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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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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.


-       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.


-       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!

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…

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)

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.

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…

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.

Read the rest…

Video: Jason Urick – “Fussing & Fighting”

Jason Urick – “Fussing & Fighting”
Directed by Mark Brown
Password (if still locked): fussing

Thanks to the kind folks at Thrill Jockey (especially Paco Barba), we’re happy to premiere the video for the title track of Jason Urick’s new EP, “Fussing & Fighting.” Jason took a few moments to enlighten us on the EP: Read the rest…

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