Monday, August 19, 2019

Listen: Christopher Tignor - "I, Autocorrelations"

Photo by Ebru Yidiz
With his previous album Along a Vanishing Plane, violinist/software engineer Christopher Tignor essentially took years and years of refined techniques of electronically developed composition and chucked it all out. That might seem a bit dramatic but the result, an album played and recorded live with absolutely no samples, loops, or click tracks grounded Tignor's composition in an unmistakable human element. The heightened risk of imperfection somehow crystallized his technique and emblazened the actual heart of his emotions and led to an impressive array of extended techniques aided by Tignor's engineering capabilities.

A Light Below, the follow up to Tignor's Along a Vanishing Plane, explores the newfound freedom in Tignor's organic rooted compositional framework. "I, Autocorrelations", the first single from the upcoming record is an explosion of sound - a truly mindboggling rush of multitudinous layers that bely the fact that they're all being delivered by a solitary man. On "I, Autocorrelations", Tignor is firmly at a stylistic peak - shifting effortlessly through repetitive bowed phrases and pizzicato all at a positively dazzling pace all the while providing enough space for the various phrases to sing and resonant firmly with the listener. Tignor weaves an effortless tapestry, of dynamic shifts in tone and blend of textures between his own playing and subtle touches added by his software.

"I, Autocorrelations" feels like a continuation of Along a Vanishing Plane but trades the langorous yearning for a more spirited presentation of the liturgical melodies without shedding any of their emotional grounding. It's a sort of musical world building that's properly thrilling, subtler than reoccuring figures or leitmotifs but no doubt rooted in the same sense of elevated storytelling. It's enough to make me properly excited for the rest of A Light Below even if Tignor's proven time and time again to supersede the most wildest of expectations.

Christopher Tignor's forthcoming album A Light Below is out October 11th on Western Vinyl. You can pre-order the album now.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Listen: Sur Back - "Nostalgia in Motion"

After the release of her follow up to her debut EP Kitsch last year, the appropriately titled Kitsch II, singer/songwriter Caroline Sans notably marked almost half a decade of intensive creative labor with a surprising amount to show of it. Several of the EPs songs had existed for several years since the very formation of her project Sur Back, surviving delays, setbacks and reworkings, and though Sans has been offering work at somewhat more consistent speed than before, hers is delicate work that benefits from the passage of time.

Like much of Sans' oevre, "Nostalgia In Motion" has been a work in progress several years in the making, meticulously thought artfully sculpted over a period of about three years while Sans was still based in Florida. From its fluttering start, "Nostalgia In Motion" is bright and expansive with elements of Sur Back's darker baroque pop turns - enriching it into a multifaceted piece of layered electronic pop.

With "Nostalgia In Motion", Sans continues her winning streak, crafting a song of arresting beauty that conveys meaning less through lyrical content and more through its production. Sans vocals are as richly colored as her brass riffs, her stutter-stop drums. "And I keep calling you back to show I'm not your nostalgia in motion" Sans coos and though the lyrics read as a sort of kiss off, Sans delivers them with a gentle caress, like sun steaming into a bedroom window. It's not meant to be a harsh wake up, but a soft rousing to exist in the present.

The lyrics all seem to build to this titular moment, the production following suit, and it's evident the idea means a lot to Sans; of not merely functioning as a walking, talking embodiment of good times past but wanting to be an active participant in life for better or worse. To weather whatever storms live may bring despite uncertain or a lack of control. "I can't hold on like I'm used to" Sans sings with an aching tenderness before "I'm not your nostalgia" hits like an ocean wave.

Sur Back's new single "Nostalgia in Motion" is out now. Sans is playing a single release show with Den-Mate, NOIEA, and Rare DM at Alphaville in Brooklyn on July 18th. Tickets and details available here.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Listen: Harry Burgess - "Disarm"

One of the pitfalls of creating such a cerebral, fully realized project as art pop quartet Adult Jazz is the fact that there's a lot of time and energy put into seemingly every aspect of creating. Since the release of their debut album Gist Is in 2014, Adult Jazz has spent a lot of time facilitating not only their own creations but those of the constellation of their collaborators. They've subsequently released a follow up EP Earrings Off!, two years after their full length debut and while their next release seems to be forthcoming, they've eased the wait by engaging with other projects.

Most recently, Harry Burgess, Adult Jazz's frontman and member of experimental electronic duo Offer, played a solo set late last year, recorded it, and is releasing the results as Live Scraps/Fall of Troy, a cassette release bundled with an essay Burgess wrote about the death of his family dog who inspired the Adult Jazz track "Bonedigger". Unlike Adult Jazz's meticulously layered production or Offer's digital pyrotechnics, Live Scraps offers Burgess in an oft seen light: bare bones and simply offered. One of my favorite qualities of his growing number of projects has always been Harry Burgess' voice so it is essentially a treat to get to witness it this way, unadorned and unmanipulated.

But even as Burgess peels back the layers, his experimentalism still shines though. "Disarm", the first taste of his three song release, might just be Burgess' voice and guitar but it's not your standard fare. Burgess approaches his playing from a place of minimalism, focusing on repetitive two note chords and weaving vocal melodies around the sparse accompaniment. It's a transfixing work of art, utterly engaging in its simplicity and a testament to the strength of Burgess' vocal prowess.

Live Scraps/Fall of Troy is out July 12th on London based label Don't Delay. You can pre-order the digital album or the cassette/essay bundle now.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Listen/Watch: Ziemba - "Ugly Ambitious Women"

Photo by Marcus Paul McDonald
I was introduced to the layered electro pop of singer-songwriter Renè Kladzyk's project Ziemba during a night at Elvis Guesthouse curated by SoftSpot's Sarah Kinlaw back in 2015, and immediately noted both the artistry and precision of Kladzyk's loop based art pop. While I've done rather a poor job of following her career since then (she's released her debut full length Hope Is Never since then), most recently she released the third part of a series of concept records entitled ARDIS based around an utopian vision of Earth and the steps Kladzyk invisions need to be taken to get there.

Though she just released the third part earlier this month, this week saw the release of the video of "Ugly Ambitious Women" from the first part of the project. Inspired by a Youtube comment "Ambitious women can't help being ugly", Kladzyk turned the sexist comment into an artistic statement both on the nature of misogynistic attempts to control and define femininity and her own self reflection of what womanhood is as society defines it. "Ugly Ambitious Women" is both a radical reclamation and cheeky derision of what other people decide. "Ambitious women can't help being ugly, look at me" Kladzyk sings with a smile and an eyeroll. Her lyrics are mostly mocking, barely concealed distate with the antiquated notions of womanhood and femininity: "hysterical, too quick to cry, built to break, delicate rose, got a complex, silly old bleeding a mess". Kladzyk lists a series of stereotypes and her contempt is evident despite a notable lack of bile. And that in itself is her playing into another stereotype of the calm, placid feminine - her voice an angelic chirp even when voicing obvious displeasure.

Visually, Kladzyk leans fully into her anima, embodying the various roles men expect women to play and women are told they have to conform to - she's the radiant, nuturing goddess, the bubbly, fun one, the voluptuous beauty. But Kladzyk also gets to fulfill the roles she wants - clad in a power suit, fierce and fashionable, wearing ornate head pieces and costumes. There's a certain power in appealing to the stereotype - to deceive, to Trojan Horse your own particular point and that's essentially what Kladzyk does here - lampooning society's definitions of femininity through dressing up in its various costumes. Femininity may be a prison but Kladzyk wears it as her armor as she attempts her jailbreak. 

Watch the video for "Ugly Ambitious Women" directed by Veronique Halbrey:

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Listen: Wilder Maker - "Love So Well"

Photo by Annie Del Hierro

Though Brooklyn based indie rockers Wilder Maker released their album Zion last year, ahead of a tour they're releasing a couple holdover tracks from their Zion sessions.

With rambling love song "Love So Well", it's not hard to see why the band held it back. Zion was one of those marvelous albums that managed to create narratives out of the band's New York City experience - and "Love So Well" is a decided break from the fivesome's attempts to navigate city life both real and imagined in favor of the open road. It's beguilingly tender even as it's essentially about that epiphanic moment right before you break up with someone. For Wilder Maker, that moment just so happens to coincide with life on the road. Hardly surprising considering hours behinds the wheel or as a passenger are bound to lead to some introspection. And yet, the most surprising thing about "Love So Well" is how gentle and loving it all is. "I love so well when I am leaving" Katie von Schleicher sings as the song opens but the various ways that a lover's face or laugh are recalled is positively drenched in love.
Wilder Maker are masters of subverted expectactions and their epiphany is lovelorn but resolute and layered in its spectrum of emotion. They may be steadfast in their decision to break uo but that doesn't mean they're not effected by it or seek to strip the love out of it. Wilder Maker toe the line exceptionally well and embrace the complicatedness of the emotion experience with a deft hand and an impressive softness.

"Love So Well" and b-side"Rose Room" are out now. Make sure to catch Wilder Maker out on tour

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Listen/Watch: Quetico - "Jeanne"

After the release of Man Alone, the debut album of experimental electronic jazz project Quetico last month, Durham based percussionist and keyboardist Yan Westerlund has released a music video for one of the album's first two singles "Jeanne".

The basketball themed video arrives just in time for the continuing NBA playoff finals and features a veritable who's who of North Carolina musicians as would be basketball professionals playing an intense game of ball that takes a turn for the surreal after Westerlund takes a tumble mid-game. From Sylvan Esso's Nick Sanborn as the referee, musical collaborators Mark Paulson and Phil Moore from Bowerbirds and Zach Hegg, Matt Peterson and Matt McElroy from Canine Heart Sounds as the players, it's a downright family affair.

"Jeanne" with its sense of carefree breeziness but also bright coloring makes it just the sort of soundtrack for the feel-good sports movie Westerlund and friends essentially make. Purely instrumental, the tracks on Man Alone rely mostly on the feelings they invoke both in Westerlund and the listener for maximum effectiveness and "Jeanne" is one that exudes an effortless sense of ease, positively radiating calm and is equally suited to the music video's more serious game-focused opening and its celebration of love and friendship at its end.

Man Alone, the debut album from Quetico is out now. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Listen: Boio - "Ball"

Photo by Jonah Rosenberg
My introduction to Brooklyn based experimental pop duo Boio happened, very much like Boon, in two parts. Firstly through our two bands being booked to play together. I was taken by their brand of energetic, infectious songs but there was very little in terms of consumable output post-show, an EP with four songs and outtakes entitled Sleep appearing and subsequently disappearing from the band's personal Bandcamp as they geared up for an actual release, and though I meant to keep up with the band, it wasn't until a year later that I saw them again.

Boio was already a strong project capable of delivering instantly catchy melodies but in the year since I've seen them, the band had made some changes namely in the presentation of those same songs that had won me over so easily. Already high energy, the duo somehow ramped even that up so that their live shows were something that had to be experienced to be truly understood. Finnegan Shanahan previously juggling guitar, violin, and viola, instead focused solely on guitar and the various sounds he could pull from it while Robby Bowen elevated his drum kit to a full on percussion laboratory with a number of different knick knacks and homemade tools providing a broader sonic palette to match Shanahan's array of sounds.

Last week, Boio released a new track "Ball", one that hints of a future album in the works and one of my person favorites to watch them perform live. Another one of their avant pop jams - it's an encapsulation of their experimentation, their pop sensibilities and their talent as musicians. "Ball" like much of Boio's oevre treats lyricism as both a jumping off point and a brush by which to paint their diverse aural tapestries and timbre exploration. It starts simple enough with effected guitar, chugging drums, and Bowen and Shanahan's mellifluous harmonies. It's a particularly scenic track that establishes the duo's hamonic language and textural interplay from the forefront and essentially sees how these two constants persist under duress even as Bowen and Shanahan are the cause and pursue it doggedly. The chorus "You drive the pool around the world" becomes an experience not wholly akin to semantic satiation but a phrase with no real meaning whose repetition imbues it with such. It persists through its various utterances and dynamic delivery - spoken, sung, shrieked, split up, and reconfigured, enjoying as rich of an exploration as Boio invest in its instrumental elements and insuring this particular ear worm burrows deep. But then "Ball" is such a delightful five minutes, listeners are sure to welcome its insistent catchiness.

Listen to "Ball":