious),” the strength of the drum beat leaves Tare’s singing in the dust.

Slathered in production and reverb, the vocals come across a little wimpy. When the songs are at their most instrumentally complex, Tare’s voice seems faint and watery, as if he’s singing from far away or his voice has been unceremoniously inserted to echo the melody. Tare’s anxious, yelling vocal style is easily recognizable, but his presence on this album doesn’t match the authority he cultivated in Animal Collective. Instead, the vocal melody defers to the rest of the music, or we lose it altogether.

The exception to that comes with “Little Fang,” a fantastically catchy number that brings all this group’s elements into synch. A pop hook and an irresistible bass lines serve as the big draws for this track, but lyrical repetition (“You’re always crashing into teeth,”) bolsters its blissfulness. Somehow, despite all the clicks and crashes of its oddball underbelly, the song comes across as sweet and summertime-simple as a Beach Boys single. Sadly, the magic balance “Little Fang” nails doesn’t stick in place for the rest of Enter The Slasher House – the bubbliness soon gives way to manic obnoxiousness, and the angularity of the rhythms turn toward chaos.

Check out the terrifying video for “Little Fang” below!

VIDEO REVIEW: Phedre “Sunday Someday”


Phédre is an avant-garde synth-pop duo from Toronto, though they have described themselves as less a duo and more a “loose, amorphous project that spontaneously sucks in any of their friends” who happen to be in orbit. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2012 with comparisons ranging from The Cramps to Ariel Pink, and Phédre returned last year with a sophomore release, Golden Age. The latest single from that release is “Sunday Someday” and its video focuses on a group of extravagant diners who enjoy tea cakes and live entertainment. It’s a softer, though no less mesmeric, hit from Phédre and the video only brings more liveliness and costume to it.

The camera pans across elite party goers in a black and white, sunlit scene. Though the visuals evoke turn-of-the-century opulence, the soundtrack is rooted in beachy avant dance pop with a vintage 80’s feel.  Synth burbles like champagne bubbles popping here and there and quirky production flourishes disallow any real sense of comfort, though the music feels carefree.  Both have echoes of their first single “In Decay” and its music video.  It was similarly filled with glimpses of rich foods and shots of wild getups. But that party was a about messy excess – half naked bodies sliding over each other, goopy syrup, and slop – somewhere between sensual and grotesque. The party in “Sunday Someday” is pristine – fur coats, towering head scarves, an elaborate headdress constructed from glittering feathers.  These disaffected party-goers aren’t participating in chaos, but creating a tense atmosphere of disdain to ease their jaded boredom. They’ve hired a dancer to entertain them while they eat, they ridicule and even trip their staff, but mostly seem concerned with their own banal conversations.

Daniel Lee and April Aliermo, Phedre’s core, play two of the elite characters, while their real-life friends, part of that “amorphous” contingent mentioned earlier, take on roles in cast and crew, from the servants to the cameraman. This piece is the result of friendly collaboration between art forms, with the involvement of musician Henri Faberge (of Henri Faberge and the Adorables), actress Briana Templeton, director Marianna Khoury, and more.

Phédre seems to be eyeing the sense of luxurious nostalgia popular among twenty-somethings today. While their 2012 album focused on wild, modern party culture, the aptly-titled Golden Age suggests a throw-back to eras gone by much longer ago. Like these newly invented personas, the record has more polish, but the contrasting synth waves maintain their lo-fi, exploratory aesthetic. Their critique of bourgeois culture and history is reflected in the last moments of the video, when the party goers eat poisoned cake in a subtle reverse of Marie Antoinette. Foam gurgles from everyone’s mouths, with April Aliermo gripping her throat as she chokes. By the clip’s end, everyone but the help is dead, face down in their plates. The music fades out as the servants hurry away in a satisfying final scene.

I can’t imagine what would be more fun than dancing to hypnotic, off-kilter pop music while watching the bourgeoisie get poisoned. Enjoy “Sunday Someday” below: