April 9th, 2013 , by John Beeler
At the intersection of ethereal jazz and intricate folk, composer Chris Schlarb leads Psychic Temple in new directions. Anchored by the interplay of drummers Andrew Pompey and Tabor Allen, Psychic Temple II features an all-star roster united by a single, maniacal vision.
Psychic Temple II arrives July 16th from Asthmatic Kitty Records and fulfills the promise of Schlarb’s four-track, 40-minute maiden voyage by expanding its atmospherics into the realm of pop songcraft. With an ear toward smart, concise songs, II finds only one track stretching over four mintues in length.
A year in the making, the album was assembled with a wide-ranging team of collaborators: singer-songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Ray Raposa (Castanets), Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, progressive metal guitarist Paul Masvidal (Cynic, Death), bassist Devin Hoff (Xiu Xiu, Nels Cline Singers), vocalist Sarah Negahdari (Happy Hollows, Silversun Pickups), and more.
In celebration of the auteur as cult leader, Psychic Temple II presents surprising reinventions of work by iconoclasts Brian Wilson, Joe Jackson, and Frank Zappa. Unsurprisingly, Schlarb not only wrote and arranged the album’s material, but he produced and engineered it as well, “I admire people who are control freaks,” he says.
April 8th, 2013 , by John Beeler
We’re happy to welcome Frank Riley of High Road Booking to the team that’s bringing Lily & Madeleine to the world. Frank has booked for My Bloody Valentine, Wilco, Indigo Girls, Josh Rouse, OK Go, Music Go Music, Son Volt, and many others. Wilson Zheng at High Road will be helping out as well.
Frank and Wilson join publicist Asha Goodman, who works for Saks & Co in their Nashville office, and manager Paul Mahern and his White Arc Management company. Chris and Hannah Burque of Ghost Town are handling mechanical licensing.
Glad to have Frank, Wilson, Ghost Town, and Asha on board. Click here to watch Lily & Madeleine perform “Back to the River” live in Indianapolis.
March 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Written over the course of their summer vacation and recorded in three days, The Weight of the Globe is a musical snapshot by teenaged sisters Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz of a pivotal moment in their lives—turning their backs on the comforts of the past to step into an uncertain future.
The recording project that became the Weight EP started with producer Paul Mahern, who’d fallen in love with the duo’s YouTube videos, acoustic covers of a handful of favorite songs, and immediately got in touch to invite the sisters into the studio. Lily & Madeleine started writing their first original tunes over summer vacation, and Paul introduced them to their bassist and songwriting partner Kenny Childers. The response to their first original song was immediate: the YouTube video racked up a quarter of a million views, and the sisters sold out the first two shows they ever played.
Each song on The Weight of the Globe was written as a discrete, self-contained folk-pop statement, but thanks to the real-time circumstances of recording it, the EP holds together like a collection of interconnected short stories. Taken as a whole, the songs chart a journey from love to disillusionment to heartbreak.
We’ll be releasing The Weight of the Globe on CD, with bonus acoustic tracks, and on beautiful 10inch vinyl (with a download code to access the acoustic tracks) on June 11th. Preorder it here.
Watch a brand new video from the girls on Do317 here.
March 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Fol Chen returns with The False Alarms, hits from a secret dance party you haven’t been to yet. The Los Angeles band’s kaleidoscopic first two albums (Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made; Part II: The New December) offered a taste of everything: minimal electronic grooves and complex layers of organic sound pivoting across genres from rock to soul/funk to dance. The only constant across their extremes of experimentation, through all the asymmetrical rhythms and screwed vocals, was the consistency of their pop instincts. The vehicle for their musical ideas was always a tightly, meticulously synthesized earworm. Their third communication, The False Alarms, takes Fol Chen’s subversive strategy one leap forward.
There has always been a dark undercurrent to their music. Like a Philip K. Dick novel, Parts I & II warped the world around us into a cryptic, surreal vision of the future, sometimes to grotesque or even disturbing effect. But The False Alarms is that much more emotionally direct: funkier, funnier, sadder and sexier, sometimes all at once. This time, there’s no mistaking the lingering aftereffects of the slow toxin under the crunchy, ear-candy coating.
Buy it here.
March 15th, 2013 , by John Beeler
NightSky, crafted by game designer Nifflas (aka Nicklas), is out now for iPhone and iPad. Described by the Guardian as “ an unusually atmospheric and beautiful set of physics puzzles,” the side-scroller game features a unique soundtrack by our own Chris Schlarb.
Here’s what Chris says about the process of designing a video game soundtrack: “Eventually, Nicklas and I developed a simple music engine that would allow for each game world to contain 4-5 minutes worth of music, consisting of 3-5 short pieces that could be played back in a random order….As Nicklas would create new worlds and puzzles, I would play the early beta versions and write music that reacted to the different environments. I felt that the most important compliment I could provide was to help establish a sense of place.”
Most video games either feature licensed music (ala Grand Theft Auto), or generally skew electronic. Not NightSky. Chris developed an ambient avant-garde jazz soundtrack that is remarkable to listen to while playing. IGN said that the “the fantastic ambient/jazz/electronic soundtrack is good enough to enjoy outside the game.” See more gracious press quotes on Chris’ page here.
March 5th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Invisible Life, the third full-length from Helado Negro, is available today. Purchasing options are here.
Heather Phares at AllMusic wrote that “It’s the hypnotic pull of even [Helado Negro's] simplest songs, like the lonely and lovely ‘Dance Ghost,’ that makes his music special. Invisible Life reaffirms that Lange can keep that quality, regardless of which direction he takes Helado Negro in next.”
You might also want to watch this video of Roberto of Helado Negro working with Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen to create a brand new song. See below or over on Shaking Through.
March 5th, 2013 , by John Beeler
SPIN has debuted a brand new video from Fol Chen. In the video for “200 Words” astronauts launch into space, only to fall back down again. Aaron Ohlmann directed the video, which features vocalist and keyboardist Sinosa Loa of Fol Chen.
View some photos from the shoot here.
“200 Words” is the first single from The False Alarms, which comes out March 19th and is available for preorder now.
February 27th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Fifteen years into his musical career, Denison Witmer has recorded a self-titled album, his most direct statement to date.
In a world obsessed with “branding” and constructed media personas, he chose to call his ninth album Denison Witmer because ”I started thinking about the implications of what it’s like to work in an industry where I operate under my own name,” Denison explains. ”And my ultimate goal as a musician is to be honest with people, first and foremost.”
Inspiration for Denison Witmer came from an unlikely source. Listening to the radio, Denison found himself moved by an interview with R.A. Dickey, the major league pitcher whose so-so start convinced him to switch to the difficult knuckleball.
“The knuckleball is a kind of pitch that has absolutely no spin on it whatsoever,” Denison explains, “and you aim at a target, but you really have no idea where it’s going to go.” The learning curve first sent Dickey down to the minor leagues, then to the top of the majors, as he perfected his peculiar art.
Denison’s own peculiar art—like throwing the erratic knuckleball—also means going against the grain, and trusting in forces beyond his control. A composer of subtle, deeply sincere albums in the era of instant mp3s, he wrote this album partly about learning to accept the person, and the artist, he finds himself becoming.
“This is the turning point for me,” he says. ”Even though it’s late in my career, I can feel something moving.”
February 21st, 2013 , by John Beeler
This Saturday, February 23, a handful of non-musicians will have the opportunity to collaborate with Fol Chen on a new conceptual project, “You Will Be My Music.”
Starting at 4pm, the band will give four guests of L.A.’s Machine Project art and education space one hour each to create a new recording in a mobile studio. Layer by layer, the band will guide each volunteer through a ProTools session, overdubbing new vocals and other sounds onto his or her favorite pop song. At the end of the hour, the tracks containing the original song will be deleted, leaving only these new elements.
“You Will Be My Music” plays on the meaning of the word “cover,” first covering up a song with extraneous musical elements, then turning those elements into an uncanny cover version of the original.
This is only the most recent of Fol Chen’s workshops at the Machine Project. At one previous appearance, the band introduced the Tetrafol, a tetrahedron-shaped electronic instrument they helped create with the Monome interface design company. At another, the opening act for their performance was a lecture on the mating habits of sea slugs.
Information on how to participate in this session will soon become available on the Machine Project website, machineproject.com.
February 21st, 2013 , by John Beeler
As part of its new partnership with Brooklyn-based, artist-run label New Amsterdam Records, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s March 9, 2013 concert presents Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Ryan Lott of Son Lux in a performance that smudges the line between “rock” and “classical.” You can buy tickets here.
Ryan’s set features the music of Son Lux in new orchestral arrangements created by a trio of rising classical musicians: electro-acoustic composer Daniel Wohl, and acclaimed singer-composers Caroline Shaw (of avant-garde chamber choir Roomful of Teeth) and New Amsterdam co-founder William Brittelle. Shara will join the orchestra in a perfomance of Penelope, the “ravishingly melancholy” (New York Times), “quietly devastating” (Pitchfork) song cycle by Sarah Kirkland Snider, another co-founder of New Amsterdam.
Neither singer is a stranger to the world of classical music. Both have studied composition and collaborated extensively cutting-edge chamber sextet yMusic, and Shara was recently tapped by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang (of the Bang on a Can collective) to give voice to his eerie cycle death speaks.
Shara sees the chance to sing someone else’s music as a liberating opportunity. “One’s own songs are so personal, and so you know it and have an intimate way of singing those songs,” she says, but “sometimes ‘knowing’ means that you get stuck in a rut and can’t see your own tune in a new light, so you have to challenge yourself to approach your own material like an improvisation at times in order to stay fresh.”
The challenge is to inhabit another composer’s music as intimately as if she had written it herself. “When you go to sing someone else’s tunes,” says Shara, “you really want to apply that same level of investment to their work as you have to your own.”
Penelope‘s lyrics, by playwright Ellen McLaughlin, interweave the story of Homer’s Odyssey with that of a woman whose husband returns from a more contemporary war so damaged that he is no longer himself. Shara points out that the multilayered piece is also an opportunity to exercise the more dramatic side of musical performance.
“There are at least four different voices in this text,” she says, “and I’m enjoying approaching it from more with actor eyes, and allowing the characters and their journeys to really let something different happen in my voice.”
The concert takes place at 7:30 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre. Edwin Outwater will conduct. Tickets are here.