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Aural Slate Recordings: “No Tears” – Lo Moda

So I’m alive and well in Boston, just not so well with the having of free time. Fortunately I was able to help finance one last project out of Baltimore, putting one of its criminally underappreciated bands on wax for the first time. I’m happy to say Lo Moda tracked a 4 song 12″ EP limited to 300.

If you are in the area, be sure to drop by Windup Space tonight for the release show tonight with Monster Museum.

Enjoy this last track off the EP, and check out the page at Aural Slate Recordings for more info on the release as I get a chance to put it up.

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A New Era Approaches…Aural States v3.0, Boston/Cambridge

Photo credit: Christopher Tidy

So I’ve been MIA for a while. What of it? I was forced into hibernation to concentrate on my career for a bit, and now I’ve emerged stronger than ever! I recently accepted an intellectually exhilarating postdoc position at MIT in Boston, so Aural States HQ and the bulk of my written content will be shifted to the scene up north when I move come January. However, I’m still planning on keeping some eyes and ears open and on the ground for Baltimore-DC area scene, the crucible of Aural States. But we’ll discuss the future of AS a little later when I’m settled in Cambridge, and not when I’m doing a million things trying to wrap up here in Baltimore.

To come be a part of history (however insignificant), come see me present my research work from the past 6 years (“The immunomodulatory and anti-HIV effects of minocycline in CD4+ T cells.”) and become a doctor this Friday Dec 3rd. The seminar will be held at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Ross Research Building G007 at 3:00PM (2:45PM for light and limited refreshments). All are welcome.

Live Review: Whartscape 2010 Days 2 & 3 (2010.07.23-24)

Photo credits: Josh Sisk

First and foremost, Whartscape 2010 was hot — weather reports read that temperatures fell steady at 100 degrees all weekend. In effect, the parking lot that harbored Whartscape’s outdoor performances became the modern urban desert. Shade grew more valuable every second, and patrons found themselves willing to pay most anything for a bottle of water. Feeling overzealous, a friend and I initially laughed about purchasing a 30-pack of Deer Park to share between the two of us; half of it had been killed off by the end of our first day. Even though its events transpired in these miserable conditions, Whartscape’s fifth and final year was abound with interesting and engaging live performances — some of which were even good enough to allow their audience‘s attention to stray away from the accumulating sweat on their brows.

Truthfully, I only attended half of the festival. Organizational difficulties left Thursday’s theatre night out of the question, whereas Sunday’s sudden monsoon had me driving back home before I was made aware of Whartscape’s relocation to Sonar. I was there all day Friday and Saturday though, and I’m here to tell you about it. Similarly to our coverage of Whartscape 2009, I’ll be writing future Sound Off! posts on standout artists from the festival. The following is more or less a highlights reel for the portions that I experienced.

Impressive:

-       Lightning Bolt

  • Do I even need to say it? For the strength with which he plays, Brian Chippendale should have the biceps of a boxer. And, let me tell you, the audience can definitely feel that about his live performance.

-       Get Em Mamis

  • Get Em Mamis were easily the most unexpectedly exciting live act Friday. Their brand of hip hop was equal parts club and street — their samples cracked like thunder, and their rhymes matched in wit. As an added bonus, the Baltimore-native duo knows how to work an audience better than most. For a brief 30 minutes, the Get Em Mamis shaped Whartscape like warm putty; tracks like “Cold Summer” couldn’t have been executed more flawlessly (and they’re good on the record too). If, by some stroke of misfortune, you missed out on 2009’s TerAwesome, I advise you to seek it out immediately.

-       Romantic States

  • I was initially attracted to nothing more than Romantic States’ name. “Romantic States” — it just looks like a perfect fit for a melancholy chillwave group. I was intrigued. As it happens, Romantic States are hardly chillwave at all; in fact, they’re just a straight-up downcast pop duo. They’re good too — half of Romantic States is Jim Triplett (of the Videohippos), and he’s carried over his characteristic aching bummer into this new project quite well. Romantic States’ sound is considerably more lo-fi than the Videhohippos, but no less affecting. I look forward to hearing more.

-       Dope Body

  • Unfortunately, Dope Body’s set and my aching hunger occurred simultaneously. I stayed for two songs — both blew me away — and then walked down Park Avenue for some Chinese food. The funny thing is, I could hear Dope Body’s set four blocks away as I ordered my food. These guys are hard, fast, and loud. I don’t think a true hardcore band should be asked for more.

-       Jared Paolini

  • I didn’t like Jared Paolini’s set at last year’s Whartscape, but I guess all things are subject to change. Jared’s 2010 set at the H&H was comprised of all-new material, the bulk of which was absolutely outstanding. Since I last saw him, it appears as if his ear for harmony has grown more delicate, and his tones have only become more ethereal. According to the man himself, he’s working on getting some of his new movements recorded. To my knowledge, there’s no other information present, so keep an eye out of Jared.

Disappointing:

-       Needle Gun

  • If Needle gun are supposed to be funny, then the joke is lost on me. If they’re not, then I wish they’d take their work a little more seriously. Needle Gun’s live noise set on Friday found them smirking more often than not; which wouldn’t have posed any trouble had their occasional harshness been more captivating (or the joke been more obvious). As it turns out, Needle Gun weren’t prepared to fill either niche. And I’ve listened to their recordings too, many of which are actually superb. Perhaps the virtue of their work is simply compromised by the live performance.

-       Ponytail

  • I anticipated yet another energetic set from Ponytail this Whartscape — they’d never disappointed me before. But their show this year was somewhat less touching. This time around, Ponytail felt overly mechanical; the sounds were the same, but the soul just wasn’t there. It was almost as if the group no longer cared for their old material. I hear now that this may have been their last performance; I just hope they’ll have one more to redeem themselves.

-       Amil Byleckie Band

  • The way I take it, Amil Byleckie Band aren’t much more than a Flaming Lips tribute. They appeared onstage at the Current Space in future-space costume; they presented commonplace indie pop tunes in the tired old verse/chorus/verse fashion, and they never quite connected their garb to their art. Now, maybe I’m just being cynical here, but it seems to me that costumes scarcely improve the live performance — especially if you don’t have the sounds to match them.

Lastly, I’d just like to take a moment to give props to Wham City for putting this on. Not only was the whole festival free of corporate sponsorship, but also the cuisine they offered was guilt-free and local. Megapasses may have costed upwards of $50, but that’s nothing for the quality of music and stubborn idealism Wham City presented.

Photos: Whartscape 2010 Days 3 & 4 @ Current Space (2010.07.24-25)

Photos by Shantel Mitchell

I have to admit, this was my first year attending Whartscape.  It’s been one of those events that I’ve always wanted to attend, but ended up never making it out.  This year, I vowed that I would go, even if it ended up being 100+ degrees outside!  Saturday was HOT.  There was no other word to describe the day.  However, I left Whartscape  thinking, “Wow, that was really fun!” even though I don’t handle heat well.  I was able to see Double Dagger, Dan Deacon, and Arab on Radar.

I always enjoy Dan Deacon.  His sets are awesome fun, and I LOVE the crowd interaction.  Double Dagger was in the heat of the afternoon, but it didn’t seem to bother the crowd.  One fan after another literally dove from the stage to enjoy crowd surfing atop a very energetic audience.  After the sun went down and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees, Arab on Radar took the stage.  I was up front for this one, but had NO idea how crazy and insane this would be!  Needless to say, I lasted two songs before taking a safer position to the side of the stage.  Although there was a night show planned, I decided to call it a night since I was returning for the day on Sunday.

The next day, I was most anticipating Wye Oak, as I love to see them any chance I can get.  I got there a bit early in time to catch Little Howlin’ Wolf, an improv jazz-style band.  It was a very interesting performance; I appreciated the energy of this band, as well as photographing them.  Just after their set, when Wye Oak began to set up, a huge gust of wind came along and tore up the tarp they had covering the stage.  Spectators rushed to grab it and hold it down, knowing that the black clouds in the sky meant rain was only seconds away.  As the rain began to come down, the mad dash began to cover and protect the equipment.  Some of the crowd hovered under the tarp coverings while others enjoyed the rain until the lightning came and drove anyone remaining inside.  The event was later rescheduled inside Sonar, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it back downtown to catch Wye Oak.  I had a great time despite the heat and unexpected rain and I’m glad that I went, even though I caught Whartscape on it’s last year!  Enjoy the photos!

Preview: Counting Crows @ Pier Six Pavilion (2010.07.12)

Do you know what I love about Baltimore?  We have our own water-front concert pavilion right in the middle of the harbor.  It is the perfect place to see a show, and there is plenty to do before or after you hit the venue.  This Monday night, you can catch Counting Crows performing with Augustana and NOTAR for The Traveling Circus & Medicine Show.

This is promised to be a special night because, unlike traditional shows, there is no “opening act.”  All acts perform throughout the whole entire evening, sometimes playing alone or with members from the other bands (similar to the famed Round Robin series).  Get there on time and enjoy a fun night with the Counting Crows at Baltimore’s Pier Six Pavilion THIS Monday evening July 12th!

To buy tickets, click here.

To read more about their tour, click here.

Album Review/Live Review: Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble Debut: Galactic Diamonds (2010.12.06)

This debut album by Steve Hudson (piano) and Jody Redhage (cello), Zack Brock (violin), and Martin Urbach (percussion) will tickle the fancy and delight. It’s not the jazz I’m used to listening to [see Tomasz Stanko Quartet] but it’s an imaginative and joyful romp through a lovely mélange of instrumentation. Catch them on their next trip to Baltimore when you can hear them live. These Brooklyn-dwellers would, I think, eagerly pop in at Metro Gallery for a gig, as well as return to the fantastic An Die Musik.

While I see this album as being the pale-moon reflection of the splendid sun of  their performance in An Die Musik’s premiere acoustic wonder-room, I do think it’s a worthy one to add to your collection. Even the musicians were excited by the possibilities that An Die Musik offered to their sound – that’s why they’ll come back.

This is venturesome yet affable jazz at its best: A little blue-glass, a little rock and roll, a little scat, a turn at tango. How does Galactic Diamonds offer such a genre-blending sound? Try the diversity of the players.

Consider Zack’s quote from a Strings mag interview: “I never drink wine before I play. But a sip of whiskey works. It’s the Kentucky in me.” I tell you he poured out this “Kentucky” from himself on Wanderin’ – you’d swear you were on a front porch drinking bourbon nice and slow and neat.

Zack Brock, hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “the great bright hope for jazz violin” does deliver. He and Jody have splendid onstage chemistry you demand of the best in trio musicians. And they add another element sometimes missing: sheer joy.

Then you have percussionist Martin Urbach who does most of his wonders on the cajón. That’s a box drum like you see in Flamenco and South American music. No surprise here, Mr. Urbach is tapping his Peruvian roots. He also isn’t above playing a stainless steel Nalgene bottle with water in it. This is in the same piece where Steve Hudson ditches piano for the charm of the melodica. No, despite his apologies to the contrary, he does not lose “cool points” with this reviewer for trotting out the blow-organ.

We’ve already touched on some of Jody Redhage’s strong points here. She’s glorious and giddy here. She’s spot-on responsive to all the ensemble’s playing.  She’s better than when we heard her last year. Her vocals have grown stronger, deepening with added control and better projection. Since you missed her with Steve Hudson, don’t miss her Fire in July tour: June 26 at An Die Musik.

Above all, Steve Hudson’s piano playing makes you think he’s “keeping it simple” while offering a treat of rhythmic tensions and light melodies. Think effervescent, lively music that brightens the day. This album can be like a whippet in your stable: a fast-paced pick-me-up.

Regarding the track “PG” you’ll wish you could see the movie that would use it as an opening scene’s soundtrack. My favorite tracks are “Mingus Moon” and “Tune With Tango.”

“Tune for Tango” is also one of their live performance winners where it shines with a real snap: Caterwauling-turns-sensuous strings, handslaps, cheekslaps even castanets. Urbach even slams the whole cajón on the floor for extra punctuation.

These skilled players are the opposite of pretension. After the show, we knocked back a beer and talked Skid Row and Butthole Surfers. Capital folk. Let’s welcome them back soon.

If you like: Time for Three, you’ll like Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble.

Where/when to listen: Play Galactic Diamonds during a long leisurely brunch on a Sunday morning. This festival atmosphere is best for daytime. Try it on a car trip in the country. Or play it on a late afternoon when you’re in need of a smile.

How to buy: go to http://wwww.cdbaby.com/cd/shce

[Author’s note: Don’t forget Jody Redhage and Fire in July play An Die Musik on June 26. Two sets: 8 pm and 9:30 pm.]

Label: Groovaholic Music

Releaste date: Jun 11 2010

Track list:

  1. Tune with Tango
  2. Keep It Simple
  3. Speak Out
  4. Song For John Lennon
  5. PG
  6. Galactic Diamonds
  7. Para
  8. Moving On
  9. Funky Hobbit
  10. Wanderin’
  11. Mingus Moon

Livewire: Future Islands @ The Penthouse (2010.06.13)


Words and Photos: Greg Szeto

This is kind of shameful to admit, but I think this might be my first show outing in over 3 weeks. Science is an unforgiving mistress, and a stickler about intellectual monogamy sometimes. Nonetheless, I’m very glad I chose this particular show to venture out. I’ll try not to dwell on the oppressive cons of the night (mainly the sauna-like heat-sweat-humidity bog that left a film on my camera equipment).

Instead, I will say that this was a triumphant Baltimore return for native sons (and daughter) Future Islands and Lower Dens (unfortunately I walked in right as the Art Department was wrapping up). The packed Sunday night show was giddy and gleeful. Most importantly, Future Islands delivered a righteous set, clearly honed and toned by the tour to a dance-happy crowd.

Their set was filled with a nice balance of tracks, spanning recent releases In Evening Air and In The Fall (including the still grand guest-vocals of Celebration’s Katrina Ford) while also remembering to pull out old faves. “Long Flight” and “Tin Man” have easily emerged as favorite tracks both recorded and live, while ”Little Dreamer” shines as brightly as ever. William’s bass work was more propulsive and lithe than I ever recall hearing it, Gerrit’s synths swelled powerfully, and frontman Sam Herring resembled a poor man’s cyborg, strapping into his corrective, post-surgery support boot before launching un-fazed into his famed rager of a live performance. At times, things were a little worrisome as the crowd ebbed into the band’s space (with someone nearly taking out William’s pedal board with a lunging stomp). The only quibble with the performance was nagging feedback that occasionally broke the flow. That technical issue aside, we got a special treat from both acts.

Dave Carter did an admirable job with difficult source audio from this show. We hope you enjoy it.

Future Islands
The Penthouse
June 13, 2010
Baltimore MD, USA

J. Gerrit Welmers – keyboards
William Cashion – bass
Samuel Herring – vocals

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Inch of Dust (4:47)
2. An Apology (5:00)
3. Pinocchio (4:10)
4. Tin Man (4:12)
5. Long Flight (5:45)
6. Walking Through That Door (5:21)
7. Old Friend (4:57)
8. In the Fall (feat. Katrina Ford) (5:47)
9. Vireo’s Eye (6:30)
10. Little Dreamer (4:31)
11. The Happiness of Being Twice (3:26)

Total time: 54:30

ZIP link:

Entire set in mp3 format

Lineage:

AKG 414 mid/side pair -> Zoom h4n 48/24 -> Nuendo (stereo encoding, limiting) -> MP3

Recorded by:

David Carter(carteriffic@gmail.com)

Live Review: John Adams with the NSO; Leila Josefowicz Breaks Out Six String Electric Violin (2010.05.20)

Leila Josefowicz kicks arse. She broke out the “Violectra” for John Adams Dharma at Big Sur and you’re glad she’s Kerouac… rather than someone declaiming in best Beat tone Jack Kerouac’s words over the music. (That was Adams’ first idea for this orchestral work. Thank God Adams saw Tracy Silverman playing electric violin at an Oakland jazz club). It’s the sole reason that Leila’s Violectra came into being. It was born to play this concerto.

Dharma at Big Sur is a violin concerto about arrival. It’s about forsaking the East Coast for the West Coast. It’s not just about the cliffs, it’s the emotional shock, the visceral mental shift that hits with a salty, breathless slap at the edge of the Pacific coastline’s steep drops. That was Adams’ journey back in ’71. He shares it with us here.

Josefowicz’ violin is the perfect rhapsode in the midst of the National Symphony Orchestra’s instrumental chorus. The open: a dim orchestral hum, like a single ray of light expanding, mounts to roar – the sound of arrival. Leila’s tone is so clear and round it departs from the usual violin concerto role and becomes a sitar and throbs like an oud.  She captures the mystery of reflection that silences the soul who tries to talk about Big Sur’s upper reaches while still on the ledge. And then she bays like a wolf when the night is clear.

The principal violinist leads off the sighing cries of the other violins before surrendering to an echoing solitude as Leila plays on the bridge. The harp twangs, and the orchestra becomes a living wind. Triangle and almglocken lend a touch of gamelan to this pure, glistening sound. Leila enters again with piano enjambments and deep cello cuts.

Somewhere in all this we hear the suggestion of a Latin combo playing in the distance. Leila duels with brass. Trumpets start to bring up the horizon’s height. The piano and keyboard sampler relentlessly cast the rising crescendo, which builds such as to give you vertigo. Leila bays away on the bridge, starting to be subsumed, surrounded by the orchestra without weakening. That’s exactly what you get by going to Big Sur. Your whole little self cries silently in high-toned being: purer, more raw than your average B-more-bound existence. The wilds of Sur, its contrasts and colors, win over and you can’t help but feel reduced in size and nature into a spec of the great, the vast, the glorying pulse (even if it makes you, in paradox, feel larger than life).

This portamento riot for electric violin takes you on a great vacation. If you’re itching for a taste of the California road trip and the music, check this YouTube vid:
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Aural Slate Recordings: “Weeds” from Small Sur’s Bare Black

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MP3: Small Sur – Weeds

Just so everyone knows that I haven’t been completely resting on my laurels in regards to Aural States and affiliated enterprises, I come to you with an offering. I’m very proud and excited to present to you, reader, the track “Weeds.” It serves as the opener, and first single, from our label’s third record: Small Sur‘s Bare Black EP.

With this EP, Small Sur take their music to new heights of beauty by laying down some breathtakingly lush sounds, expanding their instrumentation (guests include Susan Alcorn, Geoff Graham, Natasha Tylea-Cooke, and Kate Barutha), further refining their exploration of space and almost spartan arrangements, and embracing some gorgeous and organic drones. We’re beyond thrilled with this special release, limited to 200 physical CDRs with gorgeous letterpressed packaging and art from Justin Lucas. As always, digital downloads will also be available in FLAC and MP3 formats.

Check the EP page on the label site for more details, track previews and links to buy online.

Album art is forthcoming, as well as a phenomenal EP Release Show on Friday July 9th at the Windup Space with Lo Moda, Moss of Aura (J. Gerrit Welmers of Future Islands), and Ghost Life (Wheattie Mattiasich + ex-More Dogs). This is a doubly-relevant show since Lo Moda will be providing the fourth release on Aural Slate Recordings later this year. Stay tuned for more developments!

Album Review: Moss of Aura – March (Unsigned)

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MP3: Moss of Aura – Cowboy

For the sound achieved by Future Islands, the importance of William Cashion’s rolling bass and Sam Herring’s impassioned vocals cannot be overstated. Both are incredibly important elements that have made the group one of Baltimore’s best and were critical in producing the band’s best album to date, this year’s In Evening Air.  But, with all due respect to them, the synthesizers and programming of J. Gerritt Welmers are the New Wave straw that stirs their “post-wave” drink.

His notes and backing beats can make a song like “Old Friend” a bubbly dance floor anthem in one moment, then intone as much emotion and despair as Herring’s tortured singing on “In The Fall” in the next.

Performing solo under the moniker Moss of Aura, Welmers has taken his cache of synthesized wizardry and filled out the arrangements a little more, while also giving them room to breathe. March takes us on a mellowed out journey through warm tones and tropical sounds that make for a highly enjoyable listen, the perfect summer album. Basically, if you’re not bumping this while grilling Esskay Oriole Franks and sipping Natty Bohs in the backyard, then you’re missing out.

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