Watching a singular man or woman perform behind a stack of electronic equipment can sometimes really fail to really pull the heartstrings; it's easy for a showgoer to disconnect when there's a lack of connection between musical output and the actions a performer is making onstage. To combat this, electronic musicians have, in recent times, turned to innovation in the multimedia sphere to add an extra bit of oomph to their live sets. On Flying Lotus' latest tour for Until The Quiet Comes, he worked with long-time friends and animators to create Layer 3, a one-of-a-kind audio-visual experience that takes showgoers through three-dimensional worlds of tunnels, silly cartoons, metaphysical imagery, and biological forms. But more on that later, for his set with Thundercat had much more to offer than just a visual experience; it possessed a massive amount of novelty all-around.
May 24th, 2013 @ Roseland Theatre - Portland, Oregon
"I think as we get older, that idea of magic is just taken from us. There's just less of it and less of it... I really try to just kind of dabble in things that feel magical." -- Steve Ellison of Flying Lotus

 

Amassing rare and forgotten music is a peculiar sort of hobby -- one that slowly transforms into an addiction. It's not that I don't love mainstream music. It's just that the thrill of listening to some forgotten gem that everybody else has overlooked is powerful. It also feeds into the collector's impulse I have to overturn every stone to find that song, and my love of complete collections. Not surprisingly, I also like to collect comic books. I guess I'm the type. In any event, here are five lesser-known musicians that I believe everybody should give a listen to, dating as far back as the 1920s and focusing on jazz, folk, and blues.

Mississippi Joe Callicott (1899 - 1969)

Callicott was not your typical North Mississippi blues musician. Musicians from the hill country tend to vamp on a few chords, focusing on a droning, almost hypnotic sound; Callicott was a fingerpicker in the vein of a Piedmont guitarist, with a dash of Jimmie Rodgers. He recorded three songs independently in 1929 and 1930: "Fare Thee Well Blues," "Traveling Mama," and "Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues", the last of which went unreleased. Two additional tracks were recorded with Garfield Akers, the "Cottonfield Blues" -- and here, his finger picking is energetic and nimble, bordering on aggressive.1 After the 1930 session, he went unrecorded for 37 years. He was not totally forgotten, however, as his songs started to appear in anthologies of Delta Blues. He was eventually found in Nesbit, Mississippi by George Mitchell, who recorded several songs with him in August 1967. These became the basis for a number of records and re-releases, the best of which was probably Fat Possum's Ain't a Gonna Lie to You. Unfortunately, his guitar playing had diminished somewhat by this time, but his voice had matured beautifully. His singing on "Frankie and Albert" is expressive and full of sadness yet was beautiful and nuanced throughout. After these sessions, he recorded several songs for Blue Horizons which were a bit lower-quality and rougher. He died in 1969 and was only recently given a proper headstone. Purchase Mississippi Joe Callicott Albums On Amazon Mississippi Joe Callicott - "Cottonfield Blues" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Joe-Callicott_Cottonfield-Blues.mp3|titles=Mississippi Joe Callicott - Cottonfield Blues] Mississippi Joe Callicott - "Frankie And Albert" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Joe-Callicott_Frankie-And-Albert.mp3|titles=Mississippi Joe Callicott - Frankie And Albert]  

Ensemble Pearl Ensemble Pearl Drag City (2013 February) Comprised of drone merchant Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O)))); psychedelic guitar wizard Michio Kurihara (Ghost/Boris); white-gloved drummer Atsuo, (also Boris); and William Herzog (Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter) on bass, Ensemble Pearl is comprised of some of the brightest gems the drone metal underground has had to offer over the last decade. Many of them have worked together already, so it is an electrifying thrill to have them all gathered on wax, in the same place at the same time. For this self-titled release, the ensemble's press release expresses influence from: "Cosmic heavy rock sounds in an area between Link Wray (one of the songs is titled ‘Wray'), Earth "Hex", and early Tangerine Dream. Inspired by 50s-70s rock and contemporary music productions." The Drag City website speaks of "amplified rock drops and ripples, auras radiate and fade away into cloudforms, through which lightning bolts." The discerning listener can tell, before even dropping the needle, that what you are about to experience will not likely kowtow to pop conventions like hooks, melodies, lyrics. Before even taking off, you know that you are in for a journey – probably a vision quest.

 

When I caught up with Midnight Magic in Portland, Oregon, it was a week after the band's original show in the city. They had originally been booked on a Halloween bash that was foiled by Mother Nature, who decided that hurricanes and cyclones should devoid Portlanders of the band's disco-funk-soul stylings. The make-up show, an Ekstasy-sponsored night co-thrown by members of indie house outfit The Miracles Club, took place at a relatively new dance club called The Rose Room -- and somehow, despite all the chaos, Midnight Magic managed to fly in with seven of their nine members. I had read a handful of pretty mundane interviews on the internet which were basically fixated on simple facts about the band and went no further. Those publications discovered that some members of Midnight Magic moved from Los Angeles to New York together and that others were session players for Hercules & Love Affair and LCD Soundsystem. All that is fine and dandy, but for a band as fiery as Midnight Magic, I felt it necessary to break the mold and get to the bottom of who they actually are as human beings. On the tip of that iceberg was a simple question about their lineup. How and why is that worth it to them to have nine members? Don't they want to make money or find traditional music-making success or whatever?
I felt that answering the aforementioned questions would by proxy answer a lot of other things about Midnight Magic's approach to music-making and life in general. And when all seven members of the band were on hand and pumped to do a group interview, the band's inclusive and playful sound was translated into tangible real life vibrance. To set the scene: the club itself was too small to house all of us, so we flowed through the emergency exit to perch in the stairwell, nearly locking ourselves out along the way. Keyboardist Morgan Wiley, the longest-limbed of the group, knelt in the center as everyone stood and sat around him. As there was no flat surface present, Wiley became the eagerly self-nominated holder of the recording apparatus, occasionally striking Backstreet Boy-type poses to make sure the microphone was within earshot of whomever was speaking. His actions were charming, to say the least -- as was the entire interview. So though I usually opt for expository feature articles on bands, this nine-way chat (with seven band members and two journalists) was too rich with laughter, teasing, tongue-in-cheek statements, and all the self-help philosophies one could possibly want (or not want) to pass up a direct transcription. Doing so would have been a disservice to both band and reader, so both of those follow in the full interview below, along with many a hippie star dust quote spoken with full authenticity.

 

MADNESS! is a recurring series of audio WTFs and head-twitching, spine-tingling experimental or chaotic fun (k-k+st-s-t+l-l)icks. Today, Aperiodic bring chaotic free jazz noise, and we pay slight homage to past sounds via Finland's haunting Paavoharju and post-hardcore classics The Jesus Lizard.
++ SEE: FULL POST + MADNESS POSTS or MUSIC COLUMNS

 

Aperiodic

Aperiodic's Future Feedback begins with "New West", a slow growth of jingling bells and static that bumps found sounds up against R2D2-type electronic beeping. Banging, off-tempo jazz drums and distorted guitar all grow in intensity throughout the duration of the 4-minute track, and one could suspect that the remainder of Future Fedback will be comprised of hardly palatable instrumental wankery. In a sense, one would suspect right, but this type of music always took a special musical ear to appreciate. Elements of musique concrète, free jazz, and noise are at the forefront of Future Feedback, which champions improvisation's most chaotic possibilities with a natural erratic twitch. Aperiodic have described themselves as "The Jesus Lizard disfigured beyond recognition", and it is the spirit of the post-hardcore band that shines through, not actual music parallels. The disfiguration comes in Aperiodic's cramming of heavier noise elements into a free jazz framework in absolute madness. Only on one track, "Amalia's Regret", does the band slow down to explore their more minimal side via creepy breathing and classic piano. You can rest assured, though; structure hardly plays a more significant role even then. The entire album is now available via Phratry Records, and you can stream its digital noise stylings via the Bandcamp embed below. Prepare yourself for all of the guitar distortion, manipulated samples, and pummeling drums you can imagine. And while you're at it, see the full post for a stream of The Jesus Lizard's full-length from 1991, Goat.

 

Whim is a collection of media focused on rock/pop/garage and everything surrounding it. Mellowing things out with recent Domino signee Ducktails and the unpredictably satisfying Levek. SEE: FULL POST + ALL WHIM POSTS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS

 

Ducktails

It's still early, but you can now hear a teaser track from Ducktails' The Flower Lane, which comes out January 29th, 2013 via the band's new label, Domino Records. Frontman and main man Matt Mondanile has taken the downtime from his involvement with lo-fi rockers Real Estate to mix a new record with Al Carlson (Peaking Lights, Oneohtrix Point Never). And as is often the case with Ducktails' music, it may take repeat listens before "The Flower Lane" makes a lasting impression, but rest assured that there is emotional comfort to be found in these familiar easy-going sounds, and "The Flower Lane" is but one mellow indicator of the record's lusher and more robust sound. Catch a review of Mondanile's formerly more lo-fi sounds via our review of Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics. DUCKTAILS - THE FLOWER LANE TRACKLISTING 1. Ivy Covered House 2. The Flower Lane 3. Under Cover 4. Timothy Shy 5. Planet Phrom 6. Assistant Director 7. Sedan Magic 8. International Date Line 9. Letter Of Intent 10. Academy Avenue

 

 

There is a moment on the new Flying Lotus record -- let's call it the first five seconds -- when one has to decide whether to climb aboard Steve Ellison's shimmering magic carpet for the next half hour (or century... drugs like this tend to distort time a little) or to simply survey the beautiful landscape he's laid out on his newest album-trip, Until the Quiet Comes. I say this because like all Flying Lotus records, there are a myriad of experiences to be had within the layers of subtle details, ranging from active to passive and or up and down to goddamn spiritually ecstatic.

 

MADNESS! is a recurring series of audio WTFs and head-twitching, spine-tingling experimental or chaotic fun (k-k+st-s-t+l)icks.

Fontanelle

Ever-trustworthy metal tastemakers Southern Lord Records are releasing the latest from Portland rock experimentalists Fontanelle! Their last three releases were escapades in ambient jazz-rock weirdness released on Kranky Records in the early aughts. Vitamin F, to be released on October 23rd, is a record for music nerds who love to be lost in the sounds of horns, guitars, and drums interfacing with one another in unpredictable ways. The massive lineup includes musicians such as Rex Ritter, Andy Brown, Mat Morgan, Borg Norm, Brian Foote and Paul Dickow, as well as the following guests: Gentry Densley (Eagle Twin), Steve Moore (Earth, sunn 0))), Hans Teuber, Eric Walton (Skerik), Jef Brown (Jackie O Motherfucker) and Dave Carter. This is a record for music nerds, no doubt. Spin Magazine calls the record "it may be the most metal record to feature no actual metal on it whatsoever", and that may actually be the most accurate possible description. You can stream "When the Fire Hits the Forest" from Vitamin F via Spin.
Says the press relase:
For this brand new recording, FONTANELLE has been trying to transport themselves back in time to 1973 into Patrick Gleeson’s Different Fur Trading Company Studio. Through the studio expertise of Randall Dunn (sunn 0))), Black Mountain, Wolves in the Throne Room), it sounds like they made it! Rex Ritter’s tour of duty with sunn 0))) during FONTANELLE’s hiatus seems to have irreparably changed his DNA, as well as the entire band’s. Adding an amazing array of horn players, many of whom were heard on the most recent sunn 0))) LP Monoliths & Dimensions, FONTANELLE have fortified their jazz vocabulary and have conjured a burly fusion approach that has been dubbed “White Magus” – a sound sure to appeal to fans of Miles Davis (circa 1969-74), Toritse and Mahavishnu Orchestra.

 

Bumbershoot still remains one of the more diversely curated festivals in the nation. That is probably why they referred to it completely as Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival. In its 42nd year, the 2012 edition was not lacking in diversity, as the main headliners over the course of Labor Day Weekend varied from Jane’s Addiction to Mac Miller and Skrillex. With six musical stages, and a wealth of other stages hosting comedy acts, readings and various panels, it is impossible to catch everything over the weekend. So here are the highlights instead, not in any particular order of awesomeness.

 

M83

M83 acquired quite a bit of hype this past year. In fact, 2011 may have been THEIR year. With their hit single "Midnight City," it seemed like nearly everyone was jumping on the M83 band wagon. The funny thing about that is the band has actually been around for years; they released their first record in 2001. Securing a spot on the main stage for Bumbershoot 2012, M83 played to an audience packed with fans and those simply curious about the band. After witnessing this performance, I can tell you that I've truly never seen anything like it. The intro was a spectacle all on its own with lasers and complex flashing lights that even I have a hard time describing. Both lead singer Anthony Gonzalez and keyboardist/back-up singer Morgan Kibby were extraordinarily entertaining. Their vocals were nearly spot-on with their record, but not in a lip-syching kind of way like we're used to at the award shows. The instrumental drum solos were riveting and exciting. The performance was everything that I hoped it would be, but I'm afraid to say that it is unfortunate that all many are remembering is the crowd of kids rushing to the floor and causing mayhem break loose. You can read all about that mess here. - KATIE NGUYEN

 

 

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

This funk/soul band has been around since the mid-'90s, but if you didn’t know any better you would assume they formed in the early ‘70s. Carried on the shoulder by the spectacular voice of Sharon Jones and then brought to the forefront by the impeccable revivalist sound of the Dap-Kings, this big band lives up to all they hype their live show comes with. Despite playing on the main stage of the Key Arena, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings were able to generate energy in the crowd that transported you straight back to a seedy bar in Motown Detroit. Their music is approachable by individuals of all ages, as are their tributes to the various dances of the '60s and '70s, which are like an instructional video led by Sharon Jones herself. Her spirit is infectious, even if you weren’t alive to experience the origins of the music the band aims to bring back to a new century. Sharon Jones’ energy, charisma, and stage performance are liable to make her and the Dap-Kings the best set of any festival they attend, and Bumbershoot was no different.

 

Portland's Golden Retriever opened their record release show for Occupied with the Unspoken not with a performance, but with the music video for their latest single, "Canopy". Directed by Jeff Guay and shot throughout the Pacific Northwest, the music video is a slow-paced meditation on man in nature. As trees blew in light wind, water rippled black, and most strikingly, a pink-blue cloud very lightly floated its way across the projected sky, a roomful of strangers was forced to take a slow moment, a collective breath, in reverence to nature.

 

August 1st, 2012 @ Holocene, Portland