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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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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: Future Islands – In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)

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MP3: Future Islands – Tin Man

This album is one of the most anticipated releases from a local artist in 2010. The anticipation is partly because, ever since their transplant here from North Carolina, Future Islands‘ rapturous live shows have caught on like wildfire, and partly because it serves as their debut on Baltimore fetishist label Thrill Jockey (who I hear may have signed yet another prominent Baltimore musician’s solo efforts). I am a bit ashamed to admit that I underestimated Future Islands. Frankly, I couldn’t have imagined they would deliver this strongly on an album. Until hearing their TJ 12″ EP and LP releases, I was convinced that Future Islands’ music was a gem that shone most brilliantly live, and lost the majority of its lustre in the studio.

Wave Like Home, put out on UK label Upset! the Rhythm, was characterized by a fair bit of mania, yet also (paradoxically) a uniformity of approach and tone. The parallels and comparisons to more prominent Wham City affiliates abounded. Synths were riding high and dominant in the mix, bass rumbled along turned to 11 (most often functioning as rhythmic propulsion), and Herring’s voice was unflinchingly raw and big. Though they surely traveled through many moods, they felt fleeting and devoid of any true weight. To my ears, their vision on that record was relatively less ambitious, aiming more to catalyze a dance party than anything else. In doing so I think that release was as close as Future Islands will get to channeling the electricity of their live shows onto a recording. However, with their closing track, they provided the best hint of future directions, delivering a standout ballad in “Little Dreamer.”

With In Evening Air, Future Islands seem to have had an epiphany. Read the rest…

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?

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One Track Mind: Sri Aurobindo – “Soul Vibrations of Man” / “Don’t Know”

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  1. MP3: Sri Aurobindo – Soul Vibrations of Man
  2. MP3: Sri Aurobindo – Don’t Know

Sri Aurobindo are back again, this time with a release on Bmore Musically Informed‘s new imprint Friends Records. Cave Painting being their second full-length release, they really stepped up to the plate, delivering on expectations of a vital brew of psych goodness. The sound throughout the album oozes a primitivist feel, something less rooted in the realm of mind-altering psych and more in the ritualistic. You can easily imagine these songs soundtracking the Sris as a tribe, hovering around a billowing blaze barely contained by a stone circle.

Lead single “Soul Vibrations of Man” is a slice of classic psych, the blown out bass guitar line playing the foil to the lofty and crisp quality of the elevating guitar melody. Arinoldo’s vocals ring as if echoing through a metal canyon, and you get a solid sense of expanse and a bit of wonderment. “Don’t Know” roars to life with the rumbling storm of bass and rhythm guitars, a bed for the wailing the lead guitar to slowly percolate through. The doors are blown open when both guitars and bass tear into epic freakout solos near the halfway mark, gradually drifting off and dissolving into muffled, noisy moans. Easily my favorite track on the whole LP (aside from maybe the highly infectious “My Luv Is Stoned” with its ebullient, titular shouts).

Local psych enthusiasts already know they will love this (and most any) outing from the Sris, but this release manages to provide enough edge from other influences to make them sound much more unique than a simple homage to a genre. They continue to wrangle some fantastic guitar and bass tones (probably due in no small part to studio whiz Chris Freeland), yet this go-round they have crafted their most distinctive and cohesive offering yet. A blast to listen to, Cave Painting sounds ripe to give them broader appeal, something well-deserved and perhaps overdue.

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Album Review: Pfisters – Narcicity (Fan Death Records)

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  1. MP3: Pfisters – She’s Mine
  2. MP3: Pfisters – Cluck-U

Pfisters can be found in their native habitat, the live show, TWICE this weekend: the DNA Test Fest III pre-party at their home-base, Ruintown on Fri Apr 2nd, and the big show proper on Sat Apr 3rd at Sonar.

Punk for the musically capable is what crossed my mind on the first playthrough of Narcicity. That assessment certainly holds up when you break down Pfisters’ membership: the trio is comprised of Jason Donnells (The New Flesh), and Glenn Gentzke and Darren Bolk (both ex-Trash Camp), a veritable treasure-trove of local out-there rock talent.

Pfisters, (much like the New Flesh) forgo the mind-numbing and simplistic repetition of technically mundane elements, essentially eschewing the bricks and mortar for the majority of punk that takes off fast and hits hard. Guitar and bass on this album rip with startlingly proficient abandon and a garage-y twang; drums manage to attain accuracy both rhythmic and arrhythmic, whether flailing into anemic disintegration or propelling forward in tightly meted phrases. They also dabble in unpredictable tonal progressions and chords. However, their true hat-trick is that this release manages to pack so many elements that would normally be considered abrasive and challenging, into something effortlessly listenable. I attribute this partly to their uncanny ability to carve melodies out of madness.

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Preview: Konk Pack, Matmos, Leprechaun Catering @ the 5th Dimension (2010.03.26)

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  1. MP3: The Work – Cain & Abel from Slow Crimes (1982)
  2. MP3: Konk Pack – Off Leash Excerpt from Off Leash (2004)

Tentative plan for tonight: 930PM start, order (first to last) = Matmos > Leprechaun Catering > Konk Pack

Tonight, Baltimore is once again ground-zero for an atom-bomb of experimental improv talents. Firstly, there are few openers that hit harder than the one-two punch of local luminaries Leprechaun Catering and Matmos. The former’s ever-engrossing, stream of thought racket combines seamlessly with the latter’s deft compositions that somehow use unconventional tools to mine the deepest pits of experimentalism, and emerge with gleaming gold nuggets of pop.

But people around here already know that. So I’m going to take a second and introduce tonight’s special guests, British/German imrpov trio Konk Pack. Read the rest…

Album Review: Title Tracks – It Was Easy (Ernest Jennings)

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Title Tracks – Every Little Bit Hurts

To start, Title Tracks sound nothing like Q and Not U, whose raucous clatter compelled DC post-punkers to dance in the early part of the last decade. Neither does Title Tracks remind you of the energetic indie pop of Georgie James, John Davis’ first post-Q and Not U band. Instead, Title Tracks produces mid-tempo power pop with all the requisite influences, {insert The Jam/Big Star reference here}. And they follow this formula quite well, crafting some tight and exciting songs in the process.

That’s the good news — if you enjoy that sound and feel, you’re probably gonna eat this up the way I ate up Abe Vigoda (who?) a year and a half ago. But frankly the formula is weary, old, and been done before, many thousands of times over. If you’ve decided to step into this arena you have to face the fact that there are a thousand other guys out there playing the same chords and singing the same “la-la”s. So what’s there to distinguish you from them? Usually the answer lies in strong vocals and melodies, and on both counts Davis is fine. In a world where ex-post punkers are embarassing themselves at an alarming rate, give the guy props because he certainly succeeds more often than he fails, but I wish he would take enough chances to do either on a large scale.

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One Track Mind: Height With Friends – “Cold Crush”

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MP3: Height With Friends – Cold Crush from the upcoming LP Bed of Seeds (2010) on Friends Records

Height With Friends plays the Windup Space with The Snails, Dope Body, and King Rhythm on Sat Mar 20. Doors @ 9PM, $7 cover.

Height is on a roll. Not only did he and his Friends drop some free knowledge on everyone earlier this week via the release of a free EP (Druid Hill Lake), but he also bids our fair city a temporary farewell with a tour send-off show this Saturday (the show is formerly known as a record release party). The crew hits the road on tour with Nuclear Power Pants.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the release of his next LP, Bed of Seeds, had to be delayed. Fortunately, the latest EP is culled from those tracks, so you get a good sense of what they have to offer. Let us add one more bell to that Pavlovian response as we premiere “Cold Crush.”

On Bed of Seeds, Dan and his cohorts’ impeccable ear for quality samples and beats has broadened to include a wider and more dynamic range, stretching from the expected territories of blues and soul, into the frontiers of gentle acoustic balladry and bubbly pop melodies. “Cold Crush” features a simple, smoldering sax line to back Height’s reflective narration on hip-hop pioneers The Cold Crush Brothers’ brush with wider fame and recognition. The track is as much celebration as lamentation, its descending lines underscoring the group’s fading hopes of eventually nailing down mainstream success and exposure.

While not quite a household name in hip-hop, the influence of the Cold Crush is undeniable, from their infamous live performances and tapes, to a number of moments where they seemed on the brink of blowing up. Their most high-profile run-in occurred with a donated verse on classic anthem “Rapper’s Delight.” Member Grandmaster Caz hoped to get some reciprocation for his goodwill to Hank of the Sugar Hill Gang, but got no such love. Down the line, he eventually spoke his peace on the matter with the retort “MC Delight.”

Tour dates for Height With Friends and Nuclear Power Pants after the jump.
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Album Review: Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL Recordings)

Okay, well we’re a little late with this one. Chances are you’ve already heard and formed an opinion about Vampire Weekend’s second album, Contra. Fortunately for us lollygaggers, that has given us the opportunity to try and put this album into context.

Some of the facts:

- Contra debuted as the number one album in the country, selling 124,000 copies in its first week. It was only the 12th independently-released album to do so. According to Billboard, their previous best sales week was when their debut self-titled album netted 28,000 sales in the opening week.

- Almost every U.S. show in support of this album has sold out. Locally, the band has progressed from the Rock and Roll Hotel (capacity 400 people) in early 2008, to two nights  at the 9:30 Club (1,200) later that year, to DAR Constitution Hall (3,720) this coming April. All  sell outs.

- In their second video in support of this album, for single “Giving Up the Gun,” we get a futuristic tennis match featuring Joe Jonas and Jake Gyllenhaal as players, Lil Jon as a French-speaking instructor and RZA as a Neo-from-The-Matrix-like referee (no joke). This is almost as random/absurd a group as another video starring Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It (On the Alcohol),” which also features Forest Whitaker, Ron Howard and Foxx himself rolling up to the club in a Rolls Royce to party with Samuel L. Jackson, T-Pain and many more. Seriously.

- On March 6, the group made its second appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

All of the above accomplishments, including the ability to cobble together such a large swath of the cultural zeitgeist for one music video, demonstrate that Contra has launched Vampire Weekend from the flavor of the month to one of the biggest bands in alternative music. They have managed to do this by writing catchy tunes that can hook in somebody oblivious to the hype while incorporating technical elements that appeal to portions of the indie set.

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