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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)

Preview: Aural States Fest II @ Sonar Club Stage/the Talking Head (2010.01.30)

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  1. MP3: Pontiak – Suzerain from Sea Voids (2009)
  2. MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Flash Roll from More Deeper (2008)
  3. MP3: Leprechaun Catering – Night In Amnesia from Kumquats, Lychees (2004)
  4. MP3: Caleb Stine – Two Mantras (Small Sur cover) from Baltimore Does Baltimore (2009)
  5. MP3: Benjy Ferree – Dog Killers! from Leaving the Nest (2006)
  6. MP3: Sick Sick Birds – Buildings from Heavy Manners (2009)
  7. MP3: Noble Lake – Ladies and Gentlemen from Heyday (2008)
  8. MP3: Height With Friends – Swiss Chard from Swiss Chard Vol. 1 (2009)
  9. MP3: Thrushes – Crystals from the forthcoming LP Night Falls (2010)
  10. MP3: True Womanhood – Magic Child from the Magic Child Single (2009)
  11. MP3: Lands & Peoples – Bad Habits

web Aural States Fest 2 new

Teaser image to the right, proper flyer art coming from Nolen Strals of Post Typography/Double Dagger fame.


Aural States announces line-up, details for Aural States Fest II

December 11 2009 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore-based music website Aural States (auralstates.com) is proud to announce Aural States Fest II, our second anniversary blow-out at Sonar Club Stage & the Talking Head on Saturday January 30th in Baltimore, MD. This will likely be the final year for Aural States to be based in Baltimore, and hence, the final Aural States Fest.

The line-up for this year includes a wide variety of acts from Baltimore and DC, crossing generational and genre boundaries:

Pontiak (www.myspace.com/pontiak)

Leprechaun Catering (www.myspace.com/leprechauncatering)

Vincent Black Shadow (www.myspace.com/vbskicksoutthejams)

Sick Weapons (www.myspace.com/sickweapons)

Office of Future Plans (J Robbins of Jawbox | www.myspace.com/officeoffutureplans)

Caleb Stine (www.myspace.com/calebstine)

Benjy Ferree (www.myspace.com/benjyferree)

Sick Sick Birds (www.myspace.com/sicksickbirds)

Noble Lake (www.myspace.com/noblelake)

Dustin Wong (www.myspace.com/dustinclarence)

Height With Friends (www.myspace.com/height)

Thrushes (www.myspace.com/thrushes)

True Womanhood (www.myspace.com/truewomanhood)

Lands & Peoples (www.myspace.com/landsandpeoples)

Ami Dang (www.myspace.com/amritakd)

Liveshitbingepurge (Newagehillbilly, Decapitated Hed, and Pawly Walnutz | mt6records.com)

NARC (www.myspace.com/iamthenarc)

Stay tuned for additional line-up announcements in the coming weeks.

Like last year, early arrivals with ticket stubs will be rewarded with a limited-supply of generous grab-bags filled with CDs and merchandise from (mostly) local artists and businesses, including Atomic Books, Video Americain, Baltimore Jazz Alliance, Thrill Jockey, Natty Paint, and many more.

This year we are proud to team up with our younger regional cousin Bmore Musically Informed (bmoremusic.net) to present our festival as Night 2 of the “Blogtimore PWNS” weekend. Night 1 takes place Friday January 29th, when a combination of Aural States Fest alums (Arbouretum, Wye Oak, Sri Aurobindo) and fresh local talent (Weekends, the Violet Hour) will play the last show ever at the G-Spot.

Tickets for Night 1 are $10ADV/$12DOS and available through missiontix.com. Tickets for Night 2 are $15 and available through sonarbaltimore.com. A limited supply of 50 double-header tickets are available for a discounted rate of $20 through (sonarbaltimore.com and missiontix), and will guarantee access to both nights.

Photos: Thrushes, Sick Sick Birds, The Art of Shooting @ the Metro Gallery (2009.11.06)

Flickrshow will appear here!

Audio / Contest: Thrushes, Sick Sick Birds @ the Metro Gallery (2009.11.06)

Thrushes Sick Sick Birds flier

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Thrushes – Juggernaut early mix.

Thrushes have once again dropped some mana on us here at Aural States.

Not only are we exclusively previewing an early mix of the track “Juggernaut” from their forthcoming album Night Falls, but we’re running a contest for their show with the far-too-rarely-seen Sick Sick Birds, the always rockin’ Baby Aspirin and Brooklyn’s The Art of Shooting next Friday Nov 6 at the Metro Gallery.

To enter, listen to “Juggernaut” and give me 1 or 2 words that either nicely sum up your thoughts on the track, or best represent your knee-jerk reaction to it.

Here’s the swag that goes to one lucky commenter:

  • 2 guest list spots
  • 1 limited edition vinyl copy of Thrushes’ debut Sun Come Undone
  • 1 new design t-shirt
  • 1 copy each of Sick Sick Birds’ LP Heavy Manners and their two 7″s

All the prizes will be picked up at the show.  A winner will be chosen next Wednesday based on any number of subjective criteria.  Let’s hear those witty words of wisdom.

Photos / Audio: Thrushes @ Lord Baltimore (2009.08.29)

Baltimore’s Thrushes have had a bit of a time this past year, losing drummer only Ryan Sterner only to see founding percussionist Matt Davis return to the fold.

Casey, Rachel, Anna and Matt were kind enough to extend an invitation to have us poke around Lord Baltimore Recording while they were in the studio to wrap up tracking sophomore full-length, Night Falls.  As of now, the new album will feature eleven tracks including one cover.  Stylistically, the pace is often much quicker (said semi-sardonically to be a result of Thrushes just “getting better at their instruments”), yet often the music is much heavier than their 2007 debut Sun Come Undone.  Casey Harvey in particular has pulled out all the stops, dragging every musical instrument in their summed collections into the fray short of the clanging pipes of the kitchen sink.  When I entered, they had even just finished tracking with a guest organist.  The result is more diversity in texture of their “wall of sound,” as well as increased density.  They are really exploring the entirety of their sonic palette.  Anna Conner’s vocals have become more emotionally diverse, less frequently going to the place of crushing, almost destructive despair and anger oft present in their debut.  Instead, we find a more mature and measured heartache that still floods you with emotion.  I didn’t sit in on any of the vocal tracking, and only heard a few tracks played back.  So maybe there’s even room for some hope?

Casey was kind enough to leak an early mix of one track with us for streaming only purposes…just to whet your appetite a little more until the targeted winter 2009/2010 release.  Stay tuned for more leaks as mixing finishes up and the album release nears.  In the meantime, here are some photos from the session with sound engineer Brooks Harlan of locals AVEC.

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Thrushes – Used to You (early mix)

_MG_6597 _MG_6630 _MG_6622 _MG_6704 _MG_6709 _MG_6713 _MG_6717 _MG_6723 _MG_6725 _MG_6728 _MG_6697 _MG_6692 _MG_6685 _MG_6681 _MG_6610 _MG_6626 _MG_6641 _MG_6654

Photos: Rufustival 2009 (2009.06.06)

All photos: Greg Szeto

Baby Aspirin played a standout set on Saturday (which you can hear here thanks to Jeff), impressing me much more than my previous experience with them at the Talking Head).  They recalled the tude and sound of the best and brightest of the riot grrl movement.  At times, they made me really miss Sleater-Kinney, then proceeded to step in and fill that void as fast as it opened.

Ecstatic Sunshine played in yet another iteration.  They really hit a groove after early set meanderings, exploring some interesting, spare and tropical vibes, perfect for the summer and outdoors.  Check out Jeff’s audio here.

Thrushes played a slew of new material (some of which they have been playing live for quite a bit) from their forthcoming sophomore effort, reunited with founding drummer Matt Davis.  They showed real progression and new life, playing more taut and uptempo than ever before, a welcome extension of their crushing mastery of midtempo and dirgelike compositions.

Chairlift ployed their spaced-out pop vision quite well, but I found myself increasingly inattentive in spite of the trio’s great vocals.

Wye Oak struggled through some unfortunate technical delays courtesy of some bad/breaking wiring on Andy’s Nord Electro.  The outdoor setting also sapped some of the affecting energy the duo normally exude in spades.  Not a bad set by any means, but not their best either.

Major kudos and congrats to Sarah for running a phenomenally tight ship for both Rufustival (set times were spot on) and the Metro Gallery as a whole.  Here’s hoping for many more years, and even bigger fests.

Baby Aspirin

Baby Aspirin @ Rufustival 2009
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Photos: Glasvegas, Thrushes, Bad Liquor Pond @ Ottobar

Debate night or Tegan and Sara sapped much of the pull from this show, which should have been substantial.  The night featured a killer set from local mainstays Bad Liquor Pond (captured here by the Baltimore Taper), a spectacular set from Baltimore lush-rockers Thrushes (probably top of their game, which is ironic since they are on hiatus now until next year to regroup the loss of their drummer Ryan Sterner) and a charming set from recent hype-darlings Glasvegas.

Bad Liquor Pond was really in the groove, nailing their mid-tempo blues-n-psych as I’ve never heard them do before.  Thrushes was firing on all fronts, sweeping and grandiose waves of emotions swirling about enough to make anyone woozy.  Sadly, they were cut criminally short…just before they were to premiere some new material.  Glasvegas put on a set that was the epitome of showmanship, a mysterious and heady immersion hewed from the same cloth as Thrushes, namely the Phil Spector set.  The stage was pitch black and minimally lit by nearly exhaustive red dwarfs hanging above the stage and brief and brilliant flashes of white strobe, lending them a bit of a supernatural, otherworldly silhouette fitting for their spacious and reverbed-out, dark pop compositions.

Enjoy the photos from our newest photo contributor Ryan Creel, shooting in the difficult black hole lighting situation.

All photos: Ryan Creel

Bad Liquor Pond

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Last Chance- Thrushes/Glasvegas/Bad Liquor Pond Giveaway

Last chance kiddies. Enter the contest!  We’ll be contacting a winner sometime tonight!

Thrushes / Glasvegas Contest

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MP3: Glasvegas – Daddy’s Gone

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MP3: Thrushes – Ghost Train

So one of our local favorites, Thrushes, are playing a great show October 2nd at the Ottobar.  Headliners are the fantastic sounding Glasvegas.  The bad news?  Due to some personnel shakeups in the form of drummer Ryan Sterner’s departure, Thrushes are taking some time this winter to regroup.  Drummer Scott Tiemman from Avec will be filling in for this appearance and they will officially be on hiatus afterwards.

As a “keep our seat reserved, we’ll be back soon” gift from Casey and crew to you, lucky readers, we are giving away one honking prize pack featuring:

  • 1 guest list
  • 1 Sun Come Undone vinyl
  • 1 Heartbeats Remixed cd
  • 1 limited edition 18 x 24 signed and numbered poster (pictured right) by Miss Amy Jo

Entry is simple, just leave a comment or email us at auralstates at gmail dot com.  We will let the winner know on Sept 30th.


Ulrich Schnauss Interview/Metro Gallery Review

I have tried to apply the lede to nut graf format I learned during my brief print journalism career to Aural States posts. My former editor rode me for excessive “throat clearing.” I never got over that habit, and I’ll now take the chance to indulge.

I had gotten very little sleep the night prior to this show, and had been working outside in the hot sun all day. I came to the Metro Gallery badly sunburned and dehydrated. All I really wanted to do was zone out on the couches in the back. I seriously contemplated skipping out on the night, and going to sleep early.

Physically I was present for the opening acts, but not really mentally with it enough to make definitive critical judgments. Read the rest…

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