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


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.


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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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Show Preview: Wild Child @ Union Transfer 11/14



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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STREAM: Oberhofer’s New Record, Chronovision

Chronovision features Oberhofer’s signature amped psych-pop with orchestral flourish, New Wave flare, and grungy fuzz, but multiplied with his intensity that only time and life’s gut checks can enhance. The road to Chronovision was winding, owing to Oberhofer’s resolve to produce the LP himself and initially taking him from the Catskills to Seattle and back. A final spurt brought him to a studio in his hometown of Tacoma, two NYC facilities (Strange Weather, Electric Lady), and the former Sound City in Los Angeles. Lastly: Atlanta to mix with Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Washed Out). Exactly 106 demos later, Oberhofer emerged with these 12 songs.​

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Saved from the Stacks #2

Adam B. from Ultrasound Radio USA is wading through mountains of free promos and forgotten releases collected over a lifetime in journalism, radio, and music retail. Here’s a selection of what he’s found that’s new to him and worth it to you to seek out, including funk and jazz discoveries, squirrelly digital pop, and symphonic industrial… Continue reading

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Saved from the Stacks #1

Adam B. from Ultrasound Radio USA is wading through mountains of free promos and forgotten releases collected over a lifetime in journalism, radio, and music retail. Here’s a selection of what he’s found that’s new to him and worth it to you to seek out… Continue reading

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New Music Discovery: Getting Back in Shape

By Esmail Hamidi

All the CDs in my car skip now.

I bought earbuds so I could listen to music on my walks home, but I maxed out the data on my phone. Dead hard drive in my old iPod Photo, dead batteries on my old iPod Nano, dead batteries on my cassette Walkman. YouTube blocked at work. Mouse chewed through the cable on my kitchen speaker. No time. Obligations. Bad radio. Wack DJs. The rat race.

All these forces seek to destroy my relationship with new music. I’m feeling closer to 33 every day. Especially deep in the dusty record bins on Toilet Radio.

But no! At WKDU, I am still capable of falling in love with new music of all kinds.  This list is proof. Enjoy.

  1. Girlpool – Ideal World

This cut off of Girlpool’s debut really impresses me. Minimal production, rock-solid guitar tone, and their growing aptitude for harmonies make this song an ear-perking jam. Heroin, anyone?

  1. Blacksage – Basement Vows

Soulful triplet feel on Baltimore’s Friends Records. Cool.

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5 Riffs That Humans Wrote

Good day, readers. Inspired by fellow DJ Nick Myers’ late-night accusation that “all the good riffs have been written,” I give to you 5 examples of perfect riffage that will hopefully inspire the guitarists in all of us to turn up the ol’ Peavey and make something beautiful.

While this list is far from comprehensive (and totally ignores guitar solos, a totally different concept that I hope to address in a future post), I hope that it provides a good sampling of riffs for your heads to bang to.

A note: Two of these groups are playing shows in Philadelphia tonight, and if you have Facebook and a nose for guitars and basements, I bet you can find them.

 1. Sleep – Holy Mountain 

The lonely, droopy guitar line at the 4 minute mark is my jam. Last heard on John Sinclair’s show “Cosmic Debris.”

 2. Painted Ship – And She Said Yes 

Painted Ship were a legendary garage punk band from Vancouver. Active from 1965-68, they put out several dynamite 45s. 1966’s “And She Said Yes” was a ripping B-side. No bassist and a hollering lead singer is clearly the way to do things.

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