Ancient Ocean's music swells with gravity and delicacy, pummeling with subtlety. His upcoming release, Titan's Island, invokes the sublime vastness of the cosmic across its intimately otherworldly four tracks. It makes for gorgeous listening just as calming in the background as affecting in the foreground. The project's mastermind, J.R. Bohannon, spoke with AdHoc about composition and spaces, both familiar and extraterrestrial.
Let’s talk about your approach to composition. Do you start with a concept and build a sound and atmosphere around it? The opposite? Somewhere in between?
It generally changes. With this record, I actually spent a lot of time taking out layers from the compositions to open up the overall landscape. I spend a lot of time just tracking ideas and, over time, a complete vision starts to reveal itself—and thats what seems to make up a full album.
Brooklyn power-poppers Fits have been tearing up the scene for a couple years now, and for good reason–their loud, playful, DIY aesthetic is shaped as much by bandleader Nicholas Cummins' smart and pointed songwriting as it is the band's growing up around and playing in DIY spaces such as Shea Stadium and Silent Barn. The band–Cummins, Brian Orante, Emma Witmer (of gobbinjr), and Joe Galarraga (of Big Ups)–play to these songwriting chops, crafting each minute-long burst of Cummins' songs into something anthemic and cathartic. Their new song "Hot Topic," off their upcoming debut album All Belief is Paradise, starts off with a lazy guitar and languid vocals, a sound that betrays Cummins' lyrical barbs: "You would have not been pissed off if I stood behaved, but I frayed when I did 'cause I can't." The song grows louder as Cummins' voice grows more urgent, but then, after a pause, the song settles into a swooning instrumental groove through its end. It's the sort of song that, after its minute and a half is over, you'll probably repeat and repeat.
"This song is about losing your voice, getting caught in the throat, and missing an opportunity to stand up for yourself and who you are," said Cummins. "In that way it's about a failure, but it's also not an apology. National coming out day was last week and it reminded me of this ever-present pressure to describe, defend and explain your identity in really personal ways to complete strangers all the time. The personal is definitely political and all of us are intertwined but sometimes you don't want to be a narrative, you just want to be a person who's like, eating a bagel or playing Starcraft of going to the beach and stuff. Society can be exhausting and it can be really easy to forget that we're all individuals, with 8 billion gender presentations and 8 billion selves. You don't owe everyone all of your courage all of the time."
Vita and the Woolf is the pop project of Philadelphia-based musician Jennifer Pague. Before their show at Alphaville on October 19 with Queens of Jeans and Ritual Talk, Jen/Vita was gracious enough to share with AdHoc an epistolary photo essay of the band's trip to Paris that is part biography, part travelogue, and part personal history. The group's latest, TUNNELS, is out now.
Jennifer Pague: Hey there,
Two novelists, one romance. I write songs about the love relationship between Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf through the lens of my own life journey. If you enjoy cathartic break up songs, you might find this to be a grand place to park your mind for a bit.
Atlanta’s floral print make guitar pop full of hazy, woozy melodies and textures, but strained through razors: their songs are full of sputtering stops, false starts, and sudden detours. Take, for instance, the opening track of their new album mirror stages, called “sweepstakes life": the song begins with an bouncy guitar line and playful melody, but soon devolves into a squall of noise that leads into a mumbling piano ballad. The band–made up of singer/guitarist Nathan Springer, drummer Paul DeMerritt, and bassist Joshua Pittman–rotates through genres and styles almost naturally, a gift that belies their origins of meeting by chance through Facebook. “egg rites” alternates between an American Football-esque post-rock and overwhelming distortion. The title track, one of my favorites, is perhaps one of the most discordant ambient songs I’ve ever heard.
"mirror stages was recorded between March 2015 and October 2016,” said Nathan Springer. “The bulk of the album was recorded in two separate two day sessions at Broad Street Visitor's Center in Atlanta in the late summer of 2016. Graham Tavel recorded, produced, and mixed the album. These songs gestated much longer than the songs on our EP 'woo' and are a lot more varied in style. We were going through some weird stuff at the time, and consequently the tone of the album is a little darker than our previous recordings.”
mirror stages is out October 20 via Tiny Engines. Listen to the album below.
As AC/DC, once put it, “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock & roll.” Not so for Sheer Mag, the Philadelphia power-soul riff factory who propelled themselves from DIY basements to headlining venue tours in just a few years. They aren’t seeking a spot on the music industry summit—just a sustainable future where they exercise full control over the band and and its music, from top to bottom.
Their unwavering independence is clear, from their self-distributed albums, to their raucous self-booked tours. That ethos is consistent with the band’s message: be yourself, against all odds. Tracks like “Nobody’s Baby” and “Suffer Me” subvert the casual misogyny often found in riff rock, swapping it out for a strong sense of identity and open-mindedness. “Keep me out of your fantasy,” bellows front person Tina Halladay on the latter “Can you give me that one luxury?”
Over the phone from her Point Breeze, Philadelphia apartment, Halladay acknowledges the subversive nature of their lyrics. “People like rock & roll,” explains Halladay, “but it didn’t always come from the best place.” Their debut self-released full-length album—Need To Feel Your Love, out last June—is about taking the power back. “It’s really cool to see people sing along to ‘Nobody’s Baby’ like they would ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’” she says.
New York's Combo Chimbita are a self-described "cumbia-not-cumbia" four-piece. Their sound is heavily indebeted to the rhythms of the aforementioned Colombian dance, but, as bassist Prince of Queens tells me, the band sees their take as “left field” cumbia: "taking the essence, blending different styles, experimenting, and making it our own." The band—which includes vocalist and guacharaca player Carolina Oliveros, drummer Dilemastronauta, and guitarist Niño Lento—cut its teeth as a collective during a residency at Brooklyn venue Barbès. Tracked live to tape, their new LP, Abya Yala, showcases their style of tight yet extroverted "tropical futurism," with an generous energy that could only come from lifelong creative partnership and friendship.
AdHoc: How did you all meet and start playing music together?
Prince of Queens: We have been friends and played in different groups for over six years. I met Niño Lento at a Colombian percussion workshop in Queens eight years ago. He introduced me to Dilemastronauta and later on to Carolina Oliveros. Combo Chimbita started pretty spontaneously—we started doing a residency at Barbès in Brooklyn on Monday nights, where we would just improvise and jam back to back with DJs. On most nights, the venue was empty, and Carolina would come hang out. One day she brought her guacharaca and joined us. It just happened naturally. We started narrowing down the jams and writing songs.
William Patrick Corgan is the solo project of the legendary Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan. He recently graced the Murmrr Theatre stage for a two-night run on October 14 and 15, playing through debut album Oglala as well as selections from the Smashing Pumpkins’ celebrated catalog. Nick Karp was on hand to take photos; check them out below.
Transcontinental outfit Strobe Talbot released a few records in the early oughts, glitteringly honest stream-of-consciousness pop records with Half Japanese’s Jad Fair in the front. Straddling the globe, with Mick Hobbs (also of Half Japanese, as well as Officer!) based in London and percussionist Benb Gallaher in Portugal, the group has convened sporadically since their formation in 1999, drawn together by friendship and a pure love of creation and release. In their early records the trio cultivated a loose sound, with Fair’s optimistic ramblings gliding over sometimes straightforward, often surreal jams. Fifteen years after the release of their third full-length Let’s Born To Rock!, Strobe Talbot are offering Funland, aptly named: its 18 songs are transportive and enthusiastic, charting the sweetness and surreality of living in this world and being in love. Mixed by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, Funland marries the band’s familiar jangly post-punk instrumentation with stranger outpourings of sound—like human howling in the opening track to accompany the earnest declaration, “Good fine love is my intention!” Fair has a way of taking cliches and intoning them with sincerity, and here he stretches each to its limit convincingly.
In addition to being an instruction manual of sorts for anyone looking to relearn the feeling of being in love, Funland lets this strange and exciting feeling rub up against the equally strange and exciting feeling of being surrounded by monsters. Mid-record, the ominous untethered clang of bells and machinery underlies Strobe Talbot's introduction of "the evil of the monster" ("what it does is bad"), but the songs that follow are woozy love anthems and a manic free jazz ode to the heart. When Fair shouts, "This is ours, and our hearts are strong! A new day today and always," over rolling drums and the sweet twang of guitars, it's life-affirming, and the album ends in hoots and hollers and genuine laughter. Through the sprawl and blare of all these songs oozes a feeling of true belief in the supernatural power of love, a belief that seems only to have strengthened for Strobe Talbot after decades of collaboration.
Funland is out October 20 on Moone Records, featuring a hologram of Jad Fair's paper cut artwork etched into the vinyl itself. You can stream the album in full below.
As intimacy becomes radical, the sensible becomes sensuous. Lubricated by sweat and the moisture of breath, AsThe River At Its Source, Villads Klint's first outing on Jens Konrad Barrett and Hjalte Lehmann's Petrola 80 label, trembles with an erotics of sensation whose quivering quiddity—across domains of sight, touch, and sound—makes explicit the sensousness of affect. Constituted by its glaring aposiopesis—the unarticulated verb ought to disclose what the river does at its source—the EP by the Copenhagen-based Minais B attunes itself to the telluric contours of its sonic ecology in order to feel out its own action, its own doing.
In this aporia, this unspoken yet not mute space of inquiry, the record reaches out into intersubjectivity, through the flickering of whisper, the "swaying and singing" of sabulous sybilance that snickers and slithers as spittle that slips from lips to ears. In its atmospheric drool, its tingling and atomizing drip, the onslaught of ASMR kisses and shivers, the record writes over itself, stuttering into an acidulated palimpsest that sunders and splices itself anew. Like muscle, the sinews of Minais B's sonic reticula striate and strengthen into a tissue that binds, a tissue that seduces.
Nashville’s Sun Seeker make languid, woozy psychedelia with a country bent: ideal for a carefree, sun-soaked day. Their sound is heavily indebted to the city they call home, but ahead of their October 11 show at Union Pool, the group–Alex Benick, Asher Horton, Ben Parks, and Rodrigo Avendano–shared a few of their favorite songs from New York.
I listen to this song everyday when I lay out poolside, thinking back on homecoming dances and smoking weed for the first time. I don't think that's what this song is about but it makes me feel good.
Television - "Days"
Sun Seeker has covered this song a bunch of times. Television was probably one of the first rock bands I got into in middle school. Television and Lil Wayne.
Crumb - "Vinta"
I just got into Crumb in the last few months and you definitely should too. That's all that needs to be said.
Asher Horton (bass):
Lou Reed - "Dirty Blvd"
Quintessential New Yawkness! He had a pretty wild solo career but throughout each of his phases remained very "Lou". New York and The Bells are probably the two records I come back to the most.
Arthur Russell - "Love Is Overtaking Me"
A truly individual and inspired artist. He’s one of the rare musicians who managed to jump between most conceivable styles of music and do each one just as great as the last. His documentary “Wild Combination” is definitely worth searching out.
The 6ths - "Falling Out of Love (With You)"
I first heard this song in The Adventures of Pete and Pete! That show turned me on to so much great music. The 6ths were a side project of the Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merritt where he made the music and then got different singers for every song, which turned out to be a successful experiment in my book. This particular song features Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500 and Luna as well as some memorable lyrics about dwindling love and building synthesizers or something?
Ben Parks (drums):
Steely Dan - "Any Major Dude"
A true banger. RIP Walter Becker.
Margaret Glaspy - "No Matter Who"
I love the way this whole record sounds. Everything is super punchy but blends so well together, especially on this track. Great musicianship all around.
Paul Simon - "Run That Body Down"
This is a track off Paul Simon's first solo effort which is a favorite of mine. Featuring the great Hal Blaine on drums. Super breezy.
Rodrigo Avendano (keyboards):
Since I was young I've always had a distant fascination with life in New York City. One that largely lived in my imagination since what I knew about it was largely informed by television, magazines and history books. I now get to visit the city a few times a year, mostly on music related pursuits, so my experience with NYC is still a fairly supercifial one.
Madonna - "Vogue"
East coast version of Chicago house by the queen of NYC.
The Strokes - "Hard to Explain"
My first teenage wonderment of melancholy in the bib city.
ESG - "UFO"
Music from the Bronx that won't stop giving inspiration everywhere. One of the most sampled songs in history.