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Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Sick Weapons, Ami Dang, Liveshitbingepurge

Photo credit: Frank Hamilton

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MP3: Sick Weapons – Orgy on the China Train, Live from Whartscape 2009

Over the past year, Sick Weapons have steadily been amping up their live show from heady racket to straight-on punk freight train. Opening for the Frodus reunion show at the Talking Head, they tore the roof off with raucous abandon.

Lead singer Ellie Beziat drops some knowledge on us regarding their in-the-works full-length:

The artwork is being designed by Nolen Strals of Double Dagger. Highly, highly conceptual and intellectual-as one would expect from our brain combos. Three of Baltimore’s best engineers have their fingers in the mix including Adam Cooke, J. Robbins, and Christopher Freeland. And it includes the hits like “Orgy on the China Train,” “If You Love Me, Take Me to the Hospital,” etc. as well as some new tunes, “I Got Mental Illness” and “Anthony Bourdain’s Earring”.



When I first saw Ami Dang, I was in awe. Her innovative blending of classical Indian influences and use of modern experimental electronics, her earth-shattering vocals…I firmly believe she is one of the most innovative musicians in our fair city, and I can’t wait to see her new vision merging her experimental side with her poppier side. In addition to doing some recent collaboration with local behemoths Celebration, she is also working on an album with Ehse Records which we can all only hope will be out in the very near future.


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MP3: Newagehillbilly – Improv, Live at the Hexagon (2008.12.05)

With a crew as motley and diverse as MT6 Records, it’s not surprising we found all different kinds of reactions to their output when we featured them in our Sign On! label spotlight column. Regardless, head honcho Alex Strama and his merry roster often create some of the most inspired experimental music around. Here’s your chance to check out a sort of MT6 all-stars group (Pawly Walnutz, Newagehillbilly, Decapitated Hed) doing what they do best: producing blistering electronic noise.

MT6 Records: Part 5 – Interview w/ Alex Strama


To close out our series on MT6, I grabbed some joe with label-head Alex Strama (Newagehillbilly, Heroin U.K., tons more) to talk about all things empty six.

Aural States: So let’s start with your background, what came before MT6, how you got into experimental music and what drove you to start MT6?

Alex Strama: Well, before MT6…that started in ’98.  I was doing music way before that.  I graduated high school in ’95; in high school, I had a few bands I was in.  More towards the rock end.  Still kinda weird, but definitely more rock-oriented.  I recorded a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t know anybody that was gonna put it out.  I’m from Harford County, so I lived in the sticks, and at that point I knew very little bout the Baltimore music scene.  So I started it mainly to release my own stuff: in ’98 I put out a release from a band I was in called Operation Huss, a 3-piece indie rock band.

I would say what exposed me to experimental music was the Red Room.  Definitely.  About 2000, through playing with friends like Carlos (Guillen).  He was in the band the Penny Regime at that point, which was kind of a straight-ahead punk band.  He was really into the Red Room, had played with a couple of the guys like Dan Breen.  I’m believing that I probably played a show with Carlos or Dan or another band, and just kind of branched of into seeing some bizarre stuff.

I went to the Red Room Crap Shoot, which still happens the first Tuesday of every month.  You just come in with anything, any instrument, that makes a sound.  It’s like an open-mic but more collaborative, they pick a couple of people and then you just kinda do your thing.  I would say that definitely opened me up to experimental music because I hadn’t heard anything like that before.  Awesome, great feeling to be exposed to that stuff. I mean I was listening to some early Sonic Youth before that which was pretty out there…but the Red Room definitely opened me up to the weirder side of Baltimore music.

AS: When did MT6 start evolving into an engine for the more creative and experimental stuff to come out of Baltimore?

Alex S: Probably not until 2004.  Between 2000 and 2004, I probably released about 10 things…mostly of stuff I was in.  This band called Rot Guts, 2 bass players, a drummer and a keyboardist.  We played shows and released something.  Some friends were in Chief Pokawa.  So at that point, it was just me and close friends.  But at that point, in 2004, I was approached by the band Human Host who were looking for someone to put their stuff out.  It was all CD-R then, so that was the first official CD release.  So the first chapter was me releasing my own, and real close friends’, stuff.  Then when I released that, it was kind of a new chapter.

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MT6 Records: Part 4 – In the deep end…

mt6sampler2009Welcome Carlos Guillen, who will be providing an insider’s take on the Early 2009 MT6 Sampler, a decidedly different perspective from Zack’s fish-out-of-water scenario.  

Carlos is a longstanding performer of experimental music whose past projects include the fantastic Soihadto with Duff from Ace of Cakes.  His baby continues to be The Expanding Man, a dizzying instrumental showcase of aural textures from Carlos’ guitar and the instruments of whomever he decides to collaborate with (main collaborators now are DJ Tyler Quinn and Percussionist Michael Castor).

Carlos is also an owner at the Hexagon and runs sound there and every year at the High Zero festival (which he credits with originating a lot of his appreciation of experimental music).

You have to be a little crazy to climb into the rocket car of experimental music, both as a listener and as a performer. Experimental music is about taking risks – huge risks. There are musicians out there who gig regularly with no hope of radio play, no hope of mainstream label support, and no hope of selling records. These performers do what they do for radically different reasons than the mainstream performer; they have no traditional conventions to hide behind. More often than not, the experimental musician speaks a language that is very personal, so naturally, most people will be very turned off by what they do.

Experimentation can be dangerous – accidents will happen. Many experimental musicians relish their accidents, their train-wrecks. The payoff is when an experimental performer is allowed to show some real warts-and-all personal truth, and is able to find an audience who understands and appreciates them for it.

MT6 Records has been promoting such musicians for several years now. Most of their output simply cannot be understood without some knowledge of experimental music, some reference point with which to approach the music MT6 helps spread to the masses.

For those of us who do have such inclinations, MT6 is pretty awesome.

The Early 2009 MT6 Sampler should not be confused with the typical record label sampler. This is not a slick infomercial designed to tease the average listener to come into the world of MT6. This is a mixtape by MT6’s beer-swilling synth-destroyer NEWAGEHILLBILLY; it is a compilation of his favorite tracks from some of the label’s latest releases, and it is just as personal and freaked-out as MT6 itself.

Are you ready for some freak-out? Let’s hope so.

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MT6 Records: Part 3 – Jason Willett – The Sounds of Megaphone Limited

jasonwillett_thesoundsofmegaphoneunlimitedAlmost twenty years ago Jason Willett was plunking out the bass notes for Half Japanese, a band that would become one of the most celebrated cult heroes of experimental rock. Opening for Nirvana on their In Utero tour, being name checked by Thurston Moore in interviews, featuring guest appearances from Moe Tucker and Ira Kaplan, they certainly bore all the signs of being a major contender in that early 90s scene.

The Sounds of Megaphone Limited is mostly a collection recorded in 1995 and 1996, with some 2000′s recordings peppered in. Although the record features some help from Jad Fair, the sound is purely Willett’s, featuring none of the charming naivete of his first band, and in fact eschewing most of the more tuneful songs released under the name of Jad Fair and Jason Willett for the more abrasive and atonal end of his repertoire. Read the rest…

MT6 Records: Part 2 – Abiku – Novelty

Photo by Bob Myaing

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MP3: Abiku – Novelty

Abiku. Not every sound they make is golden, but they are all enthralling.

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MT6 Records: Part 1 – Getting your feet wet…

mt6sampler2009MT6 is a record label based in Baltimore that puts out primarily experimental rock music. As such an engine of unabashedly abrasive music, their output isn’t going to be for everybody. Before receiving my package from MT6 in the mail, I thought I listened to some pretty out-there music, but I can honestly say that I’ve never really been asked to talk about any kind of music like this before. And I fear I was sadly unequipped to describe what I was hearing. It took a bunch of listens, but eventually I began to tease apart the different strains and come to a consensus on what I liked and what I didn’t.

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