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An Hour of Kindness: Episode 2 – Weekends (MD)

Great set by Baltimore’s Weekends. Their debut CD, which dropped earlier this year, was great.  And they even dropped the follow-up this summer!

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 2- Weekends from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

Photos / Video / Live Review: Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica @ Sonar (2009.09.16)

All photos: Josh Sisk

Full set here

I have always had a giant personal dilemma in regards to hip-hop.  The genre is filled with landmines that derail my systematic approach to digesting and enjoying most other genres of music.  In my mind, the most compelling genius of music happens in live performance.  The convergence of visual, aural and atmospheric factors should make for a unique, vital and one-of-a-kind experience.

I tend to abhor live hip-hop shows (battles are a different story), as you tend to lose a large portion of the visual with the focus on one singular performer, often without any backup other than a backing track.  This has led to the egoism of the hype-up approach in order to catalyze a feedback loop of energy from the crowd to performer, and it often ends up distasteful at its worst, laughable at its best and nearly always obnoxious.  Things devolve into pep rallies reminiscent of adolescence more than should be allowed.


Jay Electronica fell into this trap horrifically.  His ‘tween song banter ranged from bad to insufferable, yet somehow the crowd seemed trained to eat it up.  Maybe that’s because when he put aside the ego and the role of hypeman, picking up the mic as a rapper, he delivered some of the best rhymes of the night.  His style is wordy, dense and filled with vivid metaphors, yet his flow is smooth and steady, like raging waters smoothing over a rocky riverbed.  Counting among his repertoire a number of cuts with J Dilla beats, his set excised from the B$ could have potentially outshined both headliners.  As it stands, the set was marred by awkward silences and particularly momentum-killing moments where he was having mic feedback and when he had his backing DJ searching for a line to play back from some unknown track.


Talib Kweli, by contrast, flowed forth not only with his words but with the show itself. Rarely, if ever letting silence rule the space between songs, Kweli packed every second with agile turns of phrase or phenomenal scratching by his DJ.  A master of crowd control, the charismatic Kweli had the perfect balance of crowd interaction and sensing when to stow it and drop knowledge on everyone in a set largely culled from his collaborative efforts with DJ Hi-Tek.  His steady and rapid-fire rhythmic skills while rapping a capella were top-notch, and his energy and intensity were off-the-charts on cuts like “Get Em High” and “Get By.”  He even gave a birthday shout-out during a Marley sing-along that proved he’s can be as gentle as he goes hard.

3932138266_1b5c79ec02Mos Def most clearly recognizes the need to fill the energy gap as he has taken to becoming a more versatile, multi-instrumental performer.  The visual energy from watching him play the drums while rapping is remarkable, and its contribution to the performance immeasurable.  Unsurprisingly, Mos Def performed the majority of The Ecstatic in gripping fashion.  The end of the night heralded the reunion of Kweli and Mos Def as Black Star, the union which originally thrust them into the spotlight.  The power of that performance almost dwarfed the individuals, and makes you wonder whether either of them has truly stepped out from the shadow of their earliest, arguably finest works?

It turns out Music Without Labels had a camera crew in the house and got some great live footage of Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Soul Cannon.  Check it out after the jump.
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An Hour of Kindness: Episode 2 – Secret Mountains (MD)

It’s Secret Mountains love-fest today as we feature not only their recent performance on An Hour of Kindness, but their EP Kaddish garnered a Recommended Albums designation from Nolan.

Don’t forget they are playing with the equally fantastic Lands & Peoples (their most recent release also in Recommended Albums) at Flat Tuesdays on the UMBC campus Sept 25th.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 2- Secret Mountains from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness: Episode 2 – True Womanhood (DC)

The DC scenes great revitalizing youth in True Womanhood show us some of their old and new material. Check out our interview with Melissa and Thomas earlier in the year.

Sounds like their impending EP release, recorded at Death By Audio in Brooklyn with A Place to Bury Stranger’s sound engineer, will be chock full of new treats.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 2- True Womanhood from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness: Episode 1 – Lands & Peoples

I’ve already extolled the virtues of Lands & Peoples’ recent, self-titled EP. Seems Miguel is on board too, as they round out the three bands featured in this month’s episode of An Hour of Kindness.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Lands and Peoples- Tumbling from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Lands and Peoples- Heart of Gold from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Lands and Peoples- Seaside from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Lands and Peoples- White Words from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness: Episode 1 – Ava Luna

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Ava Luna- Do Me No Wrong (While I Am Gone) from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Ava Luna- C’mon (Closer to Me) from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Ava Luna- I Want to Hide Away from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Ava Luna- Four Five (I Will Survive) from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

One Track Mind: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – “Doomsday” / “Slow Doomsday”

Elvis Perkins in Dearland @ the Ottobar

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MP3: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Slow Doomsday from the forthcoming The Doomsday EP (Oct 20th)

MP3: Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Doomsday from Elvis Perkins in Dearland (2009)

Elvis Perkins in Dearland follow hot on the heels of their excellent self-titled release with word of an EP to flesh out the periphery of their ringleader’s musical vision, things that may have gotten left on the cutting room floor.

The Doomsday EP centers on a wondrous re-working of the already awe-inspiring ebullience found in “Doomsday,” a highlight from Elvis Perkins in Dearland.  With “Slow Doomsday,” you immediately know what to expect technically: a largo rendition of the eponymous track.  Beyond this, we find the more measured version brings us closer to the gospel roots of the track with its wide and stately expansion of sound and space.  The extra time on each and every note brings out untold levels of soul, wringing every last glorious feeling from each tone.  The coasting, newly formed solos are heartfelt and bracing testimonials, affirming Perkins soaring vocals in full affetuoso.

I would highly recommend you check out his live show, and keep Oct 20th on your calendars for a trip to the record store for this EP.

Check some videos after the jump.

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An Hour of Kindness: Episode 1 – Teenage Souls

Fledgling Baltimore video production company Polygon Tree (Miguel Sabogal [Polygons] and Matt Sterling) have graciously partnered with Aural States to present exclusive video footage of emerging artists performing in a secret, constantly in-flux underground bunker in Baltimore.  An Hour of Kindness will be aired in 3 segments over 3 weeks every month, either here or on the show’s Vimeo page.

This week’s segment features Teenage Souls and video artist Ann Everton.

Some background on the whole project, courtesy of Miguel:

What is An Hour Of Kindness?

Miguel Sabogal: An Hour of Kindness is a Baltimore-based 1 hour monthly program. It includes live performances by up and coming bands and videos by a monthly featured artist. All shows directed by myself and all audio is engineered by Matthew Sterling.

Origins of the name?

MS: In 1934 Max Ernst authored a surrealist graphic novel named “Une Semaine de Bonte”. It translates to “A Week of Kindness”. Part of the focus of the program is towards experimental film/video makers. I thought the name of the Ernst novel fit well because I’ve noticed there is a bit of a surrealist influence in a lot of the video and film work I’ve seen in the area. This of course doesn’t mean to imply that every video maker in Baltimore is only making surrealist art. I simply want to highlight those film/videomakers that are influenced by the movement.

What is your inspiration?  What is your goal with the project/your manifesto?

MS: My primary inspiration in starting the project is the Hexagon. Back in August 2008 when the club had just opened I had an idea for Hexagon TV, filming performances of bands at the club. That idea fell through immediately after realizing the immense lighting issues I was facing. It was going to be very awkward to just cram lots of lighting equipment on stage just to get a decent looking image. I considered that the best solution was to film bands on a set with decent lighting and controlled sound conditions.

Who is your audience?  Why should they be watching?

MS: The sets are being filmed wherever I live. I’m in the process of moving at this moment. This month’s episode was filmed at my prior residence in Hampden. The basement there has gone through various project stages of sound proofing. During one of those phases we decided to tile lots of soundproofing with these pyschedelically-patterned fabrics. I’m moving to a converted church right now and the next filming is going to happen there the following week. I’ve got a few ideas for set design that I want to start working towards but that ultimiately hinges upon the cooperation of the band. I think the ultimate goal is to have a set that represents the band and their music.

What can we expect in future episodes?

MS: Expect lots of Scruples in future episodes, the game not the noun. Scruples is a board game from the 80′s about moral dilemmas. It’s a really good way to bring people together or completely polarize them. In that sense it’s sort of like Thanksgiving.

An Hour of Kindness- Episode 1- Ann Everton- Brushing PSA from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

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Preview: Lichens @ the Hexagon

You should be at the Hexagon tonight. This guy (Lichens aka Robert A. Lowe) is performing.

Video: Whartscape 2009

Enjoy some excellent video footage shot by N.O. Smith. Check out his Vimeo or Youtube for more!

NO Smith: These are some videos I shot over the weekend at Whartscape. I tried to shoot as many full sets as I could, and get at least a song or two of some other sets. Exhaustion prevented me from filming everything that I wanted to, but I think I got some good stuff. A personal favorite is the Dog Dick set. That might be my favorite set I’ve ever filmed.  Another gem I have is a video of a dude groovin hard to Boogie Boarder. Imagine Denny Bowen but more bro and strung out looking.

DJ Dog Dick – Live at Whartscape 2009 from Nicky Smith on Vimeo.
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