Photo credits: Peter Liu (@hearhearradio)
One of Drexel’s own students has united the biggest names in vaporwave and electronic netlabels for a limited edition cassette compilation. Patrick Magee, of WKDU’s “The Stardust Revue”, created this compilation with the intention of giving well known artists in the community an outlet to make music without the pressure of scene politics. Following recent tensions between “hardvapour” and “traditional” vaporwave fans, “Absolve U” brings together artists known for funky sample based jams like Luxury Elite, as well as drum ‘n bass paced tunes from DJ Alina and Blank Body.
“I’m glad that people like what I’ve put out. After working for so long, though, I want people to know I can do more than just samples,” says James Webster, a Philadelphia based artist who contributed two tracks to the tape. After a monstrously successful 2015 that saw death’s dynamic shroud.wmv gain attention from press and fans alike for moving vaporwave in a new direction, James says he wants to keep making music he enjoys, independent of scene politics. “I’m glad that project was successful, and we did what we came to do, but I’m not sure any of us are going to be chopping up k-pop samples again in the near future.”
Patrick Magee also curated “Absolve U” with emerging talents in mind, and two of the most impressive tracks on the compilation come from newcomers PowerPCME and Location Services (a side project of Magic Fades). “It was impressive, because everyone had their own unique sound but the sum of their parts came together like puzzle pieces,” Patrick said of the curatorial process.
“Absolve U” is available now on Bandcamp as a limited edition, handmade cassette as well as a digital download.
By Esmail Hamidi
Well, a lot of times things happen to you, and the only thing you can say about it is, “what can you do?”
So this blog entry is a big one for me. This blog entry covers the tape that started this whole project.
The John Minnis Big Bone Band was a 21-piece ensemble headquartered in North Philadelphia. They were headed up by its namesake, John Minnis, the trombone player and vocalist. Among their ranks were some of the finest studio and touring musicians of Philadelphia, many still active today. And guess what radio station interviewed them in 1977?
Back in the winter, I found this tape in a dusty box with many, many others. Some of my findings on the Black Experience programs in the ’70s have been covered in Part 1 and Part 2. But this one is definitely among the crown jewels of KDU. The music they play from the band’s then-newly-released album, Classic-I Live, is top-notch. The tape’s in perfect shape. The interview…is pretty funny, to be honest. The hostess and musicians cover lots of info, with plenty of the goofy awkwardness endemic to college radio. Based on the remark that John Minnis’ birthday, May 22nd, was a Sunday coming up, I can (pretty confidently?) date the interview to Spring 1977. We might be dealing with some unreliable narrators here: given that the record is supposed to have been released in 1979 (and how everyone on the tape seems to be feelin’ some kind of way), this date seems unlikely, but who knows.
I’ve probably listened to this interview fifty times. There was a period in the winter where I would listen to it on the way to class every morning. And while its 35 minutes are jam-packed with, well, jams, I knew I needed to track the full record down. According to the interview, if I was around in 1977, I could have picked it up at any of ten record stores – the long-defunct 3rd St. Jazz and King James Record Shop among them.
Trying to find the record: I put out feelers to all my record-collecting friends, with no luck. Apparently it was reissued in Japan in the mid-1990s, but a friend’s travels in Japan failed to yield anything other than directions to the “big band” sections of numerous record stores. Blast. I ended up finding a copy online, and paying a stupid amount of money. But I got it. Score.
The record itself has some great rough edges. The decidedly mid-fi production value of the live cuts leaves some flubbed notes out to dry. But – after all – this is a big band! The idea of 21 musicians (count ’em – 21!) churning out grooves like this live on stage is positively electrifying. I cite the extended percussion workout of “What Can You Do” (evident at the 11:30 mark in the interview) as a prime example. They just keep going. And the studio cuts are genuine rare classics. There are covers of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye tunes in there (WHAT?!?) – someone’s bound to sample this one of these days. If you ever see this record while digging, grab it….
PPS: This May 22nd, 2016 is also a Sunday, as it were. If you’re reading this – happy birthday, John.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard shows are sacred experiences. And if you’ve yet to attend one, now’s your chance. The seven of them will play Underground Arts on Sunday night (5/15/16) in support of their new album Nonagon Infinity– an album intended to be played in a continuous loop. Probably one of the most unpredictable bands out there right now, King Gizzard treats each album as its own conceptual piece. On Nonagon Infinity, each song flows into the next, including the last track back into the first, creating a never-ending circle of psych.
Accompanying them will be Philly’s own Mercury Girls and Melbourne’s The Murlocs.
While consisting of members of King Gizz, The Murlocs have a bit more of a melodic, folk-rock grounding. Stu Mackenzie (lead guitar/vocals of King Gizz) produced their latest album and second full length LP, released this March on Flightless Records and titled Young Blindness.
Mercury Girls (members of Literature and Little Big League) perfect a jangly pop-meets-shoe gaze sound, and are touring in support of their new 7″ and a split EP with Spook School, Tigercats and Wildhoney.
WKDU will present the show on Sunday (after the Punk Rock Flea Market), so come say hello, check out our merch and pick up one of our free zines!**
Watch videos for King Gizzard’s “Gamma Knife” and The Murlocs’ “Unknown Disease,” and stream Mercury Girls’ new single, “Ariana,” below.
**While supplies last Continue reading “King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard play Underground Arts this Sunday”
One of our new DJs, James Friszell, caught up with Evan after Into It. Over It.’s recent show with TWIABP, The Sidekicks, and Pinegrove at the TLA last month.
James: What are your favorite record stores and venues in Philly?
Evan: I used to work at Long in the Tooth, which is at 21st and Sansom. That’s one of my favorite record stores in the world. I actually really like Repo, I just went there before here. I just played at creep earlier today, so I was there already. As far as venues, I really liked going to shows, I didn’t do it a lot, but I really liked going to shows at the North Star Bar. I feel like the North Star Bar sounds really good. I love the First Unitarian Church. I probably saw every one of my favorite bands ever play in that room, and also bands that you would never see play in a room that size ever again. Like I saw Explosions in the Sky in there, and Arcade Fire in there, and like f*cking Sigur Ros in there. But also got to see like Dillinger Four in there and Orchid, and Reiner Maria, or f*cking Braid and Getup Kids. Any one of those bands I’ve seen play in that room, I used to go there all the time. Now, I love Union Transfer, although that didn’t exist until really around the time I moved. And I mean I have a soft spot for the TLA and the Trocadero, because I saw so many shows there, that were like, my first shows ever. Philly is a great city. It’s got a really good music scene, now especially, more than ever, and yeah, I’m really fortunate to be a part of it.
J: What prompted you to go into the woods to write?
E: A big part of it was that Josh and I had never really made a record before. We’d never written before, so he’s been in the band for a couple of years, but we hadn’t written any new material together. We kind of started writing in Chicago, but we hadn’t really learned how to communicate creatively yet, and that’s a big process. That takes a while, you know, to really find your groove and find your comfort level, find the language that really creates the best material. So we’d worked on some stuff in Chicago, and it was cool, but it didn’t really feel fluid yet. We were trying to figure out a way that we could maybe find our focus, find our rhythm, and feel more comfortable. We were just spit-balling ideas about how we could write, or block off time- get the best use of our time, and the idea of going to a cabin was what came up. So we agreed that that was a really good idea. It was something that we wanted to do anyway, like that’s awesome, make a retreat out of writing which is really fortunate, and so we played a show in Vermont, in Burlington, and we fell in love with it. Like this would be the place to do it. We love the city, we love the landscape, we love the people here, everyone was really friendly. We got to the end of the night. We were settling the show, and the promoter of the show asked what we thought of Vermont. We told him that we were like, “Man we want to write a record here, this is great”. And he told us that day he had just closed on the property to have a place where bands could work on music, and so it just seemed really serendipitous, perfect timing, and we were the first band to use the space. It was great. We didn’t want to leave. It was over and we still wanted to stay, which is creeping because going into it we were kind of like “man, are we going to lose our minds”. It wasn’t like The Shining at all, it was really really cool.
J: When you were writing this, in the woods, did you feel like there was a different atmosphere about writing?
E: Yeah, it was full, panoramic windows in the cabin. So we’re looking outside, and there’s a blizzard, and it’s overlooking a lake, and a mountain, and there’s no houses for two miles. You see chimneys in the distance. So, it’s this beautiful panoramic scene, and we’re writing in the middle of it, but it was so cold outside, like negative 20 or negative 30 degrees, that we didn’t really want to interact with it. But being able to work and write and have this scenery next to us happening, made the whole experience much more pleasant and kept our mood at a pretty even keel. We were very relaxed- it was a very serene environment. It was great. People were like, “Oh yeah a cabin” and they think it’s like this dark, dreary, and it’s not. It was like one of those places on a B&B website and you look, and you’re like “who finds that place to stay in”. It was a place like that, a really really nice place.
J: That’s incredible that you got the chance to use that.
E: Oh yeah. It was a good portion of the recording budget to go and write the record there, but it was worth it, because I think it really helped us write better songs.
J: You used a different producer for this album, right?
E: John Vanderslice, yeah.
J: When you were writing, did you know you were going to be recording it analog?
E: No, I had a list of choices of people who I wanted to make a record with, and John wasn’t even on the list. He wasn’t even on my radar really. I was a fan of his music and a fan of his, but like I hadn’t thought about him. We had asked a couple people, the people who were on the list, about doing the record and nobody could do it, or the budget wasn’t enough. There were different reasons why it couldn’t work out, but multiple people on my list had, independently of each other, referred me to John. So after hearing like three or four people tell me to go to John I was like, “Man I gotta call this guy”. I called John and immediately we super got along, immediately knew what we were going for, knew what our sound was like, really liked the demos, you know? He was excited to work on it, like he wanted to work on it. And then at the end of the call I had figured out, I was like, “John’s the guy, I can’t wait”. He gets to the end of the call and he’s like, “Oh yeah, were making it to tape, you don’t have a choice. If you want to do a record, it has to be to tape”. And so I was like, “Uhhhhhhhhhh, I gotta call you back”. I had to talk to Josh and the people in the camp and be like, “is this a bad idea”. But I wanted to hire him. He was the right guy. I’m glad it all worked out. He assured us that we’d feel comfortable and that we wouldn’t even notice that it was being made to tape, and he was right. He was absolutely right. We never even noticed. It was just as comfortable as working on a computer.
J: Was that your first time going all analog?
E: Not my first time in a band, but my first time with Into It. Over It. Their/They’re/There had done it, but we just played live. That’s just us doing a performance.
J: Is production something you want to start taking more seriously?
E: It’s something I’ve always wanted to take more seriously. I’d much rather be making records than going on the road, that’s my favorite thing to do as far as being a musician. Making records, then writing, then touring, and then practicing. I feel like those are the four big things you would do if you were in a band. But yeah, making records is absolutely my favorite thing- I’d love to be doing that more than anything, but I understand that there are certain things that you have to do, not “have to do”, but should do to further the status of the things you’re working on. Like for Into It. Over It., Into It. Over It. should go on tour. And I love going on tour. The hour that we spend playing on stage is the most fun I have in my entire life. But as far as creative satisfaction- to me records are what outlives the person. When I’m dead and gone no one is going to remember the show, they’re going to remember the album. Or they will remember the show, but those memories fade with time. Whereas with the album you can continue to put on and enjoy- new people can still find that. So for me that’s the most important part of the process because that’s the part that will outlive everything.
J: How do you look at Standards now that you’re done with it?
E: It’s the best record I’ve ever done.
E: Without any hesitation, without any second guessing, it is the most fully formed, well performed, honest representation of Into It. Over It. that exists. They’re my favorite songs. The process was the most fun. The making of the record was the most fun. I listen to it, it doesn’t feel juvenile. It doesn’t feel rushed. My memories attached to it are all really positive. And I just think the song writing is better. I know people have a youthful attachment to Proper. When I listen to those songs it sounds phony to me sometimes. Like I love those songs, but that’s me at 25, and to me it sounds like me at 25. And to me, the songs don’t hold up in the same way that even Intersections holds up, or even f*ckin’ most of 52 weeks holds up, I think, a little bit better than Proper. And the Proper recording process wasn’t very fun. We had like 14 days, it was very fast. I was out of my mind, so much of it was thrown together at the last minute. When it comes to something that I feel very proud of, and when it’s over and said and done I can feel like “this is what I wanted to be doing and where it should be”, that’s this record. You’re asking that question like you don’t think it’s the best one.
J: I absolutely think this is your best record. *laughs* I was trying to hold back bias.
E: Good. *Chuckles warmly* If I was making records and I didn’t think the newest one was the best one, or I didn’t feel like I was making the forwards progress to continue to do things that not only make me happier as a musician, but also are me growing as a musician then I would quit. There’s no reason to keep going if I can’t at least expand in some way. Like it wouldn’t be a step backwards for me to go back to making a record on a computer, but there would have to be in the process that would further me as a player, or expand on a sonic palette that I haven’t explored yet. There’d have to be a change. It’s funny with Into It. Over It. because none of the records sound the same, but I think there’s something that kind of ties all of them together. So people that are fans of the music that I write can find something in every album that they really like, but they’re not going to get the same record twice. The reason why is because I already did that. You don’t want to hear me make the same thing again. If I made the same thing again you’d be like “well this just sounds like the last record”. Every single record has been received initially with a level of “huh”, like a tilt of the head a little bit. At first it’s like “oh I don’t get it”. Then 2 years later when everyone has had time to sit with it, that’s when everyone is like, “oh, yeaaaaah”. I put Intersections out and everyone is like, “DOESN’T SOUND LIKE PROPER”, and then I put this record out and it’s like, “DOESN’T SOUND LIKE INTERSECTIONS”, and I’m just like, “…what”. And I mean, the next one’s not going to sound like Standards- there’ll be elements of it, just like there are slight elements of every record in every record. It’ll sound like something totally new. For me that’s how I’m satisfied creatively- keep pushing myself and keep pushing people around me.
J: Do you think you want to start writing with a full band?
E: I think I’m ready to start bringing more and more people into the fold. That was a big learning experience with this record, allowing John a lot of control. I had never been able to do that before. I wasn’t able to give Ed the control that I think he should’ve had. I wasn’t able to give Brian Deck the kind of control that I feel like he should’ve had. Brian tried to talk me down on a lot of scenarios and I was like, “NO! NO-NO-NO-NO-NO”, and I was, you know, being a baby about it. But this time I kind of let John take the wheel 90% of the time and it really hit off. I’m beginning to trust other people with this a lot more, and I’m having a lot more fun bouncing ideas off of other people a lot more. That confidence I think is going to play into adding other people into the writing process in the future.
— By Patrick Magee
On the heels of a major viral success, capped off with a performance on Stephen Colbert, Babymetal released “Metal Resistance” to fanfare and surprisingly positive critical acclaim. For a moment, it seemed like the viewing public was united on something they weren’t before: these three girls from Japan legitimately kick ass. That’s not just a reference to their new single, “Karate”, either. With an album that switches between symphonic metal and drum ‘n’ bass with ease (and without too much camp!), Babymetal has made the transition from side-note to main event for many.
The group, now on their second international tour, will be making their first appearance in Philadelphia on Saturday, May 7th. After rocking Wembley, the Electric Factory should be no challenge for the three girls and their powerful backing band. Although Babymetal started as a spinoff from a more traditionally Japanese pop “idol group”, you won’t be seeing school uniforms and cute poses. With an explosive energy that makes their choreography look like an army drill, Babymetal is sure to stir up a circle pit on Saturday night.
Babymetal consists of members Su-metal (Suzuka Nakamoto), Yuimetal (Yui Mizuno), and Moametal (Moa Kikuchi). Their median age is 17. After finding success outside of their original group, Sakura Gakuin, Babymetal gained attention largely as a novelty act through the viral success of their early music videos. Following the release of their first album, it became clear that while the girls didn’t write their own music, but rather make an excellent and convincing vehicle for a new spin on pop. Even after working with acts like Dragonforce rather than strictly their original composers – something relatively rare in the confusingly xenophobic J-Pop scene – Babymetal has a unified sound on their albums. They’ve done songs with rap sections and even touched lightly upon black metal with their latest effort. Though it can be easy to see a pop act like this as superficial, they’re wildly entertaining and refreshingly straightforward.
Colleen Green plays the TLA tonight, April 29th! The West Coast songwriter continues to tour in support of her album I Want to Grow Up, one of 2015’s best. She goes on at 7:30PM, so be sure to get there early. Continue reading “Concert Preview: Colleen Green at the TLA on 4/29/2016”