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

Animal-Collective

— 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….

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(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.

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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

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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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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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Sounds of South City: An Introduction to St. Louis DIY

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Veil  –  Photo by Austin Roberts

—   by Allison Durham

There’s an undeniable Midwestern spirit. It is modest, unassuming, and devoid of pretension. Whatever music scenes exist in the cities of the nation’s heartland are homegrown- made by deep-rooted communities of musicians and artists who’ve planted themselves in the location or perhaps never left in the first place. These are not the cities people flock to because they are recognized as “cool”. Compared to the coasts, there is little national attention on Midwestern culture, and it seems its inhabitants are content this way; when national attention is garnered, it’s appreciated, but still becomes the subject of jokes. At least this seems to be true for the DIY music scene of St. Louis, Missouri. A place with a blend of Midwestern charm all its own and situated just west of the muddy Mississippi River, St. Louis is a brick city where baseball and beer reign supreme. But when the game’s turned off, fans of a different sort come together. In the bowels of South City there lies a proud community of musicians, punks, and other freaks who together make up an invaluable piece of the city’s creative heart. Whether people care or not, the South St. Louis DIY scene is alive and kicking, with longtime residents continuing to contribute to their scene while fostering the growth of new bands and new blood.

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Q  –  Photo by Allison Durham

As a St. Louisan, I like to think that the music that comes out of the city reflects its underdog reputation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. To get a sense of the town is to get a sense of the music that, if out for a walk on the streets of South City, might just be heard seeping through the brick walls of buildings passed. The list provided below exhibits just 10 of the many St. Louis acts helping to keep the scene strong.

Trauma Harness – Trauma Harness’s music emits sincerity while evoking a sense of twisted reality- think 80’s B-horror films or your favorite episode of Goosebumps. Trauma Harness is the soundtrack to such stories, representative of both their most triumphant and suspenseful moments.

http://ratkingrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tried-my-hardest-rkr-020

Swear Beam – Debuting this summer, Swear Beam made an instant impression, filling an undeniable void in the city’s musical landscape with carefully crafted walls of melodic fuzz. Beam me up!

http://swearbeam.bandcamp.com/releases

Black James – Experimental electronic rich with both minimalist sonic arrangements as well as complex structures sprinkled with hints of dissonance. Get down to it, freaked by it, or both.

https://blackjames.bandcamp.com/album/mountain-boy

Little Big Bangs – Bringing a blend of punk and garage, Little Big Bangs stay accessible while keeping listeners on the edge of explosive moments, performing noisy instrumental breaks and moving straight into irresistibly catchy melodies.

http://littlebigbangs.bandcamp.com/album/star-power

Veil – The dark imagery associated with Veil is representative of their distinctively grave sound; they are a warning of approaching danger, yet also a walk through a dimly lit neighborhood late at night.

http://veilveilveil.bandcamp.com/releases

Skin Tags – Driving guitar lines accompany a thrashing rhythm section and ferocious vocals. Skin Tags is awesomely abrasive while still maintaining a controlled delivery.

https://skintags.bandcamp.com/releases

Q – Pounding drums propel crunchy hardcore riffs as unforgiving vocals tear through the foreground. Includes bass breakdowns best for slow-mo stomping and slinkin’ around.

http://singlerussiancuties1.bandcamp.com/album/recqrd

The Brainstems – Indisputably timeless garage rock with ripping solos and attitude, The Brainstems are a St. Louis rock n’ roll mainstay.

https://brainstems.bandcamp.com/album/cold-sweatin

Rüz – Agitated vocals, piercing drums and splitting guitar placed between shrouds of feedback tell the audience something is very wrong, but listening feels very right.

http://ruzruzruz.bandcamp.com/album/tape-culture

Hylidae – Hylidae is ambient electronic with direction, transporting the listener to another place where layers of aural peculiarities fill the air.

http://hylidae.bandcamp.com/album/intransitive

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Show Preview: Wild Child @ Union Transfer 11/14

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by Maren Larsen

Wild Child, an indie pop six-piece with folky origins from the coolest city in Texas, is coming to Philly’s Union Transfer this Saturday.

When they first entered the music scene in Austin in 2010, Wild Child was all sugar and no spice. The band’s self-released first album, Pillow Talk, was bouncy and sweet—pleasant in the way that coffee with too much sugar is nice until about halfway through. The album blurred together into a stream of harmonized melancholy lyrics and toe-tapping guitar riffs.

But with their Kickstarter-funded second album, The Runaround, the band started to take on more wit and grit. My intro to the band came here, with “Crazy Bird,” the song they took to the stage of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. The Runaround experimented with more melodic diversity and some slightly edgier lyrics, propelling the band beyond the Austin scene.

Wild Child is currently on tour for their latest (and best) album, Fools, which hit the Internet October 2. Read the description for their newfound label, Duotone Records, and you’ll find it’s a match made in Americana-folk-indie-pop heaven. The title track gets the album off the ground with a more rock-influenced vibe than the band’s previous work—a welcome addition. The album then follows a long and enjoyable slide back to a soulful vibe that takes full advantage of lead singer Kelsey Wilson’s nostalgia-inducing pipes, though it often sidelines co-lead singer and baritone ukulele player Alexander Beggins to background vocals. But she shines, and she brings it home, backed up by some badass baritone ‘lele.

So tap your toes. Go to the show. I’ll see you there.

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