Sunday, September 24, 2017

Milo Minute on 101.9 WDET

So last November, I was humbled to be invited onto WDET's "Culture Shift" to start contributing weekly segments on Detroit music. Specifically, I had to assess a Top Six List of shows to check out during the upcoming weekend. I'm still thrilled, nearly a year into it, to be continuing "The Milo Minute..." (which, yes, I know, will typically clock-in around about 5 minutes, per segment, but alliteration is catchy so just go with it...)

Each week, I'm able to share four songs by local artists with "Culture Shift's" host, Amanda LeClaire. And after almost 200 songs, I've only repeated an artist on a couple occasions. And that brings a grin to my face.

Week in and week out there is so much creative activity in this city - not even just exhibited through live performances of music, but in so many other ways and mediums, be it dances and symphonies in theaters or visual arts exhibitions in galleries.

My beat is the bar, the venue, the house party... For as many instances of U2-sized bands playing Ford Field-sized arenas, or giant festivals with sufficient marketing power behind them, there are always four or five times as many shows put together by independent artists at spaces that hold 100, 75, 50 or less... I'm trying to talk about those shows. For any listener tuning in to WDET who doesn't know me or my writing.... (and those people probably aren't reading this blog, but still...), it's my M.O. with the Milo Minute to share with them the treasure trove of musical artists that I've been admiring for years, and even those that I, myself, am just discovering as each year rolls on...

While you're here, consider supporting WDET's independent journalism, curation of culture reporting, and unique local programming, as this year's fall fundraiser finds that station in need of more support than ever before.

You can hear the Milo Minute on weekdays from 12-2pm during "Culture Shift." And I can't wait to record the next one!!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Six For Saturday: Prude Boys, Cheetahs, Ritual Howls, Nolan The Ninja, Steve Greene, Sean Madigan Hoen

Every weekend, I run through six songs I've been listening to from new releases by Detroit-area bands or Michigan musicians. These could be bands I've already written about this month, they could be bands that YOU already went to see live when they officially dropped these albums, or, potentially, it could be a song from a band that you've never heard before... These songs could be any  of those things, and they could even be a band that dropped something months ago that just slipped past my radar... It happens.





But it's really just me keeping a catalog of what I'm listening to... And, probably most importantly, linking you towards their album streams so that you can check it out for yourself, download it, buy it, and maybe even see this band (or that band, or any band, here) at their next show.


Prude Boys


Cheetahs


Nolan The Ninja


Steve Greene (of Voyag3r)


Sean Madigan Hoen


Ritual Howls

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tanager Premiere New Single "Ways"

Ypsi quartet Tanager are back with a new single from their upcoming album,

Tanager will release their new album Hz Donut before the end of the year

What I've always dug about Tanager, displayed effectively here with "Ways," is how smooth and sleek everything can sound and feel even while still seeping in so much ambient haze, fiery fuzz, and trippy delay effects. This conjures such a sweet middle-ground between My Bloody Valentine, Yo La Tengo, and Broken Social Scene, produced in such a way where the guitars suggest velocity but also evoke a cradling cloudy tone and timbre.



The lead vocals are doubled, even tripled at points, synced just fractions of a second off of each other in a warm and woozy harmonization and further fogged by just a bit of echo and delay. Am I being too technical in the breakdown? Maybe it's those drums; just as the verse is ascending in a swirl toward the chorus, it has this choppily propulsive art-punk urgency, but just like so many of the other tender musical tides in this song, each phrase segues into the next section's new time signature with grace...

Yes, grace, but still enough grit from some glosses of reverb to let this fit not just in the indie-pop category, but also the noise-pop category... But why get hung up on categories? You're listening to it right now, and you can feel how it those sprinting drums pull you forward with the churning guitars, like running your way up a neon green hill at the ever-dreamy twilight time of day while those vocals spool and flutter over you like fireflies until you reach that chorus and everything reshuffles into a more downhill cartwheel where ambient synth sounds start swelling in to augment the sweetness of those guitars... And that vocal hook that threads the chorus together is going to be stuck in my head all week.

Tanager is Eleanor Daftuar on lead vocals/keys and guitar, with Rishi Daftuar on guitar/, Scott Kendall on bass, and Mary Fraser on drums. They released another single earlier in the year, and it will join this one on a forthcoming album that they hope to release before the snow falls. It was recorded/mixed by Rishi and produced by Eleanor & Rishi months back. Things have been held up as Rishi recovers from a severe leg fracture, but they hope to still have things on track to release this album soon. It's called Hz Donut. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Strange Beautiful Music Festival (Sept 22-24)



Some of the music..., most of the music, that you're listening to... is safe. Most of the music you're listening to attains whatever quantity of its elegance by way of restraint. Or, rather, a reliance...upon traditional structure, common tuning, pleasing timbres, and arrangements that feel familiar. Don't get me wrong, some pieces of music, be it rock or electronica, can feel propulsive, evoke exciting velocity, and stir up your adrenaline... But you still know where you'll land. You still recognize the terrain.

I don't want that tether. I want something exotic, I want a sound that bursts with several colors, that sounds almost alien! Something that can' be framed, can't be contained. Something that might not even keep a downbeat, and gives me dance moves I can't replicate.

Cellos, Saxophones, Synthesizers, Modulators, Human Voices, Xylophones, Violins, Pianos, Drums -all uniquely defying convention. This coming weekend allows you to immerse yourself in a 3-day odyssey of various vibrant expressions of indeterminate exploration from several ensembles and instrumentalists.




This is the 10th annual Strange Beautiful Music Festival from New Music Detroit, hosted at Trinosophes on Friday, the DSO on Saturday, and the MOCAD on Sunday. (More info).

A marathon of ambient, avant-garde, meditative, noisy, traversing with great whims of emotion that change up a phrase or a melody with sudden shifts of time signatures or new keys delicately diced into a hook that creates a third or fourth movement...

Alright, I got a little high on the stranger stuff... At its heart, this festival is that celebrates innovative composition and gracefully daring performance styles. Coordinated by New Music Detroit, the Strange Beautiful Music festival augments their dedication to breaking new ground in music, and programming live music events that can showcase the virutosic talents we have here in Detroit trying to push those boundaries and break through.

You'll hear contemporary chamber music, European folk, electronic improvisations, European folk, electronic improvisations, swooning drones and cerebral swells. It's a conference of whirlwind performances demonstrated the possibilities attainable by humans with voices and instruments.

Highlights include DJ Rebecca Goldberg spinning acid-techno on Friday night at Trinosophes, New Music Detroit performing Steve Reich's famous "Piece for 18 Musicians" on Saturday at Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Cube, and continuing at the MOCAD on Sunday where you can see Detroit ennsemble Saajtak.



Also, the incomparable Onyx Ashanti will be there to blow your minds with the epitome of futuristic innovations. There's a tribute to Pauline Oliveros, the explorative jazz of James Cornish, and the all-out noise ceremonies of Wolf Eyes.

For full information on all three days' worth of lineups, visit New Detroit's site. Or, you can find more info at the festival's facebook page.  Things kickoff Friday at 5pm. Find tickets through the DSO.

Here's New Music Detroit from a few years ago at a Strange Beautiful Music festival.




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Carmel Liburdi's Insomnia Slumber Party

New Carmel Librudi Album is out Nov 3rd


Carmel Librudi's a true vocalist. For the Detroit singer/songwriter, it's all about inflection, intonation, and a carefully threaded curve of the melody that evocatively communicates the sentiments of the stories in each of her songs. I can't remember hearing someone speak out a verse so mellifluously - it's birdlike, the way her flow can fly through a chorus with a sweet assortment of notes but then glide down for her signature patter of conversational-sounding pattering.

And Liburdi is also a true storyteller. The focus is the words. Her acoustic guitar fills in a pleasing rhythm, but the focal point is the funny anecdotes, the painful confessions, the poetic self-deprecation, the honest appraisals, and that congealing, ever-more-securing sense of self. Listen to the eureka-moments she manifests in "Genuine Creep..."



"Genuine Creep" is the closing song on her newest album, tentatively titled Insomnia Slumber Party, which comes out November 3rd. The release party is at the Korner Bar in Hamtramck, featuring an acoustic set from Nina & The Buffalo Riders, Greg Mulkern (aka Banjoelectric), and J. Navarro & the Traitors.  

Over the last five years, Liburdi has written and released several albums of her own material, performed on just about every stage around Detroit, and even gone out on a handful of national tours. Though her presentation of a single voice and acoustic guitar might suggest coffee house-open mic-folk aesthetics, she's weaving together so much more, with a twangy warble of country to her voice at some points, segueing to an almost rapped or spoken-word cadence. The emotion eloquently sewn into her songs to that post-emo-but-pre-indie-pop balance of something like Neutral Milk Hotel-meets-Jenny Lewis.

But what shines most of all on this, her fifth album, is the strength she attains by claiming, owning, or even defeating her flaws and vulnerabilities. Even if you hear a sad song from Insomnia Slumber Party, you, the listener, still feel better. And it's all in the way she puts it... These songs are all about finding how to say that one thing, something that was just unutterable out loud, or some emotion you couldn't pinpoint. Liburdi has all of the cards on the table and makes it sound graceful in the way she's able to vocally shuffle them all back together, even if the deck's still slightly out of order.

When the record's ready, when you can hear more of these songs live, I'll particularly suggest "Not For Consumption." It's a trotting rhythm on the guitar, just a waltzing kinda Americana warbler, but her voice waves across the range of just talking to you, or crooning, or even soaring through a falsetto. And she sings:
"I'm here... in the now...I don't know why and I don't know how / turn me on / flip the switch and get out.... oh, tell me why do I lie to myself? / Trying to believe that you're some-body else? / But you're not, and you'll never change..." 
And that's the warning you gotta heed with Librudi's style of folk songs... Don't be the one who can never change.

More info: http://carmelliburdi.com/index.html
https://carmelliburdi.bandcamp.com/

Monday, September 4, 2017

Detroit Dives - House Caught Fire

House Caught Fire
recorded at Tempermill Stduios
The Detroit Dives indicate what they're all about in that name, alone... What this trio's trucking is the endearing, clattery, cathartic, and riff-heavy rock that's consistently resonated inside the city's signature hole-in-the-wall/homepride "dive" bars. These local music mavens have plenty of rock experience from previous gloriously gritty outfits like the Junk Monkeys, Black Mollies and the Sunday Painters.

What's sustained in their approach throughout their individual years' worth on Detroit stages is that they've always blended punk aesthetics, be it aggressive hooks, drum-hits or bluesy howls, with the indelible coil of pop melodies and catchy choruses.

Sure, there's some irreverent lyrical commentary in there, as well as a sharp satirical shoving-back against the popular conceptions and misconceptions about rock music; specifically Detroit rock...

The Detroit Dives have a new EP coming out this weekend called House Caught Fire, celebrated at PJ's Lager House in Corktown, (Friday). They're going to be rocking with piano, organ and harmony-augmenting backup vocals to fill out their sound. Opening up the night are the Haley Riots, and Mom Barley - INFO

When the world is going crazy, a great backbeat and some wavy blues riffs provide not only a stability, but a catharsis...





"This town's blood runs in our veins"

Now..., Ron McPherson (guitar/vocals), Kevin Perri (bass) and Andrew Pike, (drums) shared their first single with me, streaming above. Certainly one of their more pointedly irreverent lyrical shoulder-checks into the madness of King Kim, its unfortunately as topical as ever, this week. ("You're on borrowed time" quakes with ominousness...)

But what attracted me to this tune was that, among the 5 new ones, its got so much of the urgency and defiance of punk. It's the grittiest, slickest of the bunch, and there's just a lot of fire coming not only from the guitar feedback and the haunting melody of the chorus, but just how hard those drums are hitting...

The standout track, which you'll hear later this weekend, is definitely the title track. "House Caught Fire" doesn't have the rebellious yell of "Supreme Leader," and in fact it pares everything back into a pianobar blues ballad. The dynamics of this song stand out, with their evident energy and passionate playing style able to lower the heart-rate for the solemn verses and shuffle along to a groovy 70's AM pop rhythm. Of course, since the subject matter is near and dear, the choruses get fiery! It's an ode to Howell's Bar,a West Dearborn "dive" that burned down two years ago. McPherson considered it a "dive bar that anyone could walk into and feel at home in..." This was their "house." It was where the members of this band met each other.

So this EP, the group's second release so far, is very much about picking up those pieces, engaging in deep reflection, and pondering where we'll go next...

Detroit Dives
Fri
PJs Lager House
more info

Friday, August 25, 2017

MotorKam's Futurist Funk EP

So about three years ago, I was turned on to a band called Maraj. It was an ensemble blending hip-hop, jazz and soul, and they were essentially based west of Detroit, out towards Kalamazoo. So I was stoked when they were going to appear at a Merrick'N'Trumble festival in Woodbridge a couple summers ago... Turns out the band couldn't make it. Just a couple artists were up on the stage during their set, a DJ and a lyricist. That lyricist was cool, confident; he shined. He was MotorKam and I walked away a fan. I spent the next couple hours just trying to process it...

And I've been listening to his new EP BlackDaddy Birthday Suite about five or six times in a row trying to grasp the carousel bars gyroscoping in intricate patterns over kinetic rhythms of tightly snapping bass booms and aerobic percussive arrangements. 




There's so much character to his inflection, splashes of flamboyancy, curtains of cool R&B crooning, deep-into-the-groove staccatos of wordless incantation, and a plethora of robotic/alien reverb wrapped vocals and pitch-shifted double-track call and response. 



These tracks make it impossible to resist movement. Right? I mean, your shoulders just loosen and start to sway, and knees get noodly as you start rollicking back and forth. Much kudos to the production of DJ Deada$$, Marshall Law, Landman Dxn, and DJ Jalen. But there's especially so much energy in MotorKam's voice. "I'm a wild boy, that's my lasso..." he sings on the smoothly hyperactive "Judo Chop," which kicks off this EP with spastic jazz pianos cascading over 80's synths and trunk rattling bass. "TigerSexy Freestyle" is also demonstrative of how he's playful and fierce at the same time, wildly ranging the register of his voice even as he accelerates his cadence, all the while augmented by these beatmaker's freshly eclectic blends of speedy sci-fi funk. 

I don't know what it is about "SLC" that makes it my favorite; it might be that indelible beat, or it might be the dreamily distorted chorus of voices harmonizing through the chorus, or it just might be the certain timbre to those haunting synths with their curly hooks. But, again, it's probably his vocals. MotorKam transcends typical tropes with his keen sensibility for using his voice almost as if it were a biological synthesizer, stretching his vocal notes out for four measures or blurring it into a buzzy hum, but then tightly packing the next few bars with mighty high word-count carefully articulated to the consistently fleet spill of beats. 

I'm already listening to this for the seventh consecutive spin. Trying to sit still in my chair as I type this... failing. 


MotorKam, aka Black Daddy is performing at this year's Dally In The Alley
Sat., Sept 9
Forest Stage
5:30pm
More info

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nein! - Fashionable Living

There's never any of the typical pomp and self-promotional circumstance when it comes to Sophisticated Professionals
Every few months, this trio of musical masqueraders embody a different dynamic genre or style, and release an album of songs with a new/different band name where they take on the distinct characters typical exhibited by iconic players the aesthetic tropes of whatever-said-genre or realm they inhabit, be it country, thrash metal, or in this case, krautrock! 

All of the songs on Fashionable Living, the debut album from Nein, were performed by "machine..." Not sure if it's "a" machine, or "the" machine, or if it's the "man machine," but I'm just going on the liner notes. The main players are known as Dolphus Dietrich, and Wolfgang Weismueller. 

Minimalist grooves from a korg drum machine, curly-cue melodies threading across those moog-sounding synthesizers, the clattery clasp of those ersatz beats, and sing-spoken esoterica elucidating the enticements of fashion, the mundane majesty of shopping centers, the overwhelming options of fine dining, or the underappreciated benefits of a timeshare. 


This is a daydreamy, musical monorail ride sliding across circuitry tracks and passing by sleek, digital semiconductor stations, all neon-sparks and futuristic patterns, form-fitted everything and angular dynamics. It's a sincere homage to Krafterwerk and Neu, with strategic reworkings here and there. It's a garden of oscillation delights... You can hear it on "Timeshare," the way their voices, their human voices, start to meld ever closer to the harsher robotic-sounding distortion of those humming synthesizers. 

Nein! as they appear on the recordings of "Fashionable Living" includes: Dietrich, Weismueller, as well as Klaus Schumacher, and Hans Ziegler. 

You can stream the whole album this Friday. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Tart - Toothache EP


TART's evolved quite a bit over the last three years. Cliched as it sounds to say this, but Toothache is really the proper debut moment for TART, (after a couple EP's they put out earlier). TART started out as a duo, with singer Zee Bricker and guitarist Adam Padden, but has thrived in more aggressive rock terrains as a trio, with drummer Don Blum.

The immediate/sustained energy of this EP essentially shoots up to a confrontational standing position and promptly throws the chair through a window. Whereas their developmental phase indulged electro-pop or dance-rock, something like early Rapture melded with Yeah Yeah Yeah's, the engines are revved into another gear with Blum that gives them so much more grit, evident in the fiery bridge of "Miss Me," where Bricker's voice becomes a melodic growl and Padden's guitar claws into a noisily distorted solo.



You can even hear it in the first five seconds of this song, a foreboding thrum of feedback just roils for a bit, just enough to get your shoulders arched with expectation, until that kickdrum thu-thumps in under a hard-hooking guitar. Sometimes you can picture a singer in your head just by hearing her voice, energy, power, attitude... "Young men are always listless..." You can see Bricker just glaring down at you with that cutting dismissal. "You're timing's wrong..." she winds out her intonations with this intensity that seems to suggest that even she's aware of how her guitarist and drummer are about to click the roller coaster over another peak on the track for a few  more wicked loopdeloops.

Padden's guitar, on previous songs, sounded sleek, cool, jet-like... Now, it's murkier, it's meaner, it's just more realized; a turbine crackling with so much  more low end to it that suggests sufficient muscle for a mosh-pit...This is particularly evident on "Toothache," where Blum's performance seems to envelop the song as it progresses, hitting those toms with a building tidal wave as the song crashes in, and eventually spiraling across the whole kit for some of the most dynamic fills I've heard in a long while...dude's a pro. And, yes, he was a missing piece of a rock-formula for TART, but it also helped that Bricker and Padden already had surplus chemistry between the two of them already built up before his arrival; that he fit right in and spun along immediately speaks to his versatility.

Whereas the first two songs I've mentioned definitely take TART into the darker, more atmospheric rock, and almost kind of an indie-metal trip of acts like Savages, there is a lighter, brighter pop slider of a song in "Metal Eyes" that brings the catchiest hooks and earworm la-la-laaah melodies. But then my favorite song of this batch, "Dive Bar," comes in and kinda combines everything that's working so well with the new iteration of TART: Somewhere between a more frenetic art-goth punk and a steelier, kinetic hard rock anthem.

This EP is out Friday, with a release party at Ghost Light in Hamtramck, featuring Double Winter, and DJ Marcie Bolen.
MORE INFO

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hot Talent Buffet

And now for something completely different...



There's so much potential in a Variety Show formula left untapped by this generation of artists. We have our receptions in galleries and we have our album release parties in music venues, and it all just sort of blurs together. With Hot Talent Buffet, there's not only a sense of each artist on its lineup getting a chance to try something unconventional and really express themselves in a new, fresh way, but also a bit of a vibe of unpredictability. From one act to the next, you'd be best to just drop all preconceptions. Because anything could happen.

Hot Talent buffet embraces the sink-or-swim aspects of throwing a volunteering artist out onto the mic, more or less at the mercy of the crowd. Saturday, August 26, Juggalo misfit Freshness (of the YouTube Series 'Freshness TV') will be the host for a revue of local artists varying in styles and disciplines, tallying up the votes of you, the audience, by the end of the night, to award the winner the prize of 'Top Ham.'

Ham it up at the Northern Lights Lounge this Saturday.

All proceeds from this event will benefit Freedom House in Detroit, a temporary home for asylum seekers from anywhere in the world.

This Saturday's lineup features local music scene regulars like Frank Woodman (experimental guitar), Burns (experimental viola!), a new krautrock-inspired band called Nein (with some familiar faces), plus Kitty Hawkk (burlesque), Hiccup Kenny (country music sung in Japanese) plus vaudeville duo Pinch & Squeal, and performance artist Ziam Penn. Freshness, as we said, is your host, and the music coordinator is Chef Johnnie Penn.. Sponsored by Found Sound record shop in Ferndale, the evening's entertainment is produced by Chris Butterfield and Salvador Caramagno.

Rock clubs and art galleries sometimes don't allow for some of the more unique, avant-garde, irreverent performers to reach an audience. This is your chance to experience something completely different.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Song Premiere: White Bee's "Beat State"



I've not yet been able to put my finger on the special kinda funk that's forged by White Bee. It's just something in the riffs, the sharp pull back of those hooks. Then there's those soulful vocals from Shannon Barnes that have a croony R&B curve to their suave intonations. The guitars and rhythms can have the cool shuffle-skid-stomp of jazz expeditions, throughout the verses, but everything can muscle-up for a more rock-n-rolling roil when the song necessitates it. Their versatility has made me say, on more than one occasion, that this is a band you should be watching, this year & next year!



This song's silkier, measured spills of synthesizer shimmers adds a bit of romantic new-wave swoon to the stew. But let it play and pulse into that invigorating chorus, where song's fuselage tightens up for this swift barrel-rolling groove. "Beat State" is just a taste of what's to come in the near (albeit indeterminate) future, when the Detroit-based band releases a follow-up to their 2015 EP. The goal is to make their next release a full-length.

Until then....
White Bee perform TONIGHT in Hamtramck, at the Korner Bar
ft. Oshwa, Growwing Pains, and Vnesswolfchild
Info

Single artwork by Carmel Liburdi

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Night with Estar Cohen



You might have your own ideas about jazz, but Estar Cohen can likely shake them up for you.
“Jazz has history, but it is not stuck in another time period,” the Ypsilanti-based
multidisciplinary musical artist said.

“(Jazz) is a living, breathing art form that continues to gain new interpreters, new composers and new fan bases.”

Cohen’s voice is a vibrant, spirited entity, able to melodically sprint in staccato bursts over a more frenetic composition with rapidity and agility, and then spread out her intonations into longer measures with a sweeping elegance.

This Saturday, Cohen has an ensemble backing up her original compositions for an intimate performance at Cultivate Coffee & Tap House.



“(Jazz) isn’t confined to the combo you hear that was hired to play background music for the restaurant, or, even the other end of the spectrum, say, Lincoln Center. It isn’t the Starbucks Compilation CD! What jazz IS…well, it’s hard to say, because as time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult to put in a box. But that’s what I love about it. It’s a creative music.”

Cohen is still young but already seems like a jazz vet around the local scene. She got her degree in Jazz Performance in 2015 (Univ. of Toledo) where she honed her skills in improvisation and learned composition with esteemed jazz artists/instructors.

Also in 2015, along with putting out her first album and working on jazz clinics with her other quintet, Talking Ear, she was also chosen as a finalist in the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards. She taught songwriting with Earthwork Music for a couple seasons, part of their educational endeavors of their non-profit SEEDS. Currently, she teaches music around the Ann Arbor area.

Her real joy, is not just performing, but more so: composing. “Story is important,” she said, of starting out the lyrics of any arrangement. “I love personal stories; attempting to see a life through someone else’s eyes, and to relate my experience to others. My lyrics often focus on story, and I do my best to have the written music reflect that. I am so fortunate to work with musicians who also care deeply about this.”



Cohen’s dynamism springs from her strong sensibilities for improvisation. After a recent concert, someone from the audience asked how much of her performance was written, and how much was improvised, a question she often finds herself fielding. Her improvisation is blended, by design, into the composed material. That’s her signature approach; considering every instrumentalist or vocalist who could likely be joining her in bringing a fledgling work to life as it comes to be performed later down the line.

“Because their voices will be a huge part in how the song will actually take shape,” said Cohen. “IN any moment of one of my performances, someone will be, in some shape or form, improvising, because the music is meant to grow and change from performance to performance.”

Cohen was drawn to music from a young age. Her siblings (Ben/Sarah) are also songwriters and musicians. She said that she was exposed to the idea of supporting and experiencing local music from original songwriters at an early age. Her parents even crated and ran their own music venue called the Happy Badger.

When it came to her first encounter of jazz, back in high school during a concert at Murphy’s Place in Toledo, she may not have immediately grasped it, but nevertheless profoundly felt the energy of the music. From that point, she started listening to jazz as much as possible and eventually studying it.

“Going along with that, my whole journey leading up to this point has been shaped and elevated by the masters willing to pass on their knowledge to the “next generation.” At Murphy’s Place, pianist Claude Black, who is unfortunately no longer with us, and his musical partner bassist Clifford Murphy opened the stage to young musicians, allowing us the opportunity to play and learn from them  - a true instance of “learning by doing.” To be treated as an artist as a young person is motivating. It makes you start thinking as an artist. Then you begin to expect more of yourself!”

The Estar Cohen Project started six years ago; it’s featured different artists at different times and is designed to be flexible for allowing to do so as it evolves. While Cohen collaborates in other jazz groups, this band is where her compositions are the driving force.

Last week, the Estar Cohen Project (which features Dan Palmer on guitar, Josh Silver on piano, Ben Rolston on bass, and Travis Aukerman on drums), recorded a concert in front of an audience at Willis Sound, which will hopefully be released as a live album in the near future. She also just recorded an EP of stripped down duo songs with bassist/vocalist Maggie Hasspacher.
You can’t have your mind made up about jazz until you see Estar Cohen.



A Night with Estar Cohen
Saturday
Cultivate Coffee & Tap House
307 N. River St.,
Ypsilanti
MORE INFO

Monday, August 14, 2017

Friends of Dennis Wilson - Space Maintainer

It starts off ferocious, like a motorcycle belching fire. The cymbal hits seem like lane lines passing steadily into a blur. The chugging riff gets your head loose like a swivel. The vocals glide across this wavy melody and in the refrain, says: "Yeeaah...." And you're in. You're feeling it. Carried away...launched, even. This is neo-space rock. This is several strains of psychedelic all at once. This is shoegaze with a vantage point higher than a stage, more like from the stratosphere.



Friends of Dennis Wilson started up more than 10 years ago and were early satellites that started orbiting in what would become the "neo-psych" scene, (read: Thee Oh Sees, DIIV, Tame Impala, etc...) There wasn't really a word for what FODW were when they started up, and they were inevitably raked into the garage-rock category, more or less, as that cache was still lingering around Detroit in the post-White Stripes days.



What was going on in their tunes, even their surfier stuff, was something a bit more mystical, a bit more dark, a bit more of a dive into the unconscious where the regular worries of the every day disintegrate and your mind is freed to kaleidoscope through some new contemplations. The aura, the legacy, that they were continuing, was very much a, for lack of a better phrase, druggy kinda rock trip - but better put as a purposefully atmospheric layering of guitar, bass and drums dressed with lots of careful stitches of reverb, echo and distortion, so as to evoke an altering of your perceived reality.

"'Psych' is anything BUT the norm!" said Tony Thrush, lead singer/songwriter for FODW. "But then, 'the norm' is subjective too, we could debate that. I just feel that psychedelic music is anything htat's different. It's anything that makes you think!"

This fall, Friends of Dennis Wilson release 'Space Maintainer' on vinyl through a bigger label, a first for them, having done it all DIY up until now. There will be 50 limited edition thumb drives of the album (via Rocket Arm Records) available at upcoming shows. This is an early release of the album, with the 'space maintainer ignition unlock' via the thumbdrives.

Anyone boarding this vessel expecting typical shoegaze are going to be throttled a bit by how heavy this record can get... Not that it's metal, or hard-rock, but just that there's a lot of emotion and energy in the playing - like each instrument is forcefully trying to conjure something. The band's iconography and on-stage presence has tended to suggest something of an occult-like vibe, but I think the only possession going on is that of the trance-like influence that exertive, propulsive music such as these new tunes demonstrate, can have upon an opened mind.



"People can like what's comfortable-sounding to them, like something they already know. Don't get me wrong. I love bands going for more of a '60's garage' thing... But for me, there's never any direct influence, I just pick up a guitar and go...! People in other bands tell me how they feel that no one's understanding wat they're doing. But it's that it's not initially safe to their ears. It's gonna take a little while to catch on..."

Thrush and his band mates, Tim DoNesia, Sam Santuro, Space Bot Steve, and Brian have never waivered. Even when they weren't catching on with a clique or a scene, testing out those weird early new-century-psychedelic sounds. After 10+ years, Thrush said he's getting more feedback from fans and critics who have just now steadily realized that they've been chugging along, DIY-style, for so long. This is their first release on any label, and it's undoubtedly their most varied, fully realized work.

"It's about getting out there and doing your thing, and coming out your way, and you'll get respect for that," said Thrush. "Never waiver... and time will be good to what you're doing, in different ways."




'Space Maintainer' becomes a testament to perseverance. Maintaining momentum, occupying a space of their own. "No matter what you're doing, your art will eventually be translated and recognized in some way," said Thrush, speaking from 15-some-odd years of experience with eventual connections forged around the global music scene. "But, first, you gotta love what the fuck you're doing before anyone else can dig it!"

'Space Maintainer,' with its cathartis crescendos and vulnerable softer sides, also becomes a tribute to a fallen comrade. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Rabeah Ltief passed away recently, a leader of the band Electirc Lions Soundwave Expermient, and a potential future-member of Friends of Dennis Wilson. "That just broke me," Thrush said, recalling the day he found out, and inferring that Ltief, who contributed to the song "Just In Case Place," had intentions to join the band. That love for Ltief, that memory, maintains the space left behind by his absence...

"I feel like I've just got to get as much done as I possibly can," said Thrush, with what seems like amplified motivation in the face of what was a rough year of lost friends. He's also working on a book, and a feature film, which should be coming out in the next six months or so. 'Space Maintainer,' meanwhile, will be out later this fall!

More info

Coming up: FODW are performing at Chicago's Kaleidoscope Eye Psych Fest on Sept 8, followed by a very special Theater Bizarre headlining slot on October 21st.


Monday, August 7, 2017

UFO Factory


Benefit for UFO Factory tonight at El Club 

UFO Factory Employee Relief Fund

For more info
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Previously scheduled shows are being moved to new host locations. Stay tuned for updates

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Passalacqua's Tranquility Base

Passalacqua, performing at Lo & Behold for River Street Anthology
filmed by Mostly Midwest

It's been two years since we last got to hear a fine four song EP from Detroit duo Passalacqua, and it certainly feels like a lot has changed, politically, socially, culturally... Times are heavier, much more so than they were, back in the spring of 2015, when we heard Banglatown. Songs from that EP, like "At The Party," were about clearing ones head through a strategic detachment from debauchery that could then afford cogent contemplation. But songs on Peace Zone are not so much about a lateral shift, a shift that maybe takes you away from distracting noise, but instead yearns for elevation. 

Blaksmith and Mister have always been 360-degree surveyors of the society-as-ecosystem inside which they operated, using their duets of articulated, staccato hooked raps to consistently render clarity out of the anachronistic music-biz-game, the unpredictability of fame, the fickleness of acclaim... and tiding against any wave or trend of conjuring bellicosity in their rhymes and instead opting to galvanize a deeper wisdom by documenting their individual-and-shared paths through strings of words laying bare their concerns and anxieties. Not so much vulnerable. But very much empowering.

Even something as funky as "Joni" references finding "Inner Peace." It closes things out (with production by Zach Shipps), and is easily the most psychedelic we've ever heard Passalacqua. Heads are in the clouds, the stratosphere, the cosmic perspective gazing down and taking the long view... We all find our own way / There's always more to say... I mean..., it might be a song about pancakes that references parental consummation. But it's also about, yes... tranquility! A tranquility that nourishes your creativity....the same way pancakes might nourish your drowsy weekend mind.

While "Labour," (with a ferocious cameo by Nolan The Ninja), is a classic Passalacqua-putting-it-all-into-perspective joint that finds producer Native $ound effectively cutting out the beats for these cathartic and startling opportunities for deep gasps. "Labour" is a new millennium's manifesto on perseverance.

Then there's "Self-Satisfaction," with superb rhymes by Self Says and producer Blockhead, where the three of them hit their most kinetic cadences in delivery, diving into the strength of a day-by-day progression, a stride, a sensibility for accepting whatever comes and being ready for whatever's up tomorrow. But "Peace Zone," compared to "Self-Satisfaction," slows it down, with production by djkage bringing those pensive trumpets in, finds its meditative escapes and achieves the simple-yet-calming revelation that so much of the stress or pressure is a choice, in terms of whether you let it get to you... You can elevate!





Friday, August 4, 2017

Girls Rock Detroit Showcase

The Girls Rock Detroit Summer Camp comes to a crescendo on Saturday afternoon at the Majestic Theatre. After about a month of work-shopping with young girls (age 8-15) who were aspiring to try out various instruments and performance styles within the rock 'n' roll format, coordinators and instructors will present a showcase of nine bands who each prepared original music to perform.
The bands will be performing throughout the afternoon on Saturday from 12-4pm, with Miz Korona serving as Master of Ceremonies.  


The music community has an opportunity to celebrate the work of Girls Rock campers and be supportive of their ambition by way of providing an enthusiastic turnout and response, as many will be experiencing their first time playing music in front of an audience. I think you want to be in the audience for that special moment.

ALL AGES SHOWTICKETS....Advance: $10 (http://tinyurl.com/GRDCampShowcaseTix)
At the Door: $15 suggested donation/$5 kids
At the Door: $15 suggested donation/$5 kids
Girls Rock is partnering with the Majestic Theatre for this show. All proceeds from the showcase benefit Girls Rock Detroit, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that works, each year, to encourage girls to get involved in music. Led by several female and non-binary veteran/established musicians from the local scene who pass down their knowledge to this next generation, the Girls Rock summer camp creates a positive, encouraging and specifically noncompetitive environment for these new musicians. The showcase is designed to be an uplifting experience for the performers, one that underlines the benefits of teamwork.

Girls Rock's main goal is just encouraging the creative spirit of these young women by empowering them to challenge preconceived notions of what they're able to do, or to become, in a male-dominated music industry. But more than that, it also works to inspire them to become engaged members of their communities.

Read more about about Girls Rock Detroit at www.girlsrockdetroit.org

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Remnose EP Release Party for What We See In Our Sleep

Take a second...
Slow down. You don't have to sit. Just... breathe.

Are you ready for the ambient country?


Remnose are a Detroit-area four-piece fusing folk warbles, country twang, ambient murmuring and psychedelic ponderings. Their new EP is a pulse-settler, a heart-swooner, a restorative hazy-summer-day's-breeze that kinda hugs its way around you as it carries crisp and rustic voices that bend together into a lilting melody over steady-stepped percussion.

I think hypnotic is an overused term when it comes to music, most of the time... But the arrangement of these drums, the almost tender-yet-forceful crash of those cymbals, and the way the drums cradle everything like a steady river's current, leads a listener into these steadied head nods as the instrumental elements build into thicker blooms, instilling a safe sense of letting your guard down.

The delicate echo of the guitars and the dynamics of the vocals, this full whisper, suggest a distance from the cities, a secluded sonic space where you would find more grass and mud than pavement and neon lights. This is getaway music. And it invites you to lay back for a sec, and let those reverberations really wrap around your head. Dizzy. Disarming. Meditative.

REMNOSE E.P. Release Party Friday Night
INFO



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UFO Factory

Your favorite club closes. It happens. There are the usual circumstances: often it's an economic ebb, something about finances..., or maybe it's a personal decision of the owner/manager...

You hate to see it close because of a calamity; something hazardous like a fire...

But you especially hate to see it close this way... 
The UFO Factory in Corktown is closed, albeit just indeterminately for now, because its north wall was debilitated by adjacent construction work that's ostensibly gentrifying a five-block space engulfing this modestly sized rock club with upper-scaled residential units and retail space.

Metro Times has the initial report, and will assuredly update you as this story develops.



Meanwhile, the UFO Factory will be closed for weeks, if not months...! This means that the staff are essentially out of a job for the foreseeable future. In a heartening gesture and a quick rallying of support, El Club is helping host a benefit party this Monday, with several UFO regulars DJ-ing throughout the night, along with a stacked merch table. MORE INFO

On the positive side of things, I have to commend everyone who hustled together the benefit show, in a considerably short time. That swift alignment of a solidarity effort is what I love most about the Detroit music scene; it's been demonstrated during similar circumstances in the past. And, that solidarity was vital in this case, as well, for the sake of the staff who work there, but also to offer an outlet for meager catharsis and needed commiseration for its regular patrons.

Even if it was an accident, it still hurts. It was already foreboding to have these new buildings encroaching on the discreet strip of Trumbull and promising to loom, a bit intimidatingly, over this gray and red slap of sonic and culinary splendors. But now? To now have a place that is a lot of folks' favorite rock club out of commission for months, with a full schedule's worth of local and national/touring bands' concerts needing to be rescheduled....? It hurts.

It hurts because a scene is nothing without its venues. I mean, sure..., we could always sustain ourselves on organized house-shows and gallery spaces... But there is substantial value to the arts and culture scene to have an independent performance venue that is going out of its way to support the scene by programming regular lineups of local (and national) groups that are cutting edge, both from the up-and-comers crop and the sagely vets. It keeps the creatives who live here healthy and happy - to have that outlet to perform, to have that secluded-feeling clubhouse-vibe to experience live music in a welcoming atmosphere.

Music, food, art, karaoke, movies... UFO did it all, and will continue too... (I hope). It did what all great venues do: provided a commons, a creative gymnasium, a mess hall for music. Just this weekend I said to a fellow attendee that I could just about nap in this place with my shoes kicked-off if it only had a sofa--cuz I felt that comfortable there...

Anyway. It hurts. So, let's get together on Monday! 

Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers - "Old Love"



I interviewed Joe Hertler (of The Rainbow Seekers) earlier this year, and I remember the conversation being dominated by how much more of a darker album they'd just produced. That was Pluto, and Hertler deemed it his most personal and even vulnerable batch of songs he'd ever written.

Whereas in the past, the band has been a burst of warmed and colorful burnishings set to bouyant rhythms, effervescent guitars and vibrant melodies, they turned the song creation process into a much more collaborative, careful cultivation that yielded more complex or eclectic arrangements and dimmed the sunshine from their previous records for something a bit more outwardly pensive or sometimes solemn. But a certain sweetness, a hopefulness, always sustains with The Rainbow Seekers' songs... Still..., the melodies may get light, but the subject matter is getting heavier.

This song, "Old Love," is based on an old Japanese folktale about two Samurai from opposing factions who fall in love. When they meet after a horrendous battle, they come to see the futility of war and set aside their differences... "is there really so much to fear / when we’re all just taking sides?" 

This video was directed by Paul Zito, who created more than 10,000 unique paper cut outs for this animation, which spanned four months worth of production.  



Rainbow Seekers' next show

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Imaginatron: It's a Very Nice Cult

Experience the Imaginatron Thursday at PJs Lager House


Regularity is overrated. Discomfort can be good. Cults can be nice.

Today I'm talking about The Imaginatron, and I'm not sure how to explain it to you. They have a new EP they're putting together, which will record fleetingly-finalized versions of songs that have, to this point, never sounded the same way (or been sung the same way) twice, ever.

The picture you're looking at up there is, ostensibly, of a band. That band features Steve Pivalsky on vocals and conjurings, Nik Landstrom on guitar, and Dan Patterson on drums. There's also a song "by" the Imaginatron, streaming below, which will give a taste of what's to come on their forthcoming EP, which the "band" just finished recording. This song, "Uninterpretive Dance," demonstrates their proclivities toward avant-gardist rock sails upon a sea of staticy-electronic synth drones and hyper-danceable rhythms, with post-punk-poetic vocals that sing-speak strange incantations.



You see..., "The Imaginatron" is sort of a parallel (or maybe perpendicular?) universe that can be attained both mentally and physically, and essentially utilized as a cosmic instrument to achieve a collective metaphysical harmony with not just the people in a room, but with energies across the globe, or even some other celestial netherfield...

Imaginatron is just what this band happens to be called, but they're named after the Imaginatron, said Pivalsky. "It's meant to point toward the entity that is the thing, that magical thing of perceivable nodes of energy that pulse ideas into our minds from other realities. It's the magical instrument that we play when we move around spaces outside of our comfort zones."

I talked to someone, recently, who recalled seeing The Imaginatron (the band) for the first time. When I told him that it's sort of, a bit, like a cult meeting..., he suddenly got it! Like he couldn't put a finger on it until I suggested the idea of a cult.

"Yeah, but it's a chill cult," Pivalsky clarifies. "I'm not crazy. It's a very nice cult. And there's no limitations or rules for you, in this cult!"

Back to no song, or no set, ever being the same...
These three are students of the ephemeral, of transitory moments, of consistently-refreshing with something that was weirder than what came before...
Their ceremonies find Patterson propelling everything, while Landstrom noodles out jazzy freakstorm lightning bolts on guitar. And finally, Pivalsky is a performer you'd rightfully describe as being "unleashed," when you observe him; some kind of high-adrenaline spirit freed to explore the entirety of a space. There is lots of symbology, and small crafts and structures, or vein-like strings and esoteric pamphlets all spilling about as Pivalsky continues to cavort his way into the crowd to accost and invite and inculcate and indoctrinate.

The Imaginatron gets you out of your comfort zone.

"It's not about being comfortable or discomforted; it's about challenging the boundaries of your comfort," said Pivalsky, who's singing style is often breathless, stratospheric ecstasy taking him into a trance. He might hug you. He might not even remember having hugged you. But he's probably going to come right up to you. There's lots of movement. There's lots of seemingly random movement, in fact. Something takes over. The Imaginatron takes over.

"It's about cognitive dissonance too," said Pivalsky, suggesting the benefits of an occasional detachments like this... "I feel like everyone wants to do that sometimes, but just doesn't know what the outlet for it could be. But I know I sign in kind of a punk rock intensity, but it isn't something that's crazy or aggressive. I don't have feelings of aggression. I do want to scream, but I want to hug you while I'm screaming..."

So it's all about channeling that energy. Pivalsky isn't a cult-leader, even if that beard and that boisterous, wild-eyed expression might suggest it... His band mates aren't being guided by him, is what I'm getting at--they're very much on their own trip, displaying, musically, their own relationship to & experience of: the Imaginatron.

It's a prime time to catch The Imaginatron. The "band" is as mystically attuned as ever; Pivalsky is back into the arts scene, after some time away between this band and his previous trip: Marco Polio & The New Vaccines. And, The Imaginatron are, as we said, finishing up recordings right now. And after that? The sound, the style, the energy-- could shift all over again.

"We gotta bring the weirdos back," Pivalsky said, with urgency. "That's one of our missions with The Imaginatron. We gotta bring more weirdos back. I need more of the freakout stuff, ya know? I'm a champion for that!"

I couldn't have put it better.

Thursday nightFeaturing the retro-techno trips of Lt. Bad, and the acid-spazz incantations of The Imaginatron
at PJ's Lager HouseJoining the party are Richard Album and Katy Albert:
Richard Album is a pop-star persona from Chicago premiering a funky musical about fame and misfortune. And Katy Albert makes performance-art that can be both funny and grotesque. She uses humor and audience interaction to lampoon artsy-fartsy power structures.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Balance of Being Dizzy: An Interview with Chris Bathgate

Chris Bathgate and I are talking about singing, but not about lyrics.

On his latest album, Dizzy Seas, the nationally renowned songwriter has ten songs that, abstruse as it may be to describe them in this way: are as dense as they are simple.

The experience of listening to this album is much like a session of mantra meditation; musical phrases are rounded, ambient boundaries are bled together, lyrics become wordless/melodic utterances, and the throb and slow spill of its tonality tornadoes tenderly around your ears to set in this subtle swarm of calming serotonin, almost to the point where you may tune out of the very record you're listening to.

"(Dizzy Seas) is paced and structured with the hope that people might forget that they're listening to music for a second," Bathgate says. "There's a moment where I feel like the lyrics stop, and the listener is able to either process those lyrics, or, if they weren't listening too hard, then they can go off into their own daydream, and think about what they're doing...."

"...I want the listener to literally be free to daydream during the song, and then maybe I can bring them back into the song later without them knowing it. So I was thinking about how much do I really need to say, in a song... How much space do I need to give my listeners, so that they can effectively drift off for a minute."

And in my head... I could hear that famous quote   "Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." --Brian Eno 






Dizzy Seas is a tricky album to decipher. Or, rather, it's trickier if you encounter it with intentions of deciphering it. I don't think it's a record that will give you exact directions, like how many more blocks or how many left or right turns you'll need to make before you find the answer. It just kind of vaguely gestures toward a horizon for you and says: "that way...." It's that way.

"Some of the lyrics are totally cogent and make logical sense, others are fractured. I'm sure people are saying some of it makes no sense. Some songs are meant to be about something, but others are just images dropped in your life that circumspect what I'm interested in communicating. I learned that from (Emily) Dickinson.

I mention that this is an ambient record, even though Bathgate is still categorized as a folk singer. And he nods, yes, that's still where his roots are... But the thing with folk singers, is that we look to them as oracles, poetic pundits in a way. We are too inclined to zone in and suss out meaning from the words that are melodically metered out by a "folk singer." But this is the album of a "folk singer..." It's something else, not just tonally, but lyrically.

"Don't tell people what you want them to feel, just draw a big circle around it and let them exist in a little bubble... It's not something overt, but through circuitious messages, you can get your point across and leave a little discovery-after-the-fact. And, also! Who am I to say what a song is about?"


What stands out about Dizzy Seas is the way it affectingly simulates the sense of being on a body of water, or near a body of water--this sense of floating, or having these foggy tones sort of wash over you in a way that gives pause. It's an ebb and flow of harmonics and chords during songs like "Hide" and "Nicosia," while even the more traditional folk-rock rumblers seem to have something more dreamy aimed at in their designs.

"I felt that I'd demanded the outdoors for my life, more so than the outdoors influenced me. There came a point where –this is kind of how I live now– I was more and more uncomfortable when indoors, more than before. Working outside, being outside; it became a huge priority. I felt weird having ceilings over my head. I don't know, really, if I can put it into words, whether it affected (my music). I'm sure it did. But, it was just that I was locked into nature, from 6pm, til 6am, I was in the woods. I was wading in the Platt River and swimming in ponds, fishing and cooking my dinners..."

That sounds like a solace. Maybe we can dig into the ways in which the wilderness wound up influencing the way in which these emotions were expressed, or intoned. One of the major themes that's explored by Dizzy Seas is how much happiness can you, specifically you, can derive from YOUR environment.

"Why's it always gotta be heavy?"
Bathgate sings this lyric in "Beg," with a rushed marching cadence, almost audibly frustrated with himself. It's a matter of always losing your grip on whatever is: 'happiness...'

"I think that question, of: 'why's it always gotta be heavy...?' is just as much me asking myself, as, really, asking the world," Bathgate said. "How much of your own happiness comes from you or, vice versa, how much of your sadness comes from your environment, from the world as your perceiving it... How much of it comes entirely from you?"

Thinking back on the "oh's" of the song, "O(h)m," or the weary "aaaayyy's" of "Hide," and I think about how wordless melodic utterances can mirror the sounds of emotions, such as a wordless laugh, or a wordless cry, or a wordless sigh... We, as humans, sometimes just make noises.

“In college, for a class, I read an article called 'Soundtracking of America,' wherein the author presents this theory that music, alone, without any lyrical content, cannot express an idea in full.  I thought arduously about that ... I think you need to open your mind to the broadness of what an idea is, to fight that argument. If I sing a melody, you can't be like: 'Oh, well, you're singing about Detroit,' or 'You're singing about sparrows...' Or, 'about fresh fruits...' You won't have that solid factual thing to pin meaning to... But, I think music, and the way that people experience music, isn't so hard-and-fast. It's not a misnomer. It's just the correlation (of lyrics) is a little reductive, to 'what music communicates...' I think there are things other than ideas that are communicated, and I think ideas can be communicated in full without lyrical content, but rather just in the musical interplay."

As we wound up our conversation, I ask about how so many of the lyrics mention "the mind...," and he admits that, indeed, "the mind" has been on his mind.

"You have senses, and they give you information about the world, but the engine that puts that together is your mind. But your mind is never able to objectively perceive those things without the influence of emotions. So..., that's where I am! Dizzy Seas was really a question... There have been some write-ups tying it to this idea of: 'Are the seas dizzy? Or am I...?'

"So, which thing is out of balance? If you can even tell..."

Chris Bathgate
Dizzy Seas
Quite Scientific 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

RRR (Interview): Two new albums from Racehorses Are Resources

Take your eyes off my thoughts / Get yo' lips off my brain...



I've seen this band live only a handful of times, and I was uniquely baffled in a fresh way, each time. They don't manifest in person upon a stage in a traditional venue as often as other bands around Detroit, and its been comparably rare, these days, to see new music from Racehorses Are Resources, but lo & behold...

Two new albums were released yesterday by the Detroit trio of stylistic shapeshifters. (Check em out via bandcamp, or just stay on this page and continue streaming a few choice samples).

Racehorses Are Resources are comprised of Chris Peters, Michael Lapp, Nick Cicchetti, and Quelle Chris.

RRR: Cicchetti, Lapp, Peters, Nick Speed


But back to being baffled. Anytime you catch this syndicate of sonic experimentalists, either on stage or on recordings, you feel as though you are witness to new aural inventions, in real time. Like you're on the factory floor as the three mad wizards lightning something together. It's this beat-driven, bass-haunted, improvisational scatter of sax and synthetic-sounding guitars with other myriad unidentifiable noises notched together into either some atmospheric dissonant conniptions, or some uncanny harmony of cerebral tonal swoons. It's acid-jazz meets house music, rumbled to hip-hop and ascribing to some nightmarish krautrock-kick. You could drift away. Or you could stumble over the tremors....



"I've only been in the band for about a year 'n' a half, now," said Lapp, "and during that time, the approach to songwriting, from what I've experienced, is anything goes; no rules & avoid overthinking!"

"Mike is correct," said Peters. "The root inspiration is  total spontaneity. We keep ideas around that make us a little uncomfy. I like to leave a large margin for error. When we are recording with Zach Shipps or at Nick Speed's we never plan ahead and we never discuss things. The idea is to arrive at the guitar sound and then go. Rhythm is where it all starts. Get a groove going, whether it be tight or smeary, and then go!"

Peters said that Racehorses Are Recources is really whatever he wants it to be. That could mean a 25-minute piece of guitar racket, a collaboration with John Sinclair over the poems of Jim Gustafson, or maybe a piece of a China Idol contestant from Bhutan. Peters vision does means surplus space, where boundaries fall away. The idea is for collaboration, improvisation, and spontaneity, above all.

"Some songs are more conventional in structure," Peters said, "ya know..., a verse-chorus-verse-chorus deal, others ignore that kind of thing entirely. Look, this isn't a new approach. It is very liberating though."

What I responded to, when seeing Peters and Cicchetti a couple years prior, and then somewhat recently with Lapp on board, was the wildness. The controlled wildness. It wasn't falling apart or discordant, but it wound its way through a song like a mobius strip coiling its way into a new circle every 16 measures, or so... The splash of sounds, textures reminiscent of hip-hop, or darkwave, or even experimental indie-rock, pulled me in... But then they'd always take it some place else.

"I think we've all been in other bands that have been so focused on writing the best songs for audiences and labels," said Lapp, "rather than what we want to experience as artists. The whole process,before, was to have those songs perfected and head into the studio with limited time to get the right takes, but that's something that I don't think any of us in RRR care to do with this project. We go into the studio for eight hours or more, once or twice a month, with not one lick of music written, and do complete off the wall improvisation, all of it live in the room together. After a take, we listen to it once, or sometimes not at all, and keep moving forward."

"(Lapp) is correct. And this goes for vocals too," said Peters, "at least for (Cicchetti) and (Speed). I think Cicchetti's best stuff comes when he completely improvises the vocal melodies and lyrics. Most of the songs with his vocals are done that way and very often they sound pre-composed...but they are not. And Speed's vocals on 2038 is just off his head, and i love it. Quelle Chris, on the other hand, works out the songs he produces a bit differently; he'll come into the studio, listen to the spontaneous vomit we barf out as we do it, takes home the tapes and then sends me songs that blow our minds."



Peters resume includes a substantial tenure with The Electric Six (during one of my favorite eras, particularly Switzerland0. Nick Speed is an esteemed hip-hop producer who's worked with 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and many more. Quelle Chris, meanwhile, is a stellar emcee, part of the last decade's wave of vibrant splicers like Open Mike Eagle, or Danny Brown. Cicchetti, among other past/current bands, was the guitarist/vocalist in Millions of Brazilians. Lapp, finally, along with previous tenures in adventurous outfits like like the noise-experimentalist Characteristics and, his first Detroit group, Ivy League Crew; he's also well-known as the operator of Detroit performance space Tires. 

And Peters said they feel like they're really introducing this band to people, properly, for the first time with these two new albums. They've done a few EPs in the past and plan on performing more live inventions in the near future.

And I should add that during my interview process, Peters insisted on responding only after Lapp. This proved to get heated when I asked about the most difficult aspects or experiences were when it came to the recording process.

"Most difficult?" said Lapp. "What we were going to order for lunch. (Peters) is a bitch with food."

"(Lapp) is incorrect. I don't know what he's talking about here. Oh, my dietary restrictions? Yeah, I guess I can make ordering food difficult... So, once again, (Lapp) is correct."

I followed that up by asking what they found most fulfilling about making these two new albums with Shipps, Speed, and Quelle Chris.

"The freedom of discovery," said Lapp. "And exploration in sound and rhythms. I left every time feeling extremely happy, truly therapeutic."

"(Lapp) is correct," assured Peters. "Groove and my guitar are at the root of all of this stuff. Nick Speed and Quelle Chris deliver on the gritty and raw drum track end of things, and Mike delivers on the kit. It is a perfect heaven for me. I often play guitar more like a bass, which i think comes from my love for EpMd and the Gap Band. I just look to lock in with whatever scuzzy time keeping these guys throw at me."

Peters has coordinated several great collaborations and he has more in the works. Lapp said that bringing in diverse artists helps them stretch the boundaries of RRR and their own capabilities of what they can do in a studio/beyond...

I asked about the energy in the songs, the flow of aggressive to chill...of bombastic, to cerebral.

"The first track I ever laid down with RRR was 'Agatha,'" said Lapp. "It started by saying, 'Let's do something weird...,' and I think I just gave a quick four-count click in and: boom. That was all done in one take. If I remember correctly, Chris said 'Let's do a punk thing like the punk I am...!" And I just started riding those toms and snare... In the middle of that, I was like, 'Wait, wait, I don't want to keep this driving on the same pattern...,' so I just literally changed up my patterns, but kept the same tempo randomly. And that electronic noise thing was a toy (Cicchetti) brought in to play that he'd never used before, but it was playing in my ear the whole time. It was annoying as fuck, but I figured that since nobody can do wrong in this band that it was perfect...."

"But," Lapp concluded, "to answer your question, I don't think there was a conscious decision of having much meaning either romantically or politically behind any of these tracks. unless "Clip On Ties" is some sort of political slang, then i don't think so..."

Peters said that "'Agatha' is a piece that we haven't released yet, another great collab...! I cannot explain why so much of the stuff is so aggressive and intense. We are not planning any of this out very much, so we get what we get....and so does anybody who decides to take a listen!"

Peters concluded... "Mike claims that I claim to be a punk. I have no idea what the hell he's talking about there. i was six years old in 1977. I am not a punk, nor was i a punk. however, i do like me some punk."

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