Concert Preview: Animal Collective w/ RATKING @ Union Transfer 2/19


— by Ian Norris

Your favorite experimental Baltimoreans since Zappa are back in action with some unlikely guests. Excluding Deakin (Josh Dibb aka the Deakmeister), who has been busy polishing his Kickstarter-funded solo debut scheduled to come out later this year, Animal Collective’s Avey Tare (Daniel Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), and Geologist (Brian Weitz) have teamed up with Wiki, Hak, and producer Sporting Life of New York’s hip-hop outfit RATKING to embark on a world tour in support of their forthcoming album Painting With. Fortunately for us, Union Transfer is the first stop of the tour; unfortunately, the groups’ odd allegiance has generated much attention, causing most U.S. dates to sell out immediately, and with good reason.

AnCo has come a long way since its formative years in Baltimore County, honing its fusion of ambient, psychedelic, and folk, equally influenced by krautrock and horror movies. With all members of the collective having solidified their respective stylings of electronic, from Panda Bear’s critically-acclaimed Person Pitch and Avey Tare’s inventive Slasher Flicks, the good ol’ gang is back, in more ways than one. With its newest single “FloriDada,” Animal Collective has returned to its more organic, percussive, freak-folk roots that it nearly perfected in its albums Feels. Channeling the left-field pop of Merriweather Post Pavilion, vivid colors of Strawberry Jam, and the cacophonous textures of Sung Tongs, the neo-psychedelic outfit has hybridized its past influences into a newly improved brand of accessible, highly melodic, and quasi-danceable pop that we have grown to love. And it’s damn well better than Centipede Hz. Painting With will be released by Domino Records on the day of the show, February 19th.

RATKING isn’t as much of a wild card for the tour roster as some might think; in fact, it makes a good deal of sense with AnCo’s great influence of the hip-hop group’s atmospheric, wall-of sound sampling, and cerebral lyricism, as well as their collaboration with Avey Tare’s former noise project Black Dice. As grimy and abrasive as RATKING’s name suggests, referring to a cluster of diseased rats being tied together by the tails, their music weaves stories and images of the decrepit lows of passion. Making their XL label debut with 2014’s So It Goes, the trio has blown up among the underground rap community, including features with King Krule (Archy Marshall) and tour dates with Death Grips. Their live sets often include motion pictures of gory violence and social alienation, similar to that of Godspeed You! Black Emperor; although, Wiki “One Brow” will typically bludgeon himself in the head with his microphone simultaneously. To put these guys’ talent and ridiculousness into perspective, I have a friend driving up from Northwest Indiana to Philadelphia, an eleven-and-a-half hour drive, just to see RATKING with me. Don’t you dare miss it.

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Some Really Good Tunes: The Mystery of the Missing Records

A couple Friday mornings back, I went to the station. When I got there, this was leaned up against the door….


(re-enactment by author)

Inside were about 50 records. All were tagged WKDU circa 1971-1981. I can only speculate that maybe a former DJ, in an act of redemption, decided to give them back after “borrowing” them.

At KDU, there aren’t a lot of rules, but one stands out: NO STEALING. Says so on the door, probably written in DJ blood.


It’s interesting that these records made it back, but even more interesting that they were left on the outside. It implies that whoever gave them back is far enough removed from the station that they couldn’t enter. Otherwise, they could’ve put the records back themselves, or hidden them somewhere within the station’s many nooks and crannies.  The plot thickens….

So I started looking through the records, because that’s what I do when a random bin of records appears on my doorstep. Here are some of my favorites from the stack. Oh, and in case you’re curious: Yes, I did put them back on the shelf, where they belong.

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Concert Preview: Ars Nova Workshop, January 2016


As WKDU’s resident jazz weirdo (at least until Marcel—er, the Night Fly, returns from his Southern Californian sabbatical), I feel some responsibility to keep the fine followers of WKDU abreast of Philadelphia’s jazz goings on. Fortunately, Ars Nova Workshop, longtime supporters of some of the best jazz and improvised music Philadelphia has to offer, recently announced a couple of killer shows for the month of January: the Tomeka Reid Quartet this Thursday, January 7 at the Art Alliance, and Nels Cline/Larry Ochs/Gerald Cleaver Trio at Boot & Saddle on January 15.

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Nick Manna’s Favorite Music of 2015

— by Nick Manna

Year-end lists are fun, in theory. Often they seem to be a practice in confirmation bias. So instead of listing albums you may or may not have heard, here are some unforgettable experiences from this year. I wish I could include about 40 more things. Maybe you’ll find something you like. Maybe you were there. Hopefully you’ll be there next time.

Hop Along – Painted ShutPainted Shut cover art
Painted Shut is Hop Along’s third album, and they take a huge leap. Frances Quinlan touched on very emotional subject matter in previous work, but brings it together with superior musicianship in a more cohesive effort on Painted Shut. Quinlan’s voice steals the show, but the guitar work of Joe Reinhart moves to the foreground at points. I feel as though I am doing the album a disservice if I try to multitask while listening. I stop to make sure I don’t miss the transcendent moments, which are shockingly frequent. Some are big, like Reinhart’s soaring solo in “Texas Funeral.” Some are smaller, like Quinlan’s delivery of the word “sun” toward to the end of “Horseshoe Crabs.” During “Happy to See Me,” I always think back to the performances at Union Transfer and Philamoca – Quinlan standing alone on stage, armed with a quiet guitar and mic, a silent crowd transfixed. I heard “Waitress” before the album’s release, and I knew it was special, but never could I have known that every song on the Painted Shut would grab me in a way that few other songs ever have and never let go.

Radiator Hospital, Quarterbacks, and Girlpool at Hazel House: January 11, 2015
Sam Cook-Parrot performed two solo Radiator Hospital shows at Hazel House early this year – once supporting Yowler, and once supporting Quarterbacks, as Radiator Hospital are wont to do. On this January night, Girlpool opened the show. They sat in the bay window with an acoustic guitar and bass and delivered their fantastic songs in the most intimate setting imaginable. They even played their heartbreaking cover of RH’s “Cut Your Bangs” – the only time I have seen them play it. Dean of Quarterbacks was up next and played a quick and witty set of songs that were on his self-titled album. Finally Sam came up and played the best Radiator Hospital set I have seen. He asked for a song to play and we suggested “I’m All Right,” which is a very important song to me. He delivered it flawlessly, before finishing with the agonizing “Shut Up and Deal.” Just listen to the last 30 seconds of that song and then imagine it being screamed, perfectly, right in front of your face. Everyone in the living room was in shock.

Fred Thomas
Fred released one of my favorite albums of the year, All Are Saved, and went on a couple of tours to promote it. I had not heard any of his music before this, but it seemed that All Are Saved had a more official release. His lyrics are smart, poetic, and thought-provoking. He played a show at LAVA space in May with Quarterbacks and Radiator Hospital, and seeing him perform “Bed Bugs” by himself in this bare space, and adding lines as he saw fit, felt like the absolutely perfect way to listen to music. He played LAVA again in November, noting something like “Here I am, approaching my 40th birthday, eating a burrito and playing music in anarchist bookstore, and I couldn’t be happier.” Thirty or so people were at the show. Bonny Doon played too, and I felt incredibly lucky: having the chance to stand feet away from my favorite artists while they perform down the street from my home is a true blessing.

Goodbye Party at Kat Frat: July 8, 2015
We got to this show early, so we walked down to Clark Park and had some ice cream sandwiches. Small Wonder played a great solo set before the Goodbye Party set up their gear. This was their first full-band show in a basement. The Goodbye Party is led by Mikey from the Ambulars, and comprised of Sam from Radiator Hospital, Joey from Pinkwash, Kyle from Swearin’, and Chrissy from Thin Lips – a West Philly all-star ensemble. I felt as though I was continuously hit by a wall of sound, instruments and voices (Sam singing back-up) in perfect harmony with each other. Goodbye Party’s album, Silver Blues, is fairly quiet. The band plays the more upbeat songs, but “Louder than Summer” left me frozen in place. Here I was, in a basement in West Philly with about 20 other people, flooded with sound beautiful and full enough to fill a theater. I could hardly believe what happened that night.

Sidekicks, Cayetana, and All Dogs at Golden Tea House: January 24, 2015 Sidekicks had, by this point, outgrown house shows, but came back just for fun. All Dogs were my favorite band to have yet to release an album at that point, and Cayetana had one of my favorites of 2014. Minutes before doors opened, hundreds of people crowded the block and began to flow into the house – I was a lucky one who made it in. “Who Let the Dogs Out” played over the PA before All Dogs’s set. This was a special show. They played some classics, some unreleased songs, and finished with Nirvana’s Breed (noted as “Kid Rock” on their setlists). Cayetana performed a stellar set as always, before the Sidekicks nearly tore the house down. Forty-five minutes of blistering rock (including a break for “1940’s Fighter Jet”) had me moving to the back for fear of my safety by the end, though it didn’t get too bad. Golden Tea House stopped doing shows just days later.

Also Memorable:
Seeing Weezer play the Blue Album and Pinkerton, in full, back-to-back nights at Riot Fest Toronto
Sufjan Stevens’s latest album, Carrie and Lowell, and his somber performance at Academy of Music
The output of Maryn Jones: Yowler – Yowler / All Dogs – Kicking Every Day / Saintseneca – Such Things
The music video for “Bad Ideas” by Saintseneca
Eskimeaux – O.K.

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Glasses’ Top Albums of 2015

by Sam Robinson


Does anybody listen to music anymore? Or do we just kind of pretend to have listened to the latest high-concept journalism-bait records and quote bot-generated thinkpieces about them to impress our friends who have also only pretended to listen to the albums in question. Last year I tried listening to music, and only came up with ten items to fill my listicle’s distended sac. So I gave up on that. Below are six albums I heard about in passing from cool people in 2015 – I hope you get invited to some killer New Year’s parties to quote these reviews at.


6. Black Wing…Is Doomed 

From the ashes of Dan Barrett’s (Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey, Married), failed Drive-inspired synthpop project, Dan Barrett and the Cruisers, comes a bombastic, pop tinged electronic romp through the mind of one of the most exciting musicians working in shoegaze today. The effects driven guitars may be gone from this record, but there is no absence of emotional soundscapes in their wake. Heavily processed synth drum kits scintillate across the soundstage and vocal tracks dip into hyper-compressed clipping collages that can best be described as aural car wrecks. This might not be a strictly shoegaze record, but Barrett’s pedigree still manages to shine through.


5. Jerusalem in My Heart – If He Dies, If, If, If, If, If 

Jerusalem in My Heart is the ongoing international performance project that consists of musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and visual artist Charles-André Coderre. All Jerusalem shows are site-specific installations and do not repeat. Themes of meditation and solidarity are dominant in the recorded music, which draws heavily from underground Syrian tape culture and the greater Middle Eastern musical canon. Moumneh’s ties to friends Godspeed You! Black Emperor are also apparent in the record’s willingness to explore intense, loose noodling over lo-fi field recordings, a stylistic choice that gives many tracks on the record defined spaces in which to reside. Between tracks there are claustrophobic corridors and vast oceans all serving as backdrops to be explored by Moumneh’s droning vocals and seemingly endless loop pedals. Check out a video of a live performance below:


4. Prurient Frozen Niagara Falls 

Yes, this is another Prurient record. No, it is not an all-out assault like Cocaine Death was. Frozen Niagara Falls may actually be Prurient’s most mature record to date, actually. The visceral, stream-of-consciousness shrieks and cacophonies are still present, but they are more tastefully framed than ever. Frozen deals with loss, but not in a traditional sense, on this record. Instead, the visual of a frozen Niagara Falls serves as an excellent reference point. A natural monument held paralyzed in memory, doomed to return to violence as soon as the thaw hits. Even if you are not inclined to listen to noise, there are plenty of approachable points of entry for the novice listener. Soft drone, soothing guitar interludes, even elements of dance-y industrial all reside comfortably in this so-called “noise” album.


3. Arca Mutant




2. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell

Raise your right hand

Tell me you want me in your life

Or raise your red flag

Just when I want you in my life


1. Oneohtrix Point Never Garden of Delete

After years of being on the cutting edge of sound and constantly leading the wave of electronic music to “the next big thing,” it is only fitting for Brooklyn-based producer Daniel Lopatin, after finishing an arena-tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, to release a record that sounds like his youth. Based on a fictional pubescent, alien teenager named Ezra who suffers from a skin condition that causes his face to constantly melt, Garden of Delete gives no ambiguity to the roots of its aggressive, thrashy sound. It is a delight to hear Lopatin indulge in such hyper-produced excess considering his roots are in the far less organized sound of noise music. It is a return to the past in more ways than one for Lopatin. Even the concept of ownership has a rebellious teenage attitude towards it. Over a month before the album’s release, Lopatin dumped the raw MIDI files on fans through an elaborate Geospaces-esque ARG involving a fictional “cyberthrash” band known as Kaoss Edge. Ahead of the record’s release, fans were already inundating Soundcloud and YouTube with their own interpretations of the album’s tracks through their own software and synthesizers. It is difficult to recommend this album alone, it really takes hearing the evolution of Lopatin’s sound to fully appreciate the intricacies and decision making behind Delete’s deceptively simple appearance- I recommend “Replica,” “R Plus Seven,” and “Eccojams” to start.


Glasses is a former radio DJ currently plotting a quiet return to WKDU.

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An acoustic session with Shamir

Before Shamir’s show with Joy Again and Hana Truly at The Church on 11/13/15, the 21 year old singer played a few songs for us.

With nothing but a borrowed acoustic guitar and a mic, hear the wonderful, charismatic, angelic Shamir like you never have before:

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Interview: John Lydon

John Lydon

By: Nick Stropko

John Lydon is crass. At this point in his 40ish-year-old career, he’s developed a reputation for being unfriendly to press. And politicians. And, well, a lot of people. He tends to offend wherever he goes. He even made it a point to belch loudly during the middle of my interview (“practicing my jazz chords,” as he described it to me, the host of a jazz radio show, for christsakes).

This off-putting demeanor, however, belies an undeniable intelligence. Controversial positions he has long and ardently held, ranging from his omnivorous taste in music to many of his political and social beliefs, are now commonplace, while Sex Pistols’ sneer and Public Image Ltd.’s post-punk discord have long been held as prescient, influential, or both.

So where does this leave Lydon in today’s music landscape? Per John, “I’m quite happy here on the outskirts, doing what I want, and not getting dragged into cliques or categories anymore…And I think these last two albums we’ve put out are probably the best music in my entire career.” Yes, it’s easy to roll your eyes at any musician pushing 60 who claims to be putting out their best work–or really anything short of an outright cash grab (notable exceptions: Gira, Michael, and Bowie, David). And sure, some of his opinions fit quite comfortably within an irrelevant, crotchety old man archetype (rejection of technology, disinterest in any contemporary music). But given his track record, I’m willing to hear him out. The rigors of age and his smoking habit have seemingly done nothing to extinguish that singular, shrill voice that set the world on fire in ‘76, and he seems as pissed off as ever. Not to mention, the new record really isn’t half bad.

Public Image Ltd. is on tour through November. Dates are here. An excerpt from my interview with John is after the break–if it somehow isn’t long enough for you, click here for the full transcript.

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