People often ask me how I do so many things at once. There are two answers to that question: 1) very carefully, and 2) sometimes I don’t. Right now, answer number 2 is in effect.

When life offers you some momentum, you run with it as fast and as far as you can. And that’s what science has done recently, offered me a glimmer of light. And for the next few weeks, I want, and need, to focus on chasing that down as hard as I humanly can. To facilitate that, the posting frequency here at Aural States will be going WAY down during that time (you’ve probably already noticed the trend from this week). There will still be the occasional post here or there, particularly from our venturesome contributors like Dave Carter and his Livewire column, as well as some of the other contributors. But you likely won’t hear a substantial peep from me (aside from a few things going on at our label division) until a few weeks down the road.

For those of you so inclined, you can check out what I’m up to in my other life here, or for the more scientifically inclined, get all the gory details here.

Livewire: Celebration @ The Patterson (2010.02.26)

Celebration Live

Photo: Valerie Paulsgrove
Words: David Carter

Celebration played a superb free show at The Patterson in February, courtesy of The Creative Alliance. I set out for this event early, or so I thought, until it became clear that the nearest parking space to this mobbed venue was a good mile away. So, I sadly missed their opening set, an acoustic percussion-centric jam in a densely crowded front gallery area. Happily, I did get the entirety of this electric set on the back stage. In keeping with Celebration’s insistence upon giving all of their music away for free lately, they have allowed us to hand this beauty over to you all in its entirety.

This is a fine representative Celebration set that rattles off many of the reasons why they draw such a massive local following (and create such miserable local traffic conditions). Cool, collected musical skill and raw intensity collide in a magical way, creating spiky contrasts that spin and swerve through the room. Their sound is defiant and stylized without ever coming off as stilted, never losing a grip on the groove factor. As usual, the visual cortex was not reglected, the stage dressed lavishly in white lace and murky colored light. Special thanks to photographer Valerie Paulsgrove for the image above, click through that picture for more of her fantastic stills from this session. These photos were originally featured on the excellent Bmore Musically Informed blog, another indispensible site tracking and nurturing the Baltimore music scene. Thanks for sharing!

Listen freely, and support Celebration back. They are subsidizing our (raging, problematic) music habits for miles around with these free shows, free tracks; unique goodness that we can’t ever get from anyone else.

Live @ The Patterson
February 26, 2010
Baltimore MD, USA

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Pony (5:38)
2. Junky (5:30)
3. What’s This Magical (5:55)
4. Battles (6:18)
5. Honeysuckle Blue (6:01)
6. Great Pyramid (5:25)
7. Kilimanjaro (6:06)
8. I Will Not Fall (4:44)
9. Fly the Fly (4:18)
10. Heartbreak (7:39)
11. In This Land (5:25)

Total time: 1:03:05

ZIP links:

Entire set in mp3 format


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

Recorded by:

David Carter (carteriffic@gmail.com)

Interview: The Oranges Band (w/ Roman Kuebler) [Part 2]

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MP3: The Oranges Band – Art Star from The Oranges Band Are Invisible (2008)

If you haven’t read part one, check it out. And celebrate The Oranges Band tonight at Comet Ping Pong or the Ottobar on Satuday.

Here’s part 2 of my interview with The Oranges Band’s lead singer, Roman Kuebler. A couple things of note: for our DC readers, the band will be bringing its anniversary celebration to Comet Ping Pong tonight. On the sadder side of things, City Paper recently reported that drummer Dave Voyles, who had been with the band since the start, has left for personal reasons. Lee Ashlin is taking his place behind the kit on tour.

This portion focuses more on the band’s three long players, the anniversary show (which I accidentally slipped up and called a reunion show, not my finest moment) and what lies ahead for the band.

AS: How do you look back on All Around, your first LP?

Read the rest…

Northern Exposure: Days 3-5 – Kitchener, ON / Traverse City, MI / Columbus, OH

Note: We apologize for the massive gap between updates.  We have learned that wireless internet is a rare and valuable commodity not readily available in all places.  Because we never knew just when we’d have access to internet next, we decided to hold off on posting our tour diary until we arrived back home.

Day #3 – Kitchener, Ontario (Continued)

Only in Canada

Danko Jones couldn’t make the Kitchener show, so we got the prime spot directly opening up for Clutch.  It was pretty nerve wracking the moments before we took the stage because this was a sold out show and pretty much everyone who was gonna be there had arrived at that point.  So I went and had myself a good, cleansing crying session and prepared to take the stage. Read the rest…

Album Review: Soft Cat – Wildspace (Waaga)

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MP3: Soft Cat – Silver Babies Sun

Soft Cat plays the Windup Space tonight with Secret Mountains, European Swans and Shaun David Gould. Doors at 8:30pm, Show at 9pm. $5 cover, 21+.

Soft Cat is a project with a remarkably mature sound given its relatively short existence.  Formed in 2009 by Neil Sanzgiri (Talking Tiger Mountain, Voot Cha Index), he wasted little time in recruiting a plethora of our city’s musicians to aid him in realizing a lush musical vision, including Andy Abelow and Bob Keal of Small Sur, and Adam Lempel and Brendan Sullivan of Weekends. So enthusiastic was he about his new-found home of Charm City (following a move from his native Texas) that he helped curated the huge weekend of like-minded music called Soft Fest at the aptly branded Soft House.

This darkened vision of folk presents dreamy, leaden layers that form a sound as mysterious as it is dense.  Sanzgiri’s vocals are often plaintive, wistful, full of yearning. His heavy-lidded style is perfectly suited to their hazy sound. The album also draws on remarkably varied instrumentation including flute, saxophone, banjo, violin and more, in addition to the standard drums and guitars layout.

Read the rest…

Live Review: Colin Currie, Hannu Lintu Take Finns To Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (2010. 04.09)

Conductor Hannu Lintu, borrowed by the BSO for the night from Finland’s Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, earned rave roars from the audience for his execution of Beethoven’s Seventh. But don’t let that fool you… this man makes the case for modern music.

It’s no accident then that he shared the night with Scottish percussionist Colin Currie. I saw Colin Currie play a tour de force solo show back in December ’06 – thanks to the Shriver Hall Concerts.  His arsenal of percussive equipment took up the entire breadth of stage at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s auditorium, and he raced up and down the full spectrum without tiring. And two encores!

This time, Currie indulged us with Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Incantations. This was another BSO co-commission. The opening movement strikes with intense immediacy, as if we’re in a play that’s started at the middle… after the king’s already been dethroned and before a new one takes over. The strings lend a chorale-like backdrop to Currie’s handiwork on the xylophone. At the work’s height — the Expressivo — Currie’s vibes created a crisp, almost geometric force laid over the messy, teeming world.

Racing back and forth from vibes to xylophone and back again backed, as in the open, by violins made one question who was the “skin” — the fluid melodic being — in this music and who the “skeleton” — an impression, which stands the whole idea of percussion in a piece on its head. After all, what is percussion in most symphonic works but underpinning and punctuation? The main punctuations here came with Currie’s quick, almost comedic strikes of the chimes.

Rautavaara certainly underutilized Currie’s skills here, despite composing at Currie’s request. The overall impression of the work, while engaging, never coalesced into something truly stratospheric — which I maintain is the necessary condition of calling something an “incantation.” I mean, it is about a shaman after all.

Back in the day, Jean Sibelius awarded Rautavaara a music scholarship, calling him: “the most promising Finn” on the scene. Now, Mr. Rautavaara is an advanced 81 years old and very much beloved by his countrymen. So it was perfectly just to compare the two Finns by an opener of Jean Sibelius’ famous Finlandia.

Read the rest…

Interview: The Oranges Band (w/ Roman Kuebler) [Part 1]

Photo credits: Natasha Tylea (1-3), Greg Szeto (4-5)

The Oranges Band were the first group that got me to start poking around the music scene here in Charm City. The World and Everything In It still ranks among my favorite albums from a Baltimore band; to this day, I can throw it on and get taken in by songs like “Drug City” and “Open Air.”

Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I checked the Ottobar calendar some weeks back and saw the guys were doing a 10 Year Anniversary show on April 24. To mark the occasion, I sat down for an expansive, career-spanning interview in the band room at the Ottobar with lead singer Roman Kuebler. We covered everything from the life of a band on the road, to each of the three albums the band has released, to Roman’s thoughts on the current Baltimore scene, and lots in between.

For me, it was both a history lesson (sometimes that is painfully clear) and a chance to really pick the brain of one of the founders of a band that opened my eyes and ears to wonderful music around me.

Aural States: So your first show was here 1o years ago. Describe that experience. How did that go?

Read the rest…

Preview: Ben Harper and Relentless7 @ Pier Six Pavilion (2010.04.20)

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MP3: Ben Harper and Relentless7 – Under Pressure (Queen cover) from Live from the Montreal International Jazz Festival (2010)

How this so-called “Campus Consciousness” Tour, featuring Ben Harper and Relentless7 and opener Alberta Cross wound up at Pier Six Pavilion on the biggest stoner holiday…well, the only stoner holiday of the year…is beyond me. I mean, who wants to “Burn One Down” in the Inner Harbor?

The last time you may have seen the Relentless7 (of which there are four) was when they were awkwardly backing up Ringo Starr on the Daily Show. Their performance was admittedly not awe-inspiring, probably because they were playing the songs of Ringo Starr (inexplicably a frequent guest of the band). But Ben Harper and Relentless7 will definitely be an exciting act live, which is especially impressive because Harper often plays seated.

Relentless7 is a more rock-oriented group than previous bands Harper has toured with, and their album White Lies for Dark Times thankfully takes more chances than Harper’s adult-contemporary hits from the early part of the 00s. You’ll hear lots of intriguing guitar meandering, some shifting drum patterns, and Harper’s typically incidental lyrics. No, they aren’t a band I listen to all the time. But the best songwriters on record aren’t necessarily the best performers. Take Arctic Monkeys, who I love to listen to on record, but I was a bit disappointed with their unilateral approach live. Ben Harper and Relentless7 are a band that thrives on their live shows, on the flux and unpredictability of real-time performance. Harper is a singularly joyous and charming showman. His concerts are fantastic specifically because they branch out into so many different styles from their blues-rock origins, from funk to hard rock, to pop, to folk, by turns imbued with the spirits of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Blues Traveler, Parliament, or (perhaps needless-to-say) Lenny Kravitz.

Alberta Cross is the opener, and for some reason they always remind me of the Verve when I hear them. The songs have the same wandering, spacey, barely held together quality, but Petter Stakee is a far quirkier singer than Richard Ashcroft. His voice occasionally takes on a Cedric Bixler-Zavala-like timbre. The songs share some of the Mars Volta’s unhinged volatility while lacking their diamond-cut production and dadaist lyricism. I hadn’t listened to them before, but they are a band playing well beyond their years at the moment. With an opening spot for Ben Harper, they probably stand to increase their cachet. Their imagination on record is admirable and they deserve more than a passing listen.

Livewire: Matmos @ 5th Dimension (2010.03.26)

Photos & words: Greg Szeto

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MP3: Matmos – Complete Live Set

Matmos are a Puckish pair of experimental electronic troublemakers who played a fully quadrophonic set at this show, opening for UK trio Konk Pack and like-minded locals Leprechaun Catering. Fortunately, I think the set still translates very well after compression to 2 channels. They also swelled their ranks mid-set by recruiting a host of friends who layered real live instruments into their musique concrete offerings, including drums and most notably, local experimental catalyst John Berndt‘s saxophone. Matmos once again proved their deft compositional chops, and stand atop the hill as one of a select few experimental musicians who can get a crowd thinking as easily as they get them moving.

Total time: 44:07

Recorded by:

David Carter(carteriffic@gmail.com)

Album Review: Double Dagger – Masks EP (Thrill Jockey)

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MP3: Double Dagger – Pillow Talk

Double Dagger continues to strain my objectivity. My experiences, both live and recorded, are steadily forming a mountain of good will that probably abolishes what little critical credibility I have in the first place, leaving only awe-struck fawning. Still, I can’t resist saying a few words about their latest (highly enjoyable) EP.

Three of Masks‘ five tracks were recorded along with the rest of 2009′s More at the Current Gallery in early 2009, and it certainly feels like More v2.0 in some ways. They’ve clearly taken their sound by the reins by springboarding off their maturation with More, and seem to be settling into their ideal balance of acerbic and soothing elements. However, they’ve taken a step back to more spartan, lo-fi production and song structures here. The result is an EP that hits less like a masterful and adventurous recording (More) and more like their off-the-rails live show, which isn’t a bad thing.

Read the rest…

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