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.

Aural States Fest II: Schedule

“Steady snow will diminish to a few snow flurries by 5pm. ” – Weather.com

The show is still going on, unless Sonar’s entrance becomes encased in a mountain of ice or snow.

Tonight is the big night.

I want to say a big thanks to our biggest sponsor, Atomic Books. In addition to running a treasure trove of a bookstore, dynamic duo proprietors Benn Ray (who also blogs at Mobtown Shank) & Rachel Whang are ardent supporters of everything local, and have been our most generous partner in stuffing the Aural States Fest giveaway bags with tons of goodies, two years running.

Remember, only the first 50 paid entrants get these gems, so come early. Offerings also include discounts at Daedalus Books & Music, CDs from Pontiak’s label Thrill Jockey, the Baltimore Jazz Alliance, and Dischord, as well as vinyl from local experimental hive Ehse Records.

New this year are deep discounts on Emily Mandri’s unique silkscreened and handpainted Natty Paint line of clothing. Dig through your bag for their coupon and stop by their table at the fest.

Now, for your planning purposes, here’s the schedule:

6:00PM == Doors

Talking Head Stage

6:45-7:05 == NARC
7:15-7:45 == Ami Dang
8:00-8:30 == True Womanhood
8:45-9:15 == Lands & Peoples
9:30-10:00 == Dustin Wong
10:15-10:45 == Benjy Ferree
11:00-11:30 == Noble Lake
11:40-12:05 == Jack Chick
12:15-12:35 == Death Domain
12:50-1:10 == Liveshitbingepurge
1:25-2:00 == Leprechaun Catering

Sonar Club Stage

7:15-7:45 == Thrushes
8:00-8:30 == Sick Sick Birds
8:45-9:15 == Height with Friends
9:30-10:15 == Caleb Stine
10:30-11:15 == Office of Future Plans
11:30-12:00 == Sick Weapons
12:15-12:45 == Vincent Black Shadow
1:00-2:00 == Pontiak

Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Pontiak, Caleb Stine, NARC

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MP3: Pontiak – Life and Coral from Sea Voids (2009)

The prolific Pontiak released two stellar albums in 2009: Maker and Sea Voids, and look to have a new release this Spring. Both albums have garnered considerable critical praise, and they’ve ridden a steadily rising wave of internet popularity. Their live show is captivating and loud…catch them close out Sonar’s Club stage at Aural States Fest II on January 30th.

AS: Before releasing Sea Voids you moved back to the Shenandoah Mountains and (from what I’ve heard) lost your beards. Was this a conscious shift? Identity crisis?

Lain Carney: We all moved back to VA from Baltimore at roughly the same time, about three years ago. The beards? Those come and go pretty frequently and without much thought. The move was definitely a conscious shift but more for personal reasons than anything else.

AS: The band gets tagged as stoner metal a lot but the new album explores a wide array of song styles, from the acoustic “Life and Coral” to the more traditional indie fare of “World Wide Prince.” Did you deliberately think “let’s mix it up a bit”…is this your “experimental” album or is there more to come?

LC: We never thought of Sea Voids as our experimental album. I feel as though its as varied as our other albums.

AS: This isn’t a question, but Sea Voids seems a lot more melodically dissonant as well–especially say, the lead on the title track juxtaposed with the brighter, more shimmering distortion is pretty brilliant.

LC: Thanks Man!

AS: The first couple times I listened to “Suzerain” I thought my internet connection was failing (which I suppose is the modern equivalent of your CD skipping). What’s the story on that intro? You also played with the tape on the intro to “Laywayed” I believe.

LC: When I was mixing “Suzerain” I just had the idea to cut up the beginning. As soon as I started doing it, it immediately started to sound cool so I went with it. After I finished I said to Van and Jennings, “people are going to think the song is fucked up, not unlike ‘Laywayed’”.

AS: You must be downtuning your guitars to get them so rumbly. What do you tune them to, what gear do you use to achieve that signature pontiak growl?

LC: Yes, the guitars are tuned down to B. The sound we get is a direct result of one very key practice: turn the amps up. Once an amp is turned up, they all sound different and add their own color. Van always plays through at least two amps at once. That really helps to give the guitar a full sound.

AS: The press for Sea Voids that I’m looking at says you recorded the album in three weeks. Is that the most time you’ve spent in the studio? Some folks have suggested Maker was a one-take cut-and-run kind of recording session.

LC: We definitely try to not overwrite songs, and once we have an idea we try to record it while it’s fresh and loose. With Maker, as with our other records, we usually just did one or two takes for each song. It feels good to do one take and not become so concerned with “nailing it.” When I was younger I used to be really concerned with that stuff, but it’s way too micro.

Sea Voids was similar in that way. Just one take, maybe two. We wrote AND recorded it in three weeks which is the quickest we’ve ever done an album. It takes us about two weeks to record an album but the writing behind it can go back months, depending on how much we’ve been touring and things like that.

AS: You just had a European tour. How was the band received in Europe?

LC: Really well. We got tons of love in Europe and are about to head back actually in March. Can’t wait!

AS: Say I’ve never been to a Pontiak show…how’s it going to be different from your studio recordings? What can i expect?

LC: Our shows are usually pretty high energy. I’d say that it probably sounds like that album but louder.

AS: Tell us about your 2010 plans

LC: We’ll be in Europe in March, a new album in early spring and US shows in May. Summer and winter are going to be busy but things aren’t in stone yet. I’d like to have a new record by late summer.


Caleb Stine is the soul of Baltimore music. His straightforward, honest, storytelling is what Baltimore is at its core – hardworking, genuine, and unafraid to tell it like it is. As Baltimore’s music scene has taken on a larger national profile, much of it for noise driven noise-rock such as Animal Collective, Beach House, and Dan Deacon, it is Stine who always seems to best reflect the people of the city. His timeless style and deeply personal songwriting evokes images of a classic generation of outlaw-country songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson. His power comes not from overwhelming volume or violent guitars, but from simple strums and carefully measured words that together carry an army of unmatched strength.

Stine who has recently returned from a short tour with Andy Friedman, is energized from his time on the road. A time he spent discovering new music with Friedman as they drove from show to show, “Now I’m pulsing with great music in my veins and can’t put the guitar down.”

Saturday night, those simple strums and mighty words that he delivers his songs with will be given even more power and more life, as Stine has recruited an all-star band of local Baltimore musicians (Dave Hadley and Nick Sjostrom (the Brakemen), Andy Stack (Wye Oak), Jason Butcher (Among Wolves), Tiffany DeFoe (The Bellevedeers), MC Saleem (Saleem and the Music Lovers), Jordan Leitner (Mad Sweet Pangs) and Sam Guthridge (Chester River Runoff), to play with him. The combination of Stine’s music and his roster of all-stars will serve to deliver a set of unparalleled emotion that at the same time will be a reflection of his hometown. As Stine simply says, “Its gonna be a special set.”


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MP3: NARC – Cuped (demo)

I’ll be frank: I was never fully on-board with the teen sampler and noisenik duo of Engine. But since their split, NO Smith has followed a frequency that resonates with me much more in the form of his one-man guitar & electronics act NARC.

He presents something more curious and soaring, while not forsaking his noisier roots. According to Smith, “there will probably be an EP in the nearish future, maybe spring/summer, and hopefully a full-length called SLY by the end of the year.” NARC opens the Talking Head Stage on Saturday.

2009 Wrap-Up: Reflections and Prognostications…

Because it’s unavoidable, here’s my list of favorite albums from 2009:

Wye Oak – The Knot: There is hardly a release I listened to more than this one. It still has its way with my emotions to this day, capable of building me up and tearing me down all in one single listen.

Double Dagger – More: Really smashed all my expectations for their Thrill Jockey debut. At times startling by accompanying their energetic, confrontational music with unexpectedly personal lyrics, and blissful sounds. Double Dagger reasserted themselves on this album with a more impactful, more varied, more vital collection of tracks.

Sick Sick BirdsHeavy Manners: I never would’ve predicted that I would find a second pop-punk gem that would worm its way into my listening habits, but this release proved me wrong. Listening to it fills me with a hard-hitting mixture of joy and regret that consistently takes me by surprise.

Pulling TeethParanoid Delusions | Paradise Illusions: Just a truly epic album. Mike Riley & co sucked me right back into the abyss of hardcore, while pushing and pulling at the edges of the often rigidly defined genre. Majestic hardcore that isn’t afraid to take its time before breaking you down.

The Thermals – Now We Can See: Again with the pop-punk. The Thermals’ keep up their pattern of twinning albums of similar fidelity levels of sound, building off the power-pop of The Body, The Blood, The Machine. They go even farther by making this album a loose extension of the previous one’s post-apocalyptic plot. The result is sugary sweet with surprisingly poignant undertones. Harris’ urgent and poetic lyrics are in full-force.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins in Dearland: Elvis Perkins is one of the most versatile performers I’ve ever come across. His compositions simultaneously lush and delicate, always deeply affecting. He leads a perpetually heartfelt and joyous dance to lands of depression and doomsday like the best of the dirge-driving New Orleans brass bands. His live shows are exuberant celebrations that need to be witnessed.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: With pedigree like the Cohran sons, it’s no wonder Hypnotic Brass brings the funk hard, an ungodly addictive brew of progressive jazz, hip-hop, funk, soul, and brass bands.

Béla Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart: Musical highlights for me in 2009 included finally seeing Béla Fleck live. This was made even richer by the fact that he finally released the soundtrack to his documentary on the origins of the banjo. In the form of this phenomenally rich album, we get a taste of a multitude of different sounds across Africa, from the highly traditional and tribal to the mainstream pop. The greatest hat trick Fleck pulls is that he integrates his explosive talent seamlessly into these tracks, strengthening them rather than taking them over.

GesturesNice EP: This is probably the one time an unsolicited email in my inbox led to really grand things. This wildly inventive collective of chaotic horns is a blast, live and recorded.

I consciously avoided a glut of year-end round-ups this year.  I just didn’t feel a compelling, reflective urge on the 00s or 2009 in music for that matter. My mind has been on the long game for much of the year, and is now racing away from me into the future.

2009 was a year of fantastic growth for the site, starting off on a high note with our 2-day Aural States Fest in January. As the year wore on, I slowly began to steer our content in a decidedly more in-depth direction, particularly with the increasing number of regular columns and features like Sign On!, Sound Off!, Boogaloo TimesAn Hour of Kindness, and Livewire. Thanks to our growing staff of regular contributors, I was able to spread the load out more and have everyone spend a little more time on their pieces. In my mind, there are plenty of excellent sites for quick reads and loading up on tracks. I feel like we are starting to help balance out the other end of the spectrum.

I think all this keeps us unique: our focus on depth and quality of writing really lets our writers stretch their legs to gradually refine their craft, while also really giving artists the careful consideration they deserve for their hard, heartfelt efforts. Other notable landmarks were our fall show featuring So Percussion atop what amounted to a dream bill for me, personally, and finally completing a site redesign cycle (complete with menus and fun effects).

I can tell 2010 is going to be a year of transition. As we approach Aural States Fest II, I can already feel the strain of various commitments on my time and psyche. This year I am entering the home stretch (hopefully) of my 6-year PhD process, and this will undoubtedly require some more time away from the site and writing. But I am still committed to growing and evolving Aural States. Thankfully, we’ve got some other things brewing to make up for any lapses in the posting schedule.

Probably the biggest venture is our new label division, Aural Slate Recordings, which will debut in February. A project I’ve long wanted to launch that is finally getting off the ground, we’re a label with a mission: we will only be releasing limited-run EPs (<300 physical medium of the artist’s choice, and of course digital too) from invited artists only. Each release will be lovingly crafted, and include one cover of a song that was somehow foundational or significant to the artist. Hopefully, we can do our small part in redeeming the cover, in the eyes of music lovers, as something more than just a hype-generating PR trick.

Our first release will be Caverns‘ four song EP We Lied limited to a run of 200 CDs. Recorded with Chris Freeland at his studio Beat Babies, and mastered (just today!) by the masterful Mat Leffler-Schulman at Mobtown Studios, we’re all really happy with the end product. The fine cover, which you see to the right, was crafted by Caleb Moore of Lands & Peoples. The EP represents a different direction from one of my favorite local bands. Over the coming year, we hope to do a few more releases so stay tuned.

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…

Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Office of Future Plans, True Womanhood

Photo credit: Pete Duvall

Office of Future Plans are, in the loosely phrased wording of J. Robbins, just a bunch of old dudes who barely find time to practice. Anyone that has seen them perform (one of their only two shows), reports quite the contrary.

OOFP is J Robbins’ new full-time musical outlet when he steps outside the studio box. He is backed by a tight and talented cast: bassist Brooks Harlan (accomplished engineer in his own right at Lord Baltimore Recording, member of Avec), Jawbox-obsessed rock cellist Gordon Withers, and Darren Zentek (long-time Robbins collaborator and monster drummer).

One quick listen finds that Robbins hasn’t skipped a songwriting beat, lyricism and aggressive, angular riffs all intact and sharper than ever. Much to long-time fans’ delight, Robbins has recently decided to allow himself access to parts of the Jawbox catalog, making the appearance of a song like “Savory” in an OOFP set not that unusual. Whet your appetite with this video from the Buddyhead Halloween show at Rock and Roll Hotel in DC this past October, and prepare yourselves for a monstrous set and a sure-fire winner of a full-length later this year.


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MP3: True Womanhood – Shadow People from Basement Membranes EP (2010)

True Womanhood is quite the talented trio, garnering much praise from J. Robbins himself. Even from the frail and uneven sounds of their self-recorded demo, DC’s True Womanhood have always conveyed a certain amount of mystique and intrigue. It would appear they only needed some sage guides for their musical journey to funnel all that creative energy. Their freshly J. Robbins-mixed & David Levin-produced EP sees them cashing in big on their promise, finally enabled to develop that small peek of a vision into a wide gazing aural spectacle that could wow even the most jaded of ears.

One of the fastest maturing and evolving groups in the area, it was a no-brainer to have them play a set at this year’s festival. Lead-singer and guitarist Thomas Redmond took some time to rap about their EP Basement Membranes (digitally released today so buy it here), and other miscellany:

AS: I know you were running back and forth to record part of your EP at Death By Audio over the summer, and part at the Magpie Cage with J. Robbins. Can you break down your motivations for recording with each studio, and the contributions they had to this EP?

Thomas Redmond: Our producer for Basement Membranes was David Levin, live sound engineer for A Place to Bury Strangers, founders of Death By Audio. David’s knowledge and capabilities regarding sound recording are vast, so we were thrilled to have the chance to work with him. Beyond that, Death By Audio is the kind of place that gets it all right- a killer underground live venue, practice spaces for countless amazing bands, and an effects pedal factory that pushes the the boundaries of extreme noise. Once we had all our instrumental tracks recorded, we went into the studio with J Robbins in Baltimore to mix. J. is amazing and an absolute pleasure to work with. The songs really came together, and with J’s expert assistance, I was able to record some pretty sweet vocal tracks.

AS: When we talked last year, you mentioned that you were really trying to more effectively explore different moods. I think you definitely achieved success on this front, particularly with the tracks “Rubber Buoys” and “Shadow People.” Could you say a little about how each of those tracks developed, and what types of things you are doing musically?

TR: These are actually the first two songs that the band first started performing live way back when. As our oldest songs they were, by far, the most difficult to record. “Shadow People” is essentially just a drum loop and a metal guitar riff. It took us a long time to settle on a direction for the song to go but some tribal drumming and vocals sung into giant wooden pipes did the trick. The song has already been played on DC101– score!  ”Rubber Buoys” was also a tough song for us because its beat is built around the iron volcano, a big metal funnel, which proved very hard to record. Eventually we got it by running the iron volcano through a distorting vintage tape echo and adding some reverb. Another stand out section in that song is the bridge which features what sounds like a string quartet. It’s actually a sound I got by playing guitar through two consecutive reverse gated reverbs.

AS: You really managed to eke out a myriad of textures in your sound. Where do you find inspiration for your array of experimental sounds, things like the iron volcano funnel?

TR: During our various travels we are always seeking out big metal things that go boom, clank, and pow. The iron volcano is just a small part of our arsenal. As big fans of electronic music, our goal is to create “acoustic electronic” music by using found objects (as well as our own homemade samples of objects) and playing them in electronic styles, but live. The idea is to search out new, more organic textures for electronic rhythms and apply them to our songs. We are continuing to move even further in this direction and even adding some new tricks to the guitar and bass.

AS: How did you get involved with Baltimore-based Environmental Aesthetics for the release?

TR: A lovely afternoon lunch in the beautiful courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery in DC’s Chinatown. When John from Environmental Aesthetics first approached us, Basement Membranes was nowhere near completion. Over the course of finishing up the recording with J. in Baltimore, we became familiar with the Baltimore scene and a pattern started to emerge. We thought, what do all these young, hardworking bands have in common? The answer- Environmental Aesthetics!

AS: What are your big plans for 2010?

TR: Festivals, tours, and a full album that’s already underway.

AS: Who are you excited to see at the fest?

TR: Everyone! We are especially excited to see J. Robbin’s new band, The Office of Future Plans, and we are excited for him to finally see us live as well! Some other bands we will not miss are Lands & Peoples, Benjy Feree, and Dustin Wong.

Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Noble Lake, Vincent Black Shadow, Height With Friends

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MP3: Noble Lake – Morgantown from Heyday (2008)

As the saying says, when one door closes, another one opens. In 2009, Baltimore folk outfit Noble Lake saw the departure of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner, whose own band Wye Oak reached new levels of success that swallowed most of their free time. James Sarsgaard, the band’s leader and singer who lived in Brooklyn for a period, managed to keep writing and performing, sometimes soldiering on as a solo act. But he’s back in Baltimore now, with a new album in tow and a pretty solid cast of Baltimore musicians backing him when available. Where some of the city’s other folk acts tend to deliver fuller, more power-packed compositions, Noble Lake’s music treads in a more time-lost and timeless arena, feeling more delicate and sticking to some strict narrative forms.

We talked with Sarsgaard about the project’s transitional period and plans for the future:

AS: You’ve mentioned that 2009 was a bit of a chaotic year with regard to the ever-shifting lineup, and a new album. Is it a bit of a relief to just get up on stage and play?

James Sarsgaard: Yes. I wish we could play more often. I’m still working on getting a more permanent lineup in place, and just getting things rolling again has been a bit tough. I’m not very computer savvy and as a result I don’t go after shows and promotion and such quite as aggressively as I should.

AS: You’ve also remarked that you tried “to get a handle on this whole band thing once and for all.” Was there ever a point where you thought the band wouldn’t go on, or that you and Justin would have to soldier on as a duet?

JS: I don’t know. I mean, I’ll always be writing songs and playing them in some fashion. When I was living in Brooklyn last year, I was basically playing as a solo act. It’s been kind of tough, and a bit discouraging for me lately, the whole nuts and bolts of playing music. I’m 32, and I work full time as a carpenter which makes it hard to devote a lot of time to the band. But it’s an ebb and flow thing for me, and I have a feeling this year might find me back on the horse again, to use a silly metaphor, with Noble Lake.

AS: How did that situation change the writing for the new album?

JS: The new album was mostly written between ’07 an ’09, so it captured a lot of the transitions that were going on over that time for me and everyone involved. I certainly wrote most of the songs, at least the music, with a vision of them being played by Andy, Jenn and Justin, and we went into the studio with that in mind. The songs I’m writing for the next record are more adaptable to new ideas, and I think when I start recording it will be a much different process.

AS: Were Steve Strohmeir and Walker Teret part of the recording/writing, or did you and Justin write parts for them, and other possible fill-ins, to play?

JS: They weren’t involved at all in the recording or writing of the last one. They both are down to play with us when they can, and I hope to play more with them in the near future. They’re both great players with a lot to offer, I don’t feel the need to write anything for them!

AS: You also mentioned that the band was looking for a label to release said album. What’s the latest?

JS: Nothing yet. Seems like a tough time for that. We’re still looking though, and one way or another I hope to have something by spring or summer.

AS: Can we expect a tour to start 2010 right?

JS: I’m hoping to do a southeast tour this spring. Then maybe Europe solo in the summer

AS: Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

JS: I’m glad to be sharing the stage with Leprechaun Catering. They can play the shit out of a rubber band. Also totally psyched to see Pontiak, of course. There are alot of bands I don’t know of particulary so I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Of course, of course VBS, Caleb Stine, Height and all my Baltimore love children. Can’t Wait!


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MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Sheer Heart Attack (Queen cover) from Nazi Gold b/w Sheer Heart Attack (2009)

Raucous rabble rousers Vincent Black Shadow make one hell of a racket. They deliver one of the most visceral and party-heavy sets around, and were one of the first must-have artists that sprang into my mind when I started coordinating the lineup. If you haven’t experienced them, you are in for a treat. Their latest release last year Nazi Gold b/w Sheer Heart Attack shows them doing what they do best: kicking out the jams (including an inspired Queen cover) with sweaty, shit-eating grins on their faces.

Guitarist Dan O sends along this dispatch so you know what to expect for 2010:

The Shadow boys have been taking a break from playing out (cept the occasional rager here and there like this festival) cause they’re writing a record. It’s called BALTAMONT. It’s the be-all end-all Baltimore fuck off scum rock record. Rob Girardi at Lord Baltimore Recording is going to capture the tracks, Forcefield Records out of Richmond is gonna put it on the street, and the boys are going to take it on the road this fall. After 2009 put the zap on our heads and our asses in the gutter (and friends and family in the god damn grave), you better believe we’ve got 2010 by the balls good and early.


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MP3: Height With Friends – Travel Rap (Nasty Millionaire Remix)

Height With Friends is one Dan Keech (Height), backed by an ever-evolving, always interesting collective of producers, beat-makers, rhyme-sayers, and verse-speakers. This project is arguably the frontline of a burgeoning group of young hip-hop acts in Baltimore, which is appropriate given how much their sound and style just feel spiritually aligned with the city.

A weighty, reflective, complex melange with no small amount of poetics. Height took some time to let us know about current affairs in the HWF world:

AS: You’ve got a new LP ready to drop later this year. Fill us in on what it is (Height solo, Height With Friends or something new).

Dan Keech: The new record is called Bed Of Seeds. Almost all of the songs were crafted by the five people that currently perform live as Height With Friends. (Mickey Free, Gavin Riley, Emily Slaughter, Travis Allen and myself).

AS: How does it differ from Highlands?

DK: It’s totally different. With a few notable exceptions, most of the music was composed by me, and brought to life by Mickey as a producer and Travis as a musician. I wrote the words, but Emily and Gavin put extreme work into making vocal arrangements that work well live and on record.

Unlike all our other releases, the songs have chord changes and bridges and other elements of traditional music. I was influenced by rappers who use non-rap song structures, (like Whodini), and non-rappers that kind of rap, (like Andre Williams).

AS: What do you have planned for your summer tour? What towns are you hitting up that you are looking forward to?

DK: We are touring the whole country in April and May. The album won’t be officially out by then, but the whole idea is to spread the word that it’s about to drop. We’ll be touring again soon after that. Charleston, South Carolina is my favorite tour stop. We’ve played there four or five times and its always seemed like a crazy uptopia where people like music and don’t act the fool.

AS: Who are you looking forward to at the fest?

DK: I can’t front. All parts of it are going to be fire, so I can’t really single one act out. I will say that Pontiak closing the night is a great look. I played at an Independence Day show that they put on in Virginia called Friendstival. They ended the night with a long, epic set. I was really into it.

Livewire: Avec @ the Ottobar (2010.01.16)

Avec Live

Photo: Linda Kokenge

Avec is four-piece rock band from Baltimore with a punchy individualistic sound, formed in 2003. They delivered a memorable set Saturday night at Ottobar. There are some real gems here from If I Breathe I Fall Asleep (2005) and Lines (2007), along with a slow surfy instrumental you need to hear called “Ouija Boyfriend.”


January 16, 2010
Baltimore MD, USA

Shawna Potter – guitar amd vocal
Brooks Harlan – guitar and vocal
Adam Yeargin – bass
Scott Tiemann – drums

Streaming player:

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MP3 links:

1. Man In Space (3:58)
2. House (3:49)
3. In Character (4:51)
4. Deceptive Cadence (5:36)
5. Bozarth (5:46)
6. Ouija Boyfriend (4:52)
7. Beat of Pulse (4:53)

Total time: 33:44

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)

Live Review: Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, Dreaming Dead, Nighfire @ Sonar (2010.01.15)

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  1. MP3: Nile – Sacrifice Unto Sebek
  2. MP3: Nile – Lashed to the Slave Stick

Nile played one of the best metal shows I heard in the past year at Sonar two Fridays ago. Read the rest…

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