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NoVo / Nouveau: The Water

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MP3: The Water – Future Nails

Tonight’s headliners are one of the newest acts on NoVo’s roster. Baltimore duo The Water only really started playing out in 2009, and swiftly gained some traction and notable fans around town, snagging big gigs like the Metro Gallery’s Rufustival. Comprised of Dan Cohan (drums, electronics) and James Klink (guitars, keys, electronics), their self-titled and self-released EP was recorded with NoVo co-curator Matthew Leffler-Schulman in 2009, and serves up a strong cut of straight-up post-rock. Technically tight, but not overly complicated, their music works in the realm of nuance with an ear for great arrangements.

All well and good, but it doesn’t do justice to their immersive and dazzling live show. This is to be expected, considering what Dan told WYPR’s the Signal at the end of last week: “We spend a lot of time on what a show should look like. As much time as we spend on what it should sound like.” Undoubtedly, their pièce de résistance is a fast-track to myth, homemade “light obelisk” that changes color when they play. And as anyone can tell you, light shows and post-rock go hand-in-hand like chocolate and peanut butter.

The pot gets even sweeter when you consider that tonight’s set will feature a collaboration with guest drummer Mike Lowry of Lake Trout & Big in Japan. The lineup also features experimental guitarist Carlos Guillen’s The Expanding Man project and DJ JDay. Check out live footage of The Water’s set from Rufustival by Guy Werner after the jump.

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Live Review: Brubecks’ Ansel Adams: America – Baltimore Symphony Paints Pictures in Music (2010.12.02)

First off, apologies for being quiet on the classical front. While you may be inclined to trek out to any show at all hours, the majority of the symphony and chamber audience express trepidation on ice. The biggest casualties of the snow: BSO’s Porgy And Bess, and the Candlelight Concert Society’s All-Beethoven program with the Leipzig Quartet, which could have gone down as my “concert of the decade” — had it only happened. (Chin up, readers, the elusive and exemplary Leipzig players may still return in late 2010-2011).

When the BSO struck up the opening of Dave and Chris Brubeck’s Ansel Adams: America concertgoers settled into their seats once again after a forced absence. Composer Chris Brubeck appeared on-stage as a complete surprise. Maestra Marin Alsop invited him to say a few words, “Since you’re alive.” And he told us of hanging clouds and suspended chords (before proceeding to sit down just in front of me). Those clouds came, of course, from Ansel Adams’ photographs.

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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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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.

An Hour of Kindness: Episode 5 – In Every Room

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 5- In Every Room- Untitled from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 5- In Every Room- Celebration from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Dustin Wong, Sick Sick Birds

Dustin Wong @ Open Space

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MP3: Dustin Wong – Matthew and Kenneth

I think we can all agree that Dustin Wong (likely you know him from Ponytail) knows his way around a guitar. Every effect-laden note found in his work, both solo and otherwise, is deeply imprinted with a profound familiarity for the instrument. Combined with his exceptional pneumatic awareness, Dustin Wong’s sound is surely nothing to take lightly. Recently the two of us sat down together, miles apart (or so I presume), and had ourselves an email chat about his solo work. Here lies the result.

AS: So, can you describe what exactly it is you’re trying to say with your compositions?

Dustin Wong: I definitely want the whole set to be an experience, kind of a loose narrative or a journey. Towards the sky with a sense of humor.

AS: How does that differ from your work with Ponytail?

DW: I use my pedals completely differently, although they are set up in the same way. Ponytail has a more horizontal build vs playing solo things build vertically, sounds stack up. Ponytail is my extrovert, and playing solo is my introvert.

AS: Your compositions are pretty bereft of structure–what is the writing process like? Do you look at your music linearly? Stream of consciousness?

DW: It’s definitely more of a stream of consciousness thing. I think my film background has an influence as well. I write music as if I’m editing video.

AS: What urged you to compose Seasons? Why the four seasons? What was the general conception like?

DW: I think it was realization and conception at the same time. There were a bunch of songs accumulating and I realized that they sounded like the season they were recorded in, so I just went for it.

AS: Greg sent me a copy of your “Matthew and Kenneth” demo, is that going to be featured on an upcoming release? Anything new in the works?

DW: I’ve been talking to Justin Kelly about releasing a cassette tape, and this was one of the tracks that I wanted to have on that release. Starting to think about it more concretely these days. Also in the process of recording my current set, hopefully I’ll get that done soon.

AS: Your set at the Hexagon last October was pretty fantastic, how do you usually go about your live performances?

DW: Thanks! I actually play a little better if I’m slightly nervous, maybe its because its heightening something. Also I love it if I feel like I’m inside the music rather than out.

AS: Looking forward to seeing anyone in particular at Aural States Fest II?

DW: Leprechaun Catering is going to be incredible. I’m looking forward to Sick Weapons and Lands &Peoples. Also, J. Robbins’ new band Office of Future Plans!


Sick Sick Birds @ the Metro Gallery

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MP3: Sick Sick Birds – Committees (Need A Champion) from Heavy Manners LP (2009)

Sick Sick Birds reconcile a sage and poetic approach with the sound of pop-punk, something normally associated with the trite and disposable. This, in and of itself, is reason to be impressed. Their dynamic live show carries all the energy of punk while channeling the bittersweet reflection of something more measured. Given that I practically wore out the grooves on their 2009 LP Heavy Manners, their inclusion in the fest is hardly surprising. Their live presence is still a relative rarity in these parts, so come out and bask in it. Here’s hoping they have an active 2010.

Live Review: Baltimore Rock Opera Society presents Gründlehämmer @ 2640 Space (2009.10.03)

Editor’s note: This is a long overdue report from the show’s first engagement. Thankfully, it is more relevant now than ever since a second weekend of Gründlehämmer performances is fast approaching 2640 Space on the weekend of Feb 19th-21st (Fri – Sat @ 7pm, Sun @ 5pm). And this time, you’ll be able to take a part of it home with the 2-disc studio album packed with songs of heroic deeds and villainous mischief.

If you are feeling particularly generous, drop by and show your support Jan 28th @ the Brewer’s Art-hosted fundraiser.

All photos: Andy Cook

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  1. MP3: Baltimore Rock Opera Society – Vengeance & Guide My Hand
  2. MP3: Baltimore Rock Opera Society – Hear Ye (rough mix) * preview track, the final version will be available along with the album, at the show dates.

When the four founders of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society talked up an epic production, they spoke every bit of truth.  Epic is undoubtedly the best word to describe Gründlehämmer, the 3-hour long, debut rock opera from the creative quartet of director Aran Keating, music coordinator & actor Dylan Koehler, band director John DeCampos, and propmaster & floor manager Eli Breitburg-Smith. Read the rest…

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