Music Review: Adult Jazz - Gist Is

Adult Jazz
Gist Is

[Spare Thought; 2014]

by Pat Beane


Head lowered and eyes closed, my deadened ears fill with pitch, calling me to the Abyss. The music I know is bottomless and ruined, dark stars burst inside out and scattered like vapor and static. But through my eyelids comes a faint light, and with it, a hum. At first strange and menacing, there’s warmth to it too, like it wants me to keep listening. I open my eyes to four strangers with strange accents, shrouded in light, a buzz I’d once believed, now forgotten.

They tell me a story, one that seems to come from the faraway, simpler time of 2007:

A bright, young quartet from Leeds self-produces and -releases their debut album, a project they tweaked and honed for four years, with nothing left on the cutting room floor. Their folky jazz garners comparisons to indie stalwarts like Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear, but the critics insist they sound totally their own, too. This foursome is self-possessed and their debut is full of ideas, constantly on the move, slowly revealing new tricks and evolving their sound even as the whole tightly imagined thing sounds like it’s wrapping itself up from the beginning.

They tell me though it’s not a new story, it is theirs. It is the story of Adult Jazz. The hum grows louder, and I choose to listen. As it feels more and more familiar, doubt creeps in (isn’t this the world I left behind with The Dodos?).

It feels like a waste of time to swipe right on a genre, a sound, a feeling I’ve already moved on from and already felt grow stale. But Adult Jazz have the technical chops, emotional wherewithal, and ear for endings that sound revitalizing for “indie rock” as I’ve come to know it (in the same way A Sunny Day In Glasgow seem to breathe life into shoegaze/dream-pop every few years). This is a band that makes the most out of their sparse instrumentation and pushes for piercing, passing interactions. More than a genre revival, their debut Gist Is feels like the carefully crafted project of four like-minded musicians who really know how to listen to each other.

Scene-setting opener “Hum” and the following “Am Gone” are patient, slow-burning studies in mood that turn over new sounds like little discoveries that add up. The album works best in this wide-eyed but reserved emotionality, a sort of autumnal feeling of mellow, sustained catharsis rather than sharp hooks and shouting climaxes. Not that the band doesn’t get loud. It’s on “Springful” that Adult Jazz let loose, prove their technique in earnest, and snarl. When they get rolling, like they do on the 10-minute standout “Spook,” their sense of melody and pacing earns the emotional high and resulting crash of vocalist/lyricist Harry Burgess babbling until he loses it.

That they give their songs time to breathe — more than half the tracks run over five minutes — can make the album tiresome, but with repeated listens, the song structures open up and reward in small details (a sneaking bass line, a background vocal tic). Sure, even some of the best tracks stumble over sub-Avey Tare lyrics like “My sugar veins” and “My heart is spilling all over the drums.” The band seems to know this, though, and a lot of the words get caught up and lost in instrumental swells. Burgess told Stereogum, “In every song, there’s a line where we’re trying to sum up the content of the song in a pithy way, and it always fails, and that’s kind of the running joke of the record.” This kind of self-awareness might read as insecure if it weren’t for the band’s conscious restraint elsewhere. Songs approach breakthroughs before backtracking, plateau mid-crescendo until the groove or arrangement suggests other possibilities for closure (or just close outright).

Even if I think I know how the rest of the story of Adult Jazz goes — “Spook” ends up in a car commercial or trailer for some flimsy indie dramedy, they gather cred with an impressive first US tour, their sophomore album gets Best New Music, they stagnate on the follow-up, a fandom grows, a fandom wanes, time passes, the Machines win, 0PN assumes control — Gist Is promises that, this time, it will be different. Because they sound so assured in this sound and its deviations, and because they carry ideas to exciting ends, I want to believe.

01. Hum
02. Am Gone
03. Springful
04. Donne Tongue
05. Pigeon Skulls
06. Spook
07. Idiot Mantra
08. Be A Girl
09. Bonedigger Links: Adult Jazz - Spare Thought

Music Review: Noveller & Thisquietarmy - Reveries

Noveller & Thisquietarmy

[Shelter Press; 2014]

by John Crowell


Musical collaborations can be a brier patch, especially when it comes to the realms of the avant-garde. Team-ups are common here, with artists’ stage names, releases, record labels, and lineups typically going through numerous iterations and modes. This communal recorded output, though, typically serves as an offshoot to the main line of the artists’ discographies. The main challenge seems to be convincing the listener that this particular recording session resulted in more than simply playing around with a buddy in a soundproof cave.

For Noveller and Thisquietarmy, part of that proving ground seemed accomplished right out of the gate: both artists command a dramatic presence with the scope and volume of their multi-timbral guitar-driven soundscapes, so that they were able to breach whatever psychic shell that may have formed around their respective third eyes long enough to work together seems, without actually knowing a single thing about either artist personally or their work process, pretty impressive. Sure, there’s no way to tell how they operate as composers. I’ll bet they’re nice people, and they might be the most gregarious and outgoing folks to sit across from in a recording studio. But functionally, Sarah Lipstate (Noveller) and Eric Quach (Thisquietarmy) make music that seems to emanate from a very personal, very solitary place. There are many similarities in their sound and a few significant differences I’ll get into below, but I imagine it was a challenge to combine their own influences into a product that illuminated what’s special about each artist while managing to stand as its own statement.

There’s something uniquely powerful about the image and sound of a solo ambient guitarist, especially in contrast to the lone laptop musician commanding columns of samples with a single button on a plastic MIDI controller. Artists like Lipstate and Quach hug their sleek slivers of wood and metal behind rows of quietly blinking boutique effects units, pumping their creations through warm, glowering tube amplifiers. They seem spiritually rooted to the world of lacquered maple, satisfyingly clicking switches, and coiling rubber cables connecting them to trembling speakers: the charm is undeniable.

On the flip side of all this inherent cool, much like abstract artists of other art forms, musicians like Noveller and Thisquietarmy are required to validate their own style by displaying they have enough compositional acumen and creative spark to best the random swells of the average loner strumming minor seventh chords behind a reverb/delay unit and volume pedal. For Noveller’s Lipstate, these moments occur when the deliberately-fingered crystalline melodies of her vintage Fender Jaguar pierce through the blankets of noisy decay blossoming from her myriad delay pedals. In doing so, she adds dashes of melody and structure to her pieces, which give the waves of sonic texture a skeleton with which to bind. Thisquietarmy’s Quach typically sets himself apart with swaths of powerful, intimidating distortion, which punctuate and animate his expansive drones. Unfortunately, Reveries overwhelmingly displays these impressive artists amputating their own distinctive attributes in pursuit of an aesthetic on which they can coexist.

I could give a track-by-track breakdown of Reveries, but it probably wouldn’t be very interesting. Effectively, all four tracks or “movements” of Reveries accomplish the same goal and, honestly, sound very similar. Waves of waxing/waning sound (there’s that volume pedal) slowly build, lattices of shimmering effervescence bubble skyward, occasional bouts of grandiosity shout out and inspire ping-pongs of reverberation against the towers and buttresses of decibels that the duo boil skyward. It’s all very competent, at least, and I’m sure I’m supposed to use words like “monolithic,” “vast,” and “desolate” while I describe it. Truthfully, as an exercise in basking within the great expansiveness yet isolating reflection of ambient sound, Reveries is mostly successful. What’s disappointing is how much more it could have been.

Listening to Reveries, for me, is like when one of your friends starts dating one of your acquaintances. You feel generally positive toward both and hope everything turns out well, but if shit hits the fan, you solidly know which party you’ll stick with. The fact is, I like Noveller more than Thisquietarmy. Not that Quach’s music isn’t powerful in its own right — it is — it’s just I personally find Lipstate’s more interesting and elevating. Absent from Reveries are Lipstate’s defining guitar melodies, which might string a piece together, call back to a prior moment, or otherwise differentiate one movement from another. Also missing, for his part, are Quach’s stabs of overbearing distortion, which could have introduced an invigorating sense of dread or intimidation. Both sides of the spectrum are lopped off, while Lipstate and Quach languish in their collective middle-ground. The listener is expected to be content with their pleasant but hesitant swells and drops, occasional shimmerings of gliss and twinkle, and the sounds of two strong artists basically trying to avoid stepping on each other’s toes. The final result is like a mountain of soap bubbles building to impressive heights before, inevitability, popping and collapsing under the weight of each neighboring identical iteration.

01. Reverie 1
02. Reverie 2
03. Reverie 3
04. Reverie 4 Links: Noveller & Thisquietarmy - Shelter Press

Mix: Chocolate Grinder Mix 111 - Orientation In Space V (Hopscotch Day Party mix)


Last year, Kanye West asked “What you doin’ in the club on a Thursday?” This year, we have the answer: Orientation in Space V, a Hopscotch Music Festival day party scheduled for this Thursday, presented by Raleigh label DiggUp Tapes, art collective Apothecary, and high school newspaper/diecast model car distributor Tiny Mix Tapes. While Kanye is no longer performing due to having “no time, no interest,” we still have an incredible lineup of locals and non-locals assembling at Kings Barcade and Neptune’s Parlour in downtown Raleigh. It’s a free show too — thanks to sponsor Lonerider Brewing Company — so all you have to do is bring a clothed body (your own, please) and maybe some Claritin if your allergies start acting up. Wouldn’t want to sneeze during Lee Noble!

To get you in the mood, we’ve put together a mix tape, featuring one song from each performer. Listen, RSVP, and get oriented:

[00:00] Giant Claw - “DARK WEB 001”
[04:02] Nick James - “Ocean Vision”
[08:55] Paciens Trine - “TESL”
[13:55] Tokyo Hands - “Rainforests”
[17:20] Rene Hell - “Kalashnikov Uzi”
[21:19] Lee Noble - “Covers”
[24:47] Secret Boyfriend - “Beyond The Darkness”
[28:38] Chris Pantry - “ICON B (Piano Mix)”
[30:54] Aldi - “Down”
[35:00] Heads on Sticks - “I Can Get Back”
[39:49] Goblin Mold - “You’ve Got Nothing”
[44:04] Drag Sounds - “Impressive Babes (Twin Version)”

• DiggUpTapes:
• Apothecary:
• Lonerider Brewing Company:
• Hopscotch Music Festival:

Aguirre reissues the Meditations of Brainticket flutist Joel Vandroogenbroeck

When Aguirre Records reissued Joel Van Droogenbroeck’s debut of library music, Biomechanoid, the world collectively said, “Thanks.” That album’s brand of dark ambient electronics showed a new side of the well-respected Brainticket flutist’s repertoire. Most of the music released in JVD’s post-Brainticket solo mode was issued by Coloursound Library, a label that gave the experimenter free reign to pursue any of his wide-ranging interests, from gamelan-influenced synth excursions to Oberheim DMX drum breaks.

Aguirre’s next batch of reissues relax to even more mellow zones. Meditations Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 both find JVD focusing on his solo flute skills, with plenty of synthetic color to fill out the edges. These Meditations were originally issued on Coloursound in 1980, the same year as Biomechanoid. Both volumes of the Aguirre reissue are available on vinyl now, in limited batches of 500 each.

Languish in “Group Meditation” below:

Meditations Vol. 1 tracklisting:

01. Group Meditation
02. Summer Clouds
03. Sand and Wind
04. Various Reflections
05. A Mantra

Vol. 2 tracklisting:

01. Contemplation
02. Gongs
03. Meditative Contemplation
04. Meditation

• Aguirre:

♫ Listen: LEEIII - “a1b3d0 dJ :: ANGELIC CLUB ::”

The latest mix from LEEIII (a.k.a. Lee Three) is titled “a1b3d0 dJ :: ANGELIC CLUB ::,” and no, it’s not just Julianna Barwick samples. LEEIII creates a universe where angels aren’t nice white people with wings, but creatures fully affected and hardened by violence and technology. It’s Gundam Wing grime. It’s where everyone went who didn’t want to go to that Zion rave. I maybe would have said that this mix is predicting an apocalyptic future, but based on the violence around the world that people are attempting to suffocate with a perpetual shower of hashtags and ice, it seems moreso a read on today. Thankfully, LEEIII creates a safe haven that translates the less-than-perfect today into a fully danceable experience.

• Sharda:

Cerberus: Evan A. James - Evan A. James

By Jspicer on Sep 02 2014 

Remember the first time you heard “Lucas with the Lid Off”? How about “Cantaloop”? “Rebirth of Slick”? Are you just too young to remember these smooth jazz influenced hip-hop hits? Go put your ear buds back in and slink away quietly.

For those of you looking the next evolution, come to Evan A. James. Though not dance derived (or intended), the symphonic scraps of James’ self-titled tape evoke a sense of history that was barely touched upon in that quick time of jazz meeting mainstream during the early ’90s. People forget the desolate frontier it was at that time, when all musics ran to get into the door before it slammed shut and was wedged closed by alternative bands we never grew to know. But James rekindles that pioneer spirit even in a land that has grown from those shut out 25 years ago. In the tent city that followed, somehow James has found a way to grab hold of those faint wafts of soul that came back to the masses, using it as a spark for something equally inventive, yet beholden to no set form. Which is why by the time this cassette has run its course, you’ll momentarily forget about those seemingly ancient breaths of fresh air because a newer, stronger rush of pure oxygen will fill those lungs, benefited by too many people on the other side of the door sucking up all their air long ago while the tent city outsiders were left to chaste and noble lifestyles. Ah!

Evan A. James — s/t by adhesive-sounds

Sole and DJ Pain 1 release collaborative EP, video, and embark on world tour

Following the June release of their collaborative album Death Drive (check the Chocolate Grinder), super-duper-indie rapper Sole and super-duper-platinum producer DJ Pain 1 recently released an EP called Pattern of Life. It’s available for free download on Sole’s Bandcamp page along with the album, which, sorry, isn’t free.

Sole co-founded the label Anticon in 1998 with a group of rappers and producers that included Alias, Doseone, and Jel. Currently, the label releases a wide variety of music, but it’s always been founded on an interest in hip-hop that pushed lyrical boundaries.

In regard to his lyrics, Sole has always been exemplary, but his work with DJ Pain 1, who’s produced for Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, and Gucci Mane, finds him treading different waters. Sole is blunter, his flow less varied, more cut and dried, reflecting Pain 1’s impeccable, accessible productions. What Sole actually says, however, remains apart from the mainstream guns ‘n’ hoes chit-chat you may expect over such bangin’ beats.

“Fuck Google” is a good example. Check out the TED Talk-spoofing video for it below. Puts things in good context. And hey, Sole has just begun touring the World minus South America, Asia, and Africa. The dates are right here for you.

• Sole:
• DJ Pain 1:

♫ Listen: Schwarz - “TOP 40 BOOTLEGS (2009-2014)”

Baltimore’s DJ Schwarz is a personal hero of mine. In addition to the three life-affirming anthems (which includes “Open Up Yr Mind”) he put out on Thunderzone this past year, Schwarz rolls out tons of club ready remixes (which I usually jam at work at 4PM on a Wednesday). He goes all over with his mixes, from Brandy to the Dream to Sixpence None the Richer. He brings a super positive outlook to everything he works on, and that’s what had me hooked on his music. Recently, he has been gracious enough to put those remixes all in one place. “Top 40 Bootlegs (2009-2014)” is a mighty collection, and you can go HERE to stream and download the whole thing, or just your favorite tracks, all free of charge. Below you can hear Schwarz’s promo spot for the collection, which is probably the most essential PR I’ve ever come across. My personal favorite is his twerk mix of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” but there are so many here for you to get into, so you might as well DL the whole thing.

• Schwarz:

In an act of posthumous musical justice, Alex North’s lost score for 2001: A Space Odyssey will be released on vinyl

A great tragedy that you may or may not know:

At the premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a man named Alex North (who previously scored A Streetcar Named Desire and would go on to score Good Morning Vietnam; read his bio here) sat in the audience, horrified. It was not the image of apes huddled around a black monolith, nor HAL, nor the image of a gargantuan fetus confronting the Earth. It was Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” blaring from the speakers, bringing terrible revelation.

Not long before the premiere, Kubrick decided to scrap the original soundtrack in favor of the “guide pieces” originally used. The original soundtrack, composed for the sole purpose of the film, was by Alex North. North had not been told his score was being cut until he found out first-hand at the premiere. Interviewed by the French film critic Michel Ciment, Kubrick said, “However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart, or a Brahms.” Right or not, that’s very mean, Stanley.

So North’s original soundtrack has been lost to history, more or less, save a few CD and cassette issues. But now North is being given his due with a vinyl issue called Music for 2001: A Space Odyssey thanks to Mondo, a company that provides limited-edition movie posters and soundtrack reissues. There will be liner notes by Jon Burlingham and a number of scenes from the film screening with North’s score cued up on September 21 and 22 at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. How triumphant! Perhaps Alex has forgiven Stanley somewhere up there. Perhaps vinyl makes it all okay, even in death.

The vinyl edition will be available first at Fantastic Fest, but the press release said you should keep an eye on Mondo’s website. Check out some of the unused score below:

• Alex North:
• Mondo:

Film Review: The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears (Dir. Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet)

The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears
Dir. Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet

[Strand Releasing; 2014]

by Eric Williger


It seems stupid to evaluate poetry in prose. The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears ought to be silent for how many words it contains, and for what good they do in communicating just about anything. It’s set entirely in and around an apartment building where staircases flow like melted wax, walls are carved out of stained glass, and every floor is covered in scarlet carpeting. It is beautiful, bubbling nonsense.

Dan (Klaus Tange) comes home from a business trip to find his wife gone and all of the messages he left on the machine unlistened-to. He gets black-out drunk, calls the police, and buzzes every one of his neighbors. He talks to a woman who is bathed in black shadows whose husband disappeared, too, inside of the walls. Hands are shown writhing underneath wallpaper and burrowing into skin — there is something to do distinctly with being inside.

The detective comes over and tells a story about a man with a beard who takes photos, mostly of women, it seems, and scenes repeat, stilted and in black and white: sharp, glistening blades held in leather-sheathed hands running over nipples and skin, sensuous, moaning, always concluded with a stabbing.

The intention, in some way, is to imitate the style of an Italian giallo, a type of movie made mostly in the 60s & 70s that involved murderers, made most famous by the likes of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and others. The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears brings to mind Argento’s Inferno most obviously, if only because of its setting, but the bizarre, bright, unnaturally colorful palette is the same, too — the visual trademark of the genre. The title brings to mind Martino’s All The Color’s Of The Dark.

Thinking that this is an imitation is a mistake; giallo fans probably won’t be able to sit through Strange Color. It moves slowly, when it moves at all. It is composed almost entirely of insert shots and close-ups. It is intentionally vague — perhaps too vague — but the way that it is telling its story is far more important than the story itself. It is not that the movie favors style over substance, but that it is banking that style is substance; this is a concept that is not new to gialli. Strange Color would probably have worked equally as well as a series of photographs, full of mystery, loose threads of story strung across like string on tacks.

It is in love with the past: characters listen only to records (one of them made out of glass), do not use cell phones but instead use rotary phones. However, the paging system from the front door of the apartment building is rigged with a high-tech video camera system, and one sequence shows Dan paging himself into the building, reminiscent of a scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But Strange Color is so much more than a series of reference points and in-jokes. It isn’t that at all. It is one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year, influenced heavily — personally, intuitively — by the culture that has come before it and surrounds it, but a piece that exists all its own, a buzzing and living piece of actual poetry.

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