Preview: Celebration’s Yin Yang Show @ the Creative Alliance (2010.02.26)

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  1. MP3: Celebration – I Will Not Fall
  2. MP3: Celebration – Open Your Heart

Celebration are one of Baltimore’s more reclusive groups, and one of the city’s best treasures with a sound that is always captivating, always evolving, and always delivering a show-stopping live set. Their darkly brooding, churning songs have outstretched the bounds of the genre portmanteau “punk cabaret,” reaching far and wide with high-profile (TVOTR) and local (Ami Dang’s sitar) collaborations that have wrought a distinct and unhinged sound.

They signed with one of the more revered and high-quality indies (4AD) in 2005, and released the stellar Celebration (2006) and Modern Tribe (2007). Over the past couple years however, they have cast aside the traditional music industry business model associated with being a band. In early 2009 they parted ways with 4AD, choosing instead to engage in a number of increasingly intriguing and mysterious projects including releasing free songs under the banner of their Electric Tarot series, and restricting their 2009 live appearances to elemental-themed performances in non-traditional venues (along with the occasional festival or one-off collaboration with friends).

The final show in their Elemental series was originally scheduled to take place on January 29th, but as most people around town know, the host venue was the now-dissolved LOF/t under the direction of Ric Royer, shutting down a scant few weeks before the show.

This all brings us to today, with a performance that seems to fall outside the scope of their Elemental series. In its stead we have a bonafide Celebration double-header featuring one acoustic and one electric set, aptly named the Yin Yang show. The show tonight doubles up for early-comers as an open house for the upstairs resident studios at the Creative Alliance, an opening of a new exhibit by Lauren Boilini and Becky Alprin downstairs, and a chance for a cheap chili dinner if you are so inclined. The space is great, and the music grand, so I can’t imagine a better place to spend a blustery Friday night.

Oh and it’s free.

Album Review: Lizz King – All Songs Go To Heaven (Ehse Records)

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  1. MP3: Lizz King – Mr. Fella
  2. MP3: Lizz King – Till They Do

Where do I begin? All Songs Go To Heaven was, to me, quite unprecedented. Honestly, I didn’t even know about its release until Greg posted a preview for Lizz King’s album release party at the Windup Space.

Shows how informed I am. I’m just glad to not have missed out. Now, although there are a number of routes I might take to describe the accomplishment that is All Songs Go To Heaven, none of the obvious directions sit well with me for more than a sentence or two. This record’s brilliance is an odd breed, and I’ve been hunching over my laptop for hours thinking about how I can explain that more substantially. I’m utterly baffled to this moment.

How’s this: All Songs Go To Heaven plays just as well as a singles collection as it does an independent piece of art. Normally that sentence would gather a few intrigued rereads, but what’s even more impressive is that Lizz King’s sound is anti-homogenous in the most extreme sense. And, it being the case that I can’t locate the words in me to present a bona-fide album review, I’d rather talk about how moving each of the tracks are standalone.

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Livewire: J. Robbins and Gordon Withers @ Story/Stereo (2010.02.19)

Flickrshow will appear here!

Photo credit: Greg Szeto

This performance is absolutely transcendant. I am still in a state of disbelief. What we have here is J. Robbins on guitar and vocals with his friend Gordon Withers on cello, playing acoustic arrangements of amazing songs from current and previous bands that have been blessed by the presence of Robbins (Burning Airlines, Jawbox, Channels, and current project Office of Future Plans). Just press the play button, I won’t bore you with how mesmerized I am by this music.

I will note, though, that my spartan portable stereo miking setup is normally something of a compromise for recording larger bands, where a multitrack recording would be superior, but is nearly ideal for an intimate close-up acoustic performance like this. Deeply felt thanks to everyone who combined forces to bring this into being. If you are not already listening and your eyes are still open reading this drivel, you are wasting valuable time and energy.

This performance came about thanks to the efforts of Story/Stereo music co-curators Chad Clark and Matt Byars (whose label West Main Development will be releasing the full set properly later this year).

J. Robbins and Gordon Withers
Live @ Story/Stereo in the Writer’s Center
February 19, 2010
Bethesda MD, USA

J. Robbins – guitar, vocal
Gordon Withers – cello

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Outside the Aviary (Burning Airlines acoustic) (2:03)
2. The Deluxe War Baby (Burning Airlines acoustic) (3:56)
3. Desert Sea (Jawbox acoustic) (3:21)
4. Spoiler (Jawbox acoustic) (2:50)
5. 68 (Jawbox acoustic) (3:21)
6. Green Glass (Jawbox acoustic) (4:46)
7. The Escape Engine (Burning Airlines acoustic) (2:54)
8. Your Several Selves (Office of Future Plans acoustic) (2:44)
9. Scissoring (Burning Airlines acoustic) (4:02)
10. Static (Jawbox acoustic) (5:18)
11. Savory (Jawbox acoustic) (5:05)
12. Lucky Lamb (Channels acoustic) (3:22)

Total time: 43:43


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

Recorded by:

David Carter(carteriffic@gmail.com)

Preview: Pfisters @ Ruintown (2010.02.19)

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MP3: Pfisters – She’s Mine from the forthcoming 12″ Narcicity (Fan Death Records)

Pfisters, Landlords, White Suns, Needle Gun @ Ruintown, Doors @ 9PM / $5

Tonight, roll, don’t walk, to your friendly neighborhood multi-use warehouse space as the concert venue cum industrial skate space Ruintown hosts yet another killer show.

The highlight of highlights will likely be the ferocious and aptly named headliners Pfisters. Fortunately for most, unlike their homophonic namesake, Pfisters will violate you only in ways you will enjoy. Rest assured that there will be ripping and shredding, but it won’t be painful. It’ll be glorious. Take my word for it, this new 12″ continues the stellar quality that has fast become synonymous with local upstarts Fan Death Records (for some real classic e-tainment, check out the dramatic brouhaha they stirred up at Washington City Paper).

Narcicity is a release full of piss and vinegar, the record bucks and thrashes like a righteous, punk-fueled bronco. This is unsurprising when you consider vocalist/guitarist Jason Donnells lays down bass lines in the New Flesh. A flurry of guitar and bass whips into a frothy frenzy with halting vocals and manic drums, possessing a combined stopping power not unlike a magnum. Technically, there is much more meat here in each song than your average punk or thrash band has over a full album, and it all cuts through the mix crisp and clear thanks to great production that polishes without buffing off the aesthetic edge. Pfisters even toss us a few experimental curveballs.

Keep your eyes peeled, because I’m definitely recommending this LP as its release nears with a proper, full-sized review. In the meantime, check out the track above and beat your feet to Falls Road tonight.

Livewire: Lake Trout @ the Ottobar (2010.01.16)

Lake Trout Live

Photo credit: David Carter

Lake Trout is a longtime Baltimore institution. They do not gig nearly often enough as of late, so I was most pleased to have a rare shot at recording one of their shows in mid-January. James has been in the UK working on an upcoming UNKLE release for many months but returned to Baltimore for this excellent set. There is a new Lake Trout release on the horizon as well, with recording sessions scheduled this month, and plans to work with producer Dave Fridmann this spring. This is a great ride, with some tracks familiar from past Lake Trout recordings and some that more recently evolved out of the Big In Japan side project. The sound quality was impeccable, thanks in no small part to the miking and mixing skills of local studio legend Steve Wright. Don’t skip the hard-charging set closer, “Lies.”

Lake Trout
January 16, 2010
Baltimore MD, USA

James Griffith – bass
Ed Harris – guitar
Mike Lowry – drums
Matt Pierce – keyboard, flute
Woody Ranere – guitar, vocal

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Untitled (5:27)
2. Riddle (4:36)
3. Say Something (6:52)
4. New Thing (5:32)
5. All Day Long (6:36)
6. Queens (4:36)
7. I Was Wrong (4:50)
8. Shiny Wrapper (6:31)
9. Mockingbird (5:13)
10. What You Need (6:42)
11. Stutter (5:40)
12. Pill (4:48)
13. Factory (6:19)
14. Banter/Yelling (4:31)
15. Lies (8:58)

Total time: 1:27:19

ZIP links:

Entire set in mp3 format


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

Recorded by:

David Carter(carteriffic@gmail.com)

Sign On!: Human Conduct Records, Part 3: Interview (w/ Rick Weaver)

To cap off this series of posts on Human Conduct Records, I exchanged a week-long email relay with all-around Human Conduct man, Rick Weaver. Our conversation exposed what my previous pieces attempted to avoid–the theoretical foundations of Human Conduct’s disposition. Coincidentally, it is my impression that we also received a remarkably profound character profile for Rick Weaver (whose works were covered extensively in Part 2).

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Aural Slate Recordings: “Arctic Phantoms” from Caverns’ We Lied

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MP3: Caverns – Arctic Phantoms

A week from today, our newest venture (EP label Aural Slate Recordings) will launch with the release of Caverns’ EP We Lied. Caverns have long been one of my favorite local artists, providing a unique take on the stale formula of rock and an explosively engaging live show. I’m really proud to have them on-board as our inaugural release. The first release show will be on Friday February 19th at Comet Ping Pong in DC with Detox Retox, and Prisms. Release shows in Frederick and label party in Baltimore will follow in the spring.

We Lied was recorded with Chris Freeland at Beat Babies, and J. Robbins at the Magpie Cage. Mixing duties fell on Chris Freeland and Matthew Leffler-Schulman of Mobtown Studios, who also did the mastering. Album art was designed by the multi-talented Caleb Moore of Lands & Peoples.

To give all you loyal Aural States readers a taste of the album, today we present the opening track (and lead “single”), entitled ”Arctic Phantoms.” Coincidentally, it is also the only track on the EP recorded with J. Robbins at the Magpie Cage, and really sets the stage for the rest of the EP.

More from lead guitarist Kevin Hilliard:

The opening track, “Arctic Phantoms,” operates as the mission statement for this EP. In fact, we titled the EP We Lied because this song steps outside of the purely instrumental confines our music has remained in up to this point by incorporating a heavily effected vocal melody and atmospheric synths into the mix. Our drummer, Ross Hurt, programmed glitchy electronic drums to add yet another texture previously absent from our compositions. The beginning of this track might even sound like the work of an entirely different band if it weren’t for Patrick Taylor’s lead piano line, which maintains a continuity between “Arctic Phantoms” and our earlier work. As for the lyrics…we’re not at liberty to discuss them, but if anyone figures out what they are, we’ll give you a free t-shirt.

Find out more than you ever wanted to know at our label site (including more track previews, links to buy etc), and stay tuned for more exciting announcements throughout the year. Starting next Friday, a limited run of 200 CDRs will sell for $5 at shows, and the album will be available digitally on Bandcamp (which means you could even get it lossless!) for $4.

Interview: James Husband & of Montreal (w/ Jamey Huggins)

In between rehearsals for James Husband and of Montreal, we caught up with Jamey Huggins before both bands began a short eastern tour. Huggins, who has played drums, bass and keyboards (that I know of) for of Montreal since 1998, has just released his solo effort, A Parallax I. We spoke about being in two bands at once, being influenced by Guided by Voices and what the future may hold for of Montreal.

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An Hour of Kindness: Episode 5 – Winks

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 5- Winks- She Comes in Colors from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

Boogaloo Times: A Discourse on Funk and Soul – Lee Fields, and The Sound Stylistics

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  1. MP3: Lee Fields & the Expressions – These Moments
  2. The Sound Stylistics – The Taking of Peckham 343

Production does a lot for the music we listen to. Just think about it for a moment–some sort of production must have, at one point or another, generated an effect upon every single vibration that has ever passed through any set of speakers worldwide. Period. Whether the result can be found in the artist’s instrument selection, microphones, choosing between analog or digital recording methods, editing, or in your speakers themselves–everything is produced somehow. I can even casually identify the names of a few prominent artforms that bank entirely on the ability to digitally interpret sound–electro, IDM, krautrock, chiptune, D&B/jungle–things like these would be nothing without audio editing. Furthermore, the manner in which an album is produced can occasionally transform otherwise inadequate sound into a critically lauded Pitchfork 8.7 (ahem, the xx?). Just sayin’.

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