RSVP HERE: Lubo Smilenov of Amalgamy Streams via Instagram + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.

If you’re thinking of learning a new exotic instrument and/or how to become an electronic music producer while in lockdown, look no further than Lubo Smilenov for inspiration. For his musical project Amalgamy he plays every beautiful instrument you’ve never heard of including Kora, Kaval, and Gadulka. He is a one-man band and electronic music producer who can play guitar, bass, keys, program drums and is an Ableton Push master. In 2018, Lubo teamed up with cellist Bryan Wilson on Amalgamy’s debut album Cynefin. The album is full of film score-esque textures, homages to various world musical traditions and electronic soundscape experiments. It’s the music you would imagine playing before an ancient battle.

The next chance you can see Lubo shredding his Ableton Push and playing anything from the Kora to Bulgarian bagpipes is Saturday, May 2nd at 8pm. We chatted with Lubo about how he approaches his sound, his practice routine and the $5 key to his live stream set up.

AF: The music you’re performing live these days is a departure from your first album with Amalgamy. How would you describe it and how are you are approaching it?

LS: My approach to music has been so impromptu lately. It can go in any direction at any moment. One second I’m pursuing music fit for film scores. The next I’m putting break core beats over auctioneer samples and archaic goatskin bagpipes. I’ve recently embraced an anything goes approach more than ever.

A lot of the electronic music I’ve been making lately has been done through my Ableton Push launchpad. I really enjoy having a hands on approach to electronic music. Everything is I do is triggered by my fingers the same way it would be with a piano or guitar. It feels just like a sound palette. I just dip a brush into one of every sixty-four buttons and trigger an intended statement of sound. However, the culmination of all these statements creates something that was previously unintended. Sometimes it’s the idea within an idea that we’re looking for.

AF: What is your set up for live streaming?

LS: I plug a dual 1/4” TS to 1/8”TRS cable into my interface’s main output. The 1/8” side goes into a Radioshack Stereo Jack Adapter, and that piece goes into my cell phone. That adapter is the $5 key to this setup. Thereafter, I mix the audio by recording videos on my phone while playing and listen back to how it sound after I’m done. I make adjustments and repeat the process.

AF: You have a large collection of world instruments. Where did you get them?

LS: I’ve been very fortunate to have earned the trust of a few prominent luthiers whom I admire very much. Most of my instruments come from the the village of Kameno, Bulgaria. We’re talking about bagpipes (Gaida), flutes (Kaval), and bowed lyres (Gadulka). My Kora is from The Gambia via Sona Jobarteh’s website. No matter how rare the instrument I’m looking for, I always find it with the help of other musicians. Musicians in NYC generally have each other’s back with these things. It’s amazing.

AF: What is your favorite instrument? Which do you practice the most?

LS: I can’t seem to stick to one thing and it’s so liberating. What I usually do is spend 15-20 minutes a day picking up different instruments around the house at random. If I do end up practicing something disciplinary like scales, I always reward myself with improv at the end. I’ll play at least one bowed instrument, one regular string instrument, and one wind, before moving onto music production.

AF: Where do you think music and technology are going in the next decade? Do you think an extended quarantine will have an effect on the future direction of live music, or music in general?

LS: There are talks of a budding music renaissance based on the current influx of purchases made on music retail sites. Most of these purchases have to do with electronic music via keyboards, synths, beatmakers, etc. It’s still too early to say anything in confidence given the morbid reality we are facing. However, I do think that the role of the bedroom producer will become more prominent in the coming year(s). It really is becoming more important for people to express themselves through creativity. Remote recording and file sharing will certainly increase without a doubt. Cloud servers that host plugins and resources are going to be utilized more than ever.

Extended quarantine will certainly have an effect on the future direction of live music. Music is made differently when musicians prepare for a live show together vs. when they are alone at home. Music made at home has less restrictions. There’s no one to push back at your crazy idea. Suddenly, you have to fill the role of the drummer, singer, bassist, producer, songwriter, video editor, and marketer all at once. Live streaming has never been more valuable as a tool for musicians. As far as performance goes, it’s all we have now.

RSVP HERE for Amalgamy’s set on Instagram Live Saturday 5/2 at 8pm.

More great live streams this week…

5/1-5/3 Love from Philly: Kurt Vile, G. Love, John Oates, Man Man + More via YouTube. 12pm est, all donations benefit Philadelphia’s Entertainment Community. RSVP HERE

5/1 Foxygen via Pickathorn Twitch. 4pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Live From Here: Chris Thile, Watkins Family Hour, Sylvan Esso via WNYC. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Remote Utopias: Tame Impala, Weyes Blood and more via NTS App. 5am est, raising money for Gloval Foodbank Network RSVP HERE

5/2 Nap Eyes via Baby’s TV. 8pm est $5, RSVP HERE

5/3 Bang On A Can 6-hour livestream. 3pm est RSVP HERE

5/6 Breathwork with Kimi Class via Instagram. 7pm pst, RSVP HERE 

5/7 Alkaline Trio via Riot Fest Facebook. 7pm est, RSVP HERE

5/7 Tori Amos via Murmrr Theatre YouTube 2pm est, RSVP HERE


BAND OF THE MONTH: A Place Both Wonderful And Strange


Sorry For Your Loss, the debut album of the ‘occult electronic dance music’ duo A Place Both Wonderful And Strange, is like an eerie journey into a dark forest; it’s terrifying, yet beautiful, and you can only arrowope you’ll make it out alive. This duality in Niabi Aquena and Russ Marshalek’s music perfectly fits the duo’s Twin Peaks references. “Pedestal” prominently features longing vocals and mysterious whispers provided by Niabi, while the sounds of wind and static surround her. The song’s theme is echoed in the last track, “blue is like drowning and drowning is like this.” “DONT,” however, shrugs off beauty and is straightforwardly creepy, with a taunting, sinister voice and an accompanying music video that shows religious fervor in a darker light.

Though they have a lot of upcoming projects in 2016, Niabi and Russ took the time to talk to us about the occult, their love for dogs, and how they started their duo (you’ll find a stream for Sorry For Your Loss at the bottom of the page).

AudioFemme: How did you two meet? 

Niabi: We’d begun the dialogue of wanting to work together after he booked my solo project for a Tori Amos covers night of her album “Under the Pink.”  I covered “Icicle” and Russ covered “The Waitress.” We both gravitated, as individuals, to a more beat-orientated, abstract version of our covers, so when he asked if I’d be interested in joining him, it felt quite natural and logical.  

Russ: When I moved to New York I was throwing shoegaze parties, and Niabi, ever the shoegaze aficionado, would come out. When my former band played our second 92Y Tribeca gig and were asked to curate a night of moody, Lynchian music, we booked Niabi’s solo project and she got a great response. We tossed around the idea of making music together for a long, long time, but we finally started poking away at it at the end of last year. The energy just felt right so we figured we should at least nail down the tunes we had made together.

AF: Where are you from originally? 

Niabi: I’m from the Shenandoah Valley, in Virginia. We’re talking very rural here. I grew up on a dirt road and my address was a route number. We heated our home with a wood stove; my mother being the one, as a single parent, to chop the wood. There was no cable, no internet. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything though. I feel very lucky and grateful to have the upbringing that I did.

Russ: Atlanta, Georgia. I miss it at times. I sometimes wonder if I’d tried harder down there if I could’ve had the successes I’ve had in New York. Sometimes I fantasize about taking my band and my dog and my fiancee and running away back south.

AF: You call your music a “raw, visceral mess.” Can you expand more on this? How does it affect your art, and life in general?

Niabi: After playing in a bunch of bands, including my solo project, I got so tired of striving for perfection. I felt real dismay, not feeling like I could be more playful and experiment without major judgement from others and myself.  So now working with Russ in APBWAS, it’s wild and I don’t really know how it happened, but I feel so free to be myself and be experimental without fear of failure.  If something doesn’t stick, it’s okay, and when it does – holy hell how neat.  So everything has gotten a lot more raw and a lot more natural, [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][both] in our process of creating and certainly when we play live as well.  

Russ: I have no formal musical training, which probably won’t come as a shock to anyone. So a lot of my creative process is literally slopping around in ephemera, taking samples to places where they’re unrecognizable, crafting sounds based on how much I can possibly tolerate. Niabi’s the first person I’ve ever worked with who can, well, work with me in this way. For me, it’s how I live my life, too. I live and love big, messy, and without apology or forethought, and I think that reflects in the music, as well as the performance. We’re two people but we’re big, loud, and messy.


AF: I read about the Goths for Dogs show you were involved in. It’s an amazing idea- though, since you describe your genre as Occult Dance Music, I thought you’d be more into cats. Which animal is your favorite, and why? 

Niabi: I love all animals, it’s difficult to name one as a favorite. Right now, I only have a dog. His name is Odie and he’s a blind senior with many missing teeth. “Goths for Dogs” raised money for both of the rescues where we got our current animal friends. To quote one of my favorite art films, Nadja: “I have walked behind the sky, we are all animals.” So that is my answer.  There is no favorite, we are all animals.

Russ: I fucking hate cats. As a dear friend said, “If I wanted to throw money at something that doesn’t care about me, I’d invite a man over.” I definitely didn’t choose my dog, Mr. Frito Burrito, he chose me, and he is my favorite animal. He worked on a video with us for Goths for Dogs, by the way:

AF: In your music video for “DONT,” I really liked how you placed such a dark, moody song over the religious archival footage. I was wondering if you could explain: Does association with the occult mean a different kind of religion, or the absence of religion? 

Niabi: I’d say a different sort of religion. I’m deeply spiritual of a person, gravitating towards a more Wiccan practice of earth based ritual. The moon and recognition of celebrated earth holidays, solstices, and equinoxes are a very big part of who I am. Of course I am referencing of some very old knowledge here that is actually the influencer of modern Christianity. The thread between paganism and Christianity is not only tangible but historic.

Russ: For me, the occult association is a different kind of religion. Practicing witchcraft, for me, is about personal empowerment as well as appreciating the forces that are beyond my control. It’s made me a much more grateful person.

AF: You picked a great band name. What is the strangest place you’ve been to, or situation you’ve found yourselves in? What about wonderful, or beautiful? 

Niabi: It takes a lot for me to consider something strange. Although if I would have to, I’d say humans’ gravitation towards negativity and hatred.  I don’t understand how others intentionally try to hurt people. In risking like sounding like a total fucking hippy, I just wish there could be love everywhere and with everything. On beauty, I’d like to offer another quote that I’ve held for many years. I adore mid century art and design and of course love Charles and Ray Eames. I think that he nailed it when he stated that he wanted to find “the uncommon beauty of common things.” Beauty is everywhere if you just open your eyes and look.

Russ: Without getting into it, I every so often have extreme auditory hallucinations. And definitely that is the strangest, because suddenly, in the actual tangible physical world, I experience the deepest and most terrifying parts of my brain, the parts even I keep secret from myself, acting as though they’re real, and present. Some of it is what bleeds into our song “Way Out.” For beautiful: Iceland. Iceland Iceland Iceland. We’re trying so hard to get into Airwaves [Music Festival] this year.

AF: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

Niabi: There’s much on the docket for 2016, personally I’m very excited. Our second album is to be recorded upstate in a real cabin with a real wood stove, which I’m very excited about given my mountaineer-woman upbringing.

Russ: I’m terribly influenced by our friends/mentors-of-a-sort Azar Swan, and they talk about their upcoming albums by labeling them LP#, LP#, etc, until they have real names, and so I’ve taken to calling everything LP2, LP3, and LP4, because those are what’s on the docket right now. LP2 is going to be recorded in a house up in the fuck-off woods of Phoenicia, a place that’s really magical, and it’s going to be a version of our touring Keys Open Doors: Hidden Life of Laura Palmer show.

Niabi: During the recording of our second album, we are also going to play with the beginning songs of our third album, which will be more of a collaboration with Vanessa of The Harrow and Synesect and the magical Shanda. 

Russ: LP3 we’re writing and recording with Vanessa Irena aka knifesex, aka my fiancee, and our dear friend Shanda. Niabi and I really want to try and make that one an album that’s very much taking the idea of weird electronic dance music and applying some song structure to it. I’m thinking huge, world-stopping choruses.

Niabi: Our intention with the third album is for something more structured, slightly more commercially accessible, with songs that have a chorus and maybe a bridge.  Our fourth album will be recorded at the end of the year, however at the moment I can’t say anything more beyond that we have a very exciting producer who we’re working with and it’s going to be incredible.



MIXES: With A Little Help From My Bands


Whatever it is about the change of seasons in New York City from summer to fall that makes me feel especially nostalgic is something I hope I never lose. Maybe its the crunching leaves underneath my foot as I rush from my apartment to the subway and onward to class every day. Or maybe I’ve already consumed more pumpkin-flavored food and drink than one person should in such a short period of time.

Because of this overwhelming sense of nostalgia, when I’m presented with the idea of sharing the songs that have gotten me through tough moments in my life, I had the problem of having one too many songs to choose from. Music has always been a fluid element in my life; it weaves through the moments and people and feelings I encounter. The most meaningful musical moments weren’t always the ones that let me wallow or the ones that incited me towards action; they were the ones that allowed me to just exist in a singular moment and reflect. The songs that feel like a warm blanket on a cold day are always been the most comforting.
This collection I curated is ten songs that have done, and still do, just that.


“With a Little Help From My Friends” – Joe Cocker

I could’ve very easily gone with an Elvis Presley tune in place of this one. I wanted a song that reminded me of my grandpa, and Elvis had been a constant presence in our relationship. However, even more constant in hazy childhood memories from the dusty basement he spent all of his time in and the rickety blue pick-up truck that took me to and from elementary school is the sound of my grandpa mimicking Joe Cocker’s voice. It would echo through our house on Saturday afternoons while accompanied by the blaring noise of his stereo. When my grandpa passed, I listened to this song on repeat because it felt like I could still hear his voice. The soulful rasp of Cocker’s belt is warm and inviting as he wistfully answers the questions posed by the gospel choir backing him. His uncertainty comforts and eases to the point where I feel like I should respond, too.


“Silent All These Years” – Tori Amos

My mom played this song for me when I was still in the single-digit age bracket. I remember she played the track on our relic of a computer for me while my grandma cooked dinner in the kitchen. My mom was only 21 when I was born, so her taste consisted of 80s pop hits and angry 90s alt-girl singer-songwriters. I didn’t understand a single line of the song then, but I would put the track on repeat every time we were in her car before flipping to RadioDisney after the tenth, twentieth, thirtieth play. I’d spend my time dissecting the lyrics and wondering if she was saying “mermaid” or “moment.” But the title and chorus resonated with me outside of the mysteriousness of the context. Shy and always too scared to speak up, I knew what it was like to be silent for too long. And I was glad Tori Amos understood.


“True Colors” – Cyndi Lauper

Senior year of high school was filled with change and small steps towards maturation and growth. As we all prepared to move away from home and dive into adulthood, the most meaningful gift graduation gave me was the strengthening of important friendships in my life. Throughout the stress and anxiety of leaving my Midwestern hometown to live a big city life on the East coast, I learned to survive with and from my best friend Jonathan. I dedicated this song to him after he came out to me that year, and since then, we’ve adopted it as our theme song. Lauper’s vulnerable vocals are such a beautiful reflection of what it means to truly love another person for all that they are. Everyone should listen to this song when they’re feeling a bit lonely or missing a close friend; nothing serves as a better reminder of what it feels like to be loved by another.


“Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley

Buckley’s cover of the Leonard Cohen hymnal sounds deceptively melancholy. The first time I heard it, the song drifted through the speakers in my mom’s car about a month into my freshmen year of high school. It was the first song to elicit tears from me. After repeated listens over the past six years, I’ve begun to better understand the underlying glory rather than the sadness. For some reason, I feel like I turn to this song during some of the most painful portions of my life — death, fights, stress, etc. Buckley’s range and the ease of his emotive capabilities have been able to express my sadness and recovery from all different kinds of pain better than I ever could.


“The Resolution” – Jack’s Mannequin

Andrew McMahon will always top my list of inspiring musicians. His battle with leukemia, subsequent recovery, and lyrical reflection of this battle have been moving to me since I first started listening to his band Jack’s Mannequin. Another song that defined Senior year of high school, “The Resolution” became my personal anthem to make it through the seemingly endless obstacles that separated me from having a sane year. What makes this song lack the cliche of other “inspirational” jams is its honest search for answers and clarity. It’s not about what happens when you’ve reached the end of the tunnel; it’s about figuring out the most effective way to navigate the tunnel first.


“Wicked Little Town” – Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch happens to be one of my favorite films, so the soundtrack holds a special place in my heart. The summer between senior year of high school and freshmen year of college, I watched the film at least once a week with my best friend and listened to the soundtrack almost every night. The chorus’ repeated message of “and if you’ve got no other choice/you know you can follow my voice/through the dark turns and noise/of this wicked little town” resonated at a time when I felt desperate to escape the confines of my small, directionless suburb. It was my own wicked little town, and the omnious lyrics of the song felt like a glimpse into my future if I stayed there.

“Landslide” – Fleetwood Mac

The perfection of this hit record lies in its universal appeal. My mom would sing along to the lyrics in her car whenever it played on the radio. I remember her always directing the lyrics of the chorus to me (“Well I’ve been afraid of changing/‘Cause I’ve built my life around you/But time makes you bolder/Children get older/I’m getting older too”). It felt like a lullaby when I was younger, but as I’ve grown up, the song has transformed into a musical embodiment of my growth into adulthood as I continuously speculate “can the child within my heart rise above?” My mom still sings that chorus to me.

“Chicago” – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ outstanding track from the incredible album Illinois literally hits close to home. After moving to New York from the Chicago suburbs, I’ve adopted this track as my official homesickness jam. When Chicago and the people I love who are still there feel especially distant, I listen and remind myself just how much “all things grow, all things grow.” The idea of being in love with New York “in my mind, in my mind” feels especially pertinent in those moments when I just want to curl up on an old friend’s couch and be reminded of those high school inside jokes and all the mistakes we thought we had made.

“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” – Elton John

Not many singer-songwriters can pluck at my heartstrings the way Elton John can. I had never heard this song until the spring semester of my freshmen year in college, and if there’s ever a situation when a song fell into my lap at the right time, it was this one. “My own seeds shall be sown in New York City” felt like a beckoning to me to never give up on what I came to the city to do. If the subtle inspiration wasn’t enough, Elton reminded me of the wonderful friendships I had formed in this city with his line “I thank the Lord for the people I have found. While “Chicago” draws me back to the past, “Mona Lisas and Matt Hatters” makes homesickness feel like a silly idea in the first place.

“Don’t Rain On My Parade” – Barbra Streisand

With all the stress, anxiety, and whirlwind of emotions life can throw at you, sometimes it’s worthwhile to remind yourself that you actually are the baddest bitch on your block and quite possibly the universe. My ever-growing adoration towards all things Streisand makes me incredibly biased towards any of the tunes she sings. However, this particular track from the classic film Funny Girl keeps me from forgetting during my more anxious moments that it’s never worthwhile to let the world get me down when life is just waiting for me to take a bite out of it.

Content by Brittany Spanos for AudioFemme

audiofemme//mix 1 from ohheybrittany on 8tracks Radio.