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Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Thrushes, Death Domain

Today, Brandon takes a moment with Thrushes for a few questions and another track premiere off their new full-length Night Falls, while I preach the gospel of Death Domain.

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MP3: Thrushes – Skywave from the forthcoming LP Night Falls

The Baltimore music scene has gotten loads of press over the past couple of years, but there are still plenty of bands that we love dearly that never get the recognition they deserve. Thrushes, your friendly neighborhood shoegaze/noise pop outfit, has managed to avoid the limelight in spite of the beautifully fuzzy “Wall of Sound” they produce. Fortunately, they have a new album, Night Falls, coming out in March.

We chatted with guitarist Casey Harvey about the upcoming release, and lead singer/guitarist Anna Conner chimed in to inform us about the themes on the group’s sophomore effort.

AS: I read that Casey and Rachel recruited Anna during a pick-up baseball game in 2005. Does anybody still play? I’m glad to hear people still play. It’s usually hard to get the right amount of people together.

CH: Unfortunately, it looks like that group of pick-up baseballers drifted apart over the last couple of years. It was a sunday friendly game that was pretty active for a few years and a lot of fun.

AS: Yay or nay on Andy MacPhail?

CH: Nay

AS: You guys have got a new album coming out in March! What can we expect?

Casey Harvey: Night Falls ups the stakes in every department. Thrushes’ trademark wall of sound, widescreen guitars and technicolor noise-pop are brilliantly polished to sparkle. Opening single “Trees” finds Thrushes in full on “Dazzle” mode. Bells ring, drums thunder, guitars chime, hearts break. “Crystals” is a conscious nod to ‘60’s girl group’s cotton-candy coated odes to fallen love. Night Falls illuminates the dark edges of town on brooding tracks “As Much to Lose” and “Juggernaut.”

AS: “Crystals” sounds a little more poppier, a little more uptempo. Was there a conscious effort to speed things up a bit on this record?

CH: I don’t think there was neccesarily a conscious effort to up the tempo, these just happened to be the songs that came out during this time period.

AS: Have you had much of a chance to work the songs out for the live setting?

CH: Some of the material, such as “Trees” and “Night Falls” were written almost immediately after we finished Sun Come Undone. So we’ve had those for a while. “Used to You” was written about a week before we started recording this album so we’ve got a good mix of road tested and fresh new material.

AS: Back in your marathon interview with Greg in 2008, Anna mentioned that some of the newer songs were about “angry heartbreak.” Is this a theme you developed further on Night Falls? What other themes did you touch on?

Anna Conner: Some of the songs on Night Falls are about heartbreak. Songs like “Night Falls,” “Crystals,” and “Juggernaut.” They were written at a time when I was facing some personal demons, and they really were helpful in the healing process. I like playing those “angry heartbreak” songs because they show me what I was going through then, like re-reading an old journal entry.

But not all of the songs are about heartbreak. The songs written after that period are about what happens after you’ve been through the worst of it: learning more about yourself, about who your friends are, and eventually about finding love again and finding the people in your life you can rely on. Night Falls tracks a journey for me. As the band evolved musically, I was evolving emotionally.


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MP3: Death Domain – Programmed Cell Death from the Ethidium Bromide 7″

Death Domain is a project remarkably underground, especially for a place like Baltimore where it seems you can’t get the mail without seeing someone you know or recognize from a show or a night at the bar. A Huntley Stroupe’s one-man minimalist synth act is a great contrast to Thrushes. The music has a chilling aesthetic owed to Stroupe’s near-monotone vocals and patently artificial sounds, yet it still motivates those primal, beat sensitive regions of your brain with repetitive, uptempo and machine-like pulses. Though I tend to abhor genre portmanteaus, “coldwave” is really the perfect tag for this music. As much as Thrushes’ music really gets your emotions out, Death Domain’s sublimates those urges with jarring proficiency, making you question if they were even there in the first place.

Get into it with some of his latest releases including an 8-song tape on Jerkwave (limited to 100 on silver tape), a 3 song 7″ on Army of Bad Luck (limited to 300, silk screened glow in the dark cover), and a 2 song 7″ on Dark Entries (limited to 400, silk screened glow in the dark covers with 100 of each nucleic acid, A/100, C/100, T/100, G/100). Look for a reissued split tape with High Marks, limited to 150.

What others are saying: Still Single, Freak Scene (Fader)

Sound Off!: Death Domain @ AMERICA (2009.10.16)

death domain

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01. MP3: Death Domain – A Pox on You from split tape with High Marks (2008)
02. MP3: Death Domain – Ethidium Bromide 2

There’s a lot of good going on in Baltimore tonight, particularly in Station North with the release parties for Height With Friends’ Baltimore Highlands Remix Album at the Windup, and Jason Urick’s Thrill Jockey debut Husbands at the Hexagon.  But for something a little more under the radar and farther towards the extreme end of the spectrum, you should look westward to AMERICA.

Now, I’m going to say at the start, there’s a little authorial bias here.

Death Domain aka Adam Stroupe is a science nerd and, like me, wears it as a badge of honor.  The name of his apocalypse-heralding solo project says as much (death domains are stretches of amino acids found in proteins that signal for apoptosis, programmed cell death).  And let’s not get started on the bevy of overt scientific references saturating his songs’ titles (“A Pox On You,” “Vampyroteuthis infernalis,” “Toxoplasma gondii“) and lyrics.

To my ears, his sound is perhaps the most deserving of the ultra-vague, tongue-in-cheek designation of future shock.  If you take novelist Alvin Toffler’s definition, “future shock” is merely a twist on “culture shock,” essentially defined as the disorientation arising from the speed of change.  And DD’s music is undoubtedly one of the most bewildering, disorienting yet magnetic and infectious slices of downright bleak takes on synth-based dance music.  So welcome this wayward son home from tour tonight when he stops off at AMERICA with tourmates Cult of Youth and a host of others from the House of Tinnitus venue/collective in Denton, TX.

death domain flyerCrucial details:

AMERICA, doors @ 8pm
122 S Stockton St (a side street, between Lombard and Pratt, in the perpendicular, and between Carey and Carrollton, in the parallel)

CULT OF YOUTH – Neofolk in the tradition of Death in June.  These guys and gal barely play outside NY.  Snagged them after the last date of their tour!

DEATH DOMAIN – Criminally overlooked local synth-based non-organic onslaught.  Cold, catchy and clinical.  Lamentations of the future-present.

LYCHGATE – Grim harsh noise from Denton, TX.  Power electronics without the courtesy of misanthropicscreamers.

ASHES – On tour with Lychgate; also from TX.  Like-minded harshness.  Think FFH, Grey Wolves, Ahlzagailzehguh.  Ashen colored nihilism.

CORPORATE PARK – Part of the TX noise package.  Self-proclaimed back stabbers.  Think Pedestrian Deposit, Burmese, Throbbing Gristle and where the best place to find a leather zentai suit would be.