LVL UP’s Retirement Is Also a New Beginning for Dave Benton

LVL UP’s Retirement Is Also a New Beginning for Dave Benton Photo by Daniel Dorsa

Dave Benton is learning to walk away from what feels comfortable. For the Brooklyn-based songwriter, this means stepping out on his own with his new solo project Trace Mountains, and saying goodbye to the projects that led him to this point in the first place. Two years ago, Benton began the process by stepping down from indie beacon Double Double Whammy, the record label he co-founded in college. And in June of this year, LVL UP— the beloved DIY crew that Benton has been playing with since 2011 — announced their retirement with a final string of tour dates this fall.

Amidst all these changes, Benton was quietly working to release his first solo full-length as Trace Mountains. Self-released this March via Benton’s new label, Figure 2 RC, A Partner to Lean On puts a pastoral spin on the crunchy indie rock Benton honed with LVL UP. Bucolic images of “Rising water through the trees” and “Thunder trails under the mountain range” rise against the sound of pulsing drum machines, and Benton’s folksy, guitar-rooted arrangements oppose the record’s icy synths. The juxtaposition depicts an artist in transition, taking a personal leap of faith into new forms of songwriting.

We caught up with Dave ahead of his show this weekend to chat about his new work and the freedom he now experiences as Trace Mountains. Catch him supporting Corey Flood at Alphaville this Saturday, August 4 and listen to A Partner to Lean On, out now via Figure 2 RC.

How did Trace Mountains start for you?

You know Calvin Johnson’s band, The Hive Dwellers? My friend asked me to play this show with them, and I was just like, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” But I just started playing some of my earlier songs at that show. So the inception of the project was very spur-of-the-moment, with a friend just asking me to perform solo. It was a long time ago, though and [Trace Mountains] is pretty different now.

In past interviews, you’ve described Trace Mountains as a way for you to tread in more vulnerable territory. Do you still feel that way now?

Yeah, ideally. I guess it can be hard sometimes to not have things be veiled, lyrically. But yeah, that’s still what I’m going for with my words, at least. 

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Get Lost in Shmu’s “Alien Switchboard Temple”

Get Lost in Shmu’s “Alien Switchboard Temple” Photography by Ben Aqua

The visuals for Shmu’s “Your Favorite God” are either celestial or apocalyptic, depending on your point of view. At the start of the hypnotic electronic cut, you’re greeted by the Austin-based electro-noise artist’s bearded, disembodied head, singing along as it floats above a red-and-green checkerboard. Columns supporting some sort of temple float by, as well as an advertisement for throwback kids' toy Rainbow Art, beckoning you to "Dip! Dab! Draw!" 

Thanks to the video’s 360-degree component, you’re “a co-creator in the journey beyond beyond itself itself” according to the video’s creator, Lionel Williams, of Los Angeles neo-psychedelic band Vinyl Williams. You, the viewer, have the ability to pivot and swivel, with the options to look down upon a video of Shmu playing the drums or to turn your back on his sunglasses-clad face to take in a series of detailed set pieces that take shape and disappear as the song picks up steam. The further you progress into Shmu’s digital plane, the more distorted and psychedelic the visuals become, until you’re surrounded by floating orbs and a color scheme reminiscent of the final chaotic (and ultimately blissful) minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“The lyric, ‘Your Favorite God is calling you back, right on time,’ could be interpreted as a metaphor for the higher self,” Shmu told AdHoc. “There are many metaphysical spiritual philosophies that share the belief that each individual has their own higher self that guides us where we need to go & always is there ‘right on time.’” “Your Favorite God” appears on Shmu’s third full-length, Lead Me To The Glow, which is out September 28 via GTZ Records.


Photo Gallery: Denzel Curry at Market Hotel

Photo Gallery: Denzel Curry at Market Hotel Photo by Nick Karp

Denzel Curry took over Market Hotel this past Friday to celebrate the release of his new three-act album, TA1300. The riotous crowd joined in with every lyric and collectively maintained the colossal energy to the end. Throughout the night, Curry was joined by special guests Kid Trunks, ZillaKami, JPEGMAFIA, and Flatbush ZombiesNick Karp was there to capture the scene, gathering mops of sweat on his camera along the way. Check out the chaos below.

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Femme Fridays: Judy Collins’ “Anathea” Spins Sorrow into Silk

Femme Fridays: Judy Collins’ “Anathea” Spins Sorrow into Silk

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we look at a glistening performance by singer-songwriter Judy Collins, recorded at the legendary Newport Folk Festival on this day in 1963.

On stage, Judy Collins seems almost unearthly, her golden voice sprawling toward the heavens. Hers is a tranquility that seems to sit at the core of her being, as Collins was devoted to manifesting peace as a social activist. Protest and advocacy aside, this should still come as no surprise. Her luminous voice floats unfettered into our hearts, channeling the same serenity she sought to bring to the world.

In this rare footage, we see a young Collins performing an enchanting rendition of a classic folk song, “Anathea.” Its verses tell a story of sorrow and abuse: Anathea’s brother is sent to prison and she sets out to free him. She offers the judge gold and silver, to which he demands that she offer her body to him instead. Desperate to save her brother, she agrees to pay the ultimate price—only to hear her brother has been hanged by the judge nonetheless. Collins’ gentle soprano holds out in a lament, turning this harrowing story into something beautiful.


Tanukichan Can Rebuild Your Home and Soundtrack Your Dreams

Tanukichan Can Rebuild Your Home and Soundtrack Your Dreams Photo by Jacob Romero

Tanuki are charming beings. Otherwise known as Japanese racoon dogs, these foxlike canines have been the subject of Japanese myths and folklore for centuries. Often depicted as magical shapeshifters and carousing little tricksters, Tanuki are easy to love: so much so, that Hannah van Loon decided to name her solo-project after them.

“They’re super fun,” she tells me over the phone. “[A tanuki] is always down to party, and has these really big balls,” she says, laughing. This lightheartedness makes its way into her music: Tanukichan delivers gentle melodies that lull her listeners into a carefree reverie.

On her debut full-length, Sundays, the Oakland-based songwriter luxuriates in this dreamy mood. Co-written and produced by shoegaze mastermind Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi, the record largely feels like taking a sun-drenched nap in a field of daisies, with Hannah’s voice flowing over you like a soft breeze. But sometimes, Sundays’ sleepiness feels restless—like on “Hunned Bandz,” where grungy, distorted guitars soak the track and cloud her vocals, adding a note of uncertainty to her indiscernible lyrics.

We connected with Hannah to talk more about this emotional ambiguity, her unexpected side hustle as a carpenter, and her penchant for lyrical simplicity. Catch Tanukichan this Friday, July 27 at Union Pool, with support by Airhead DC.

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Femme Fridays: Kim Gordon Is More Than Some “Kool Thing”

Femme Fridays: Kim Gordon Is More Than Some “Kool Thing” Photography by By jaswooduk [CC BY 2.0]

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we’re featuring Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, whose incisive album, Dirty, was released this week in 1992.

“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”

It was a question that followed Kim Gordon everywhere. Stunning in its ignorance, it’s the kind of inquiry that seems to answer itself: To be a girl in a band is to be immediately Othered.

Gordon, at first, “never really thought about it,” she admitted in her 2015 memoir, Girl In a Band. But as her work with ‘90s rock outfit Sonic Youth developed, the vocalist and bassist would answer this question with her rebellious performances. On Dirty, released this week in 1992, Gordon would dedicate the song “Swimsuit Issue” to exposing sexual harassment. “Don’t touch my breast, I’m just working at my desk,” she fiercely insists early on the track. Much of her work with Sonic Youth would feel similarly confrontational, her snarling voice and raging lyrics acting as feminist manifestos in themselves.

Just over a week after the release of Dirty, Gordon would put these frustrations on show at a live MTV studio recording, captured in the video below. It’s an amazing clip; on “Kool Thing,” we see Gordon grabbing the mic and growling through the lyrics: “I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me? / I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls / From male white corporate oppression?”

Originally written in response to an uncomfortable 1989 interview Gordon conducted with rapper LL Cool J, “Kool Thing,” like many of Gordon’s songs, can be read in a variety of ways. On the one hand, her lyrics mock LL Cool J: “Kool Thing let me play it with your radio / Move me, turn me on, baby-o,” mimicking his sexist comments during the interview. But one might also read these lyrics as self-mocking. Essayist Elissa Schappell suggests that Gordon’s ranting is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of her own relative privilege as a white woman:

"Kool Thing’ is more than Kim’s assault on LL Cool J’s ego, but a self-mocking jibe at her own liberal politics. The sarcasm in her voice when she addresses ‘Kool Thing’ in the breakdown is self-mocking— the female voice inflated by privilege and naïveté."

Whatever her intentions may have been, Gordon was never afraid to be blunt. To anyone who expected otherwise: I don’t think so.

Jerry Paper Will Die in LA, if He Has Anything To Do With It

Jerry Paper Will Die in LA, if He Has Anything To Do With It Photography by Monika Mogi

Jerry Paper is one of the most lovable weirdo-pop entities in music. Toying with existential themes and ego dissolution, mastermind Lucas Nathan crafts uncanny, captivating tunes informed by muzak, lounge music, and bossa nova. Onstage, he transfixes audiences with gyrating movements that flow under his signature silk robe.

This fall, Nathan will release Like a Baby, his first full-length for Stones Throw Records. It’s his most approachable work to date, while never sacrificing the surrealism that makes his music so bizarrely satiating. We chatted about the transportive video for “Your Cocoon,” collaborating with Weyes Blood, and escaping New York City’s oppressiveness for his native Los Angeles.

AdHoc: Let’s start with this video for “Your Cocoon.” How did you get involved with animator Steve Smith?

Lucas Nathan: I met him when I moved to LA a few years ago. He was neighbors with the comedian Jay Weingarten. I’ve been collaborating for years with my friend Cole Kush who lives in Canada. Cole and Jay had been doing some stuff, and I was about to move to LA, so apparently Cole told Jay, Jay was neighbors with Steve, and we ended up getting together and collaborating. Steve is a genius. He’s just a really good animator. I love him.

Is that an actual 3D model of your head in the video?

The head came from another project that involved scanning my head. We went to this place where they scan all sorts of stuff. You go into a cube made up of very fancy cameras. It’s something like 250 cameras that are all rigged to take a picture at the exact same time. So you just get an insanely hi-res version of your head. I am very happy with what Steve did.

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AdHoc Seeks Events and Editorial Interns For Fall 2018

AdHoc Seeks Events and Editorial Interns For Fall 2018

AdHoc is seeking both events and editorial interns to work in our Brooklyn office. All candidates must live in the New York area and be available 12-20 hours per week starting mid-August and ending in mid-December.

Editorial internship tasks include assisting with copy-editing, fact-checking, research, CMS, social media, conducting artist interviews, writing contribution, and zine distribution. 

Event internship tasks include ticket counts, social media management, handling music submissions, fact-checking, using Photoshop/video editing software, building marketing plans, zine distribution, and, after some training, show booking. You should have excellent research skills, a laptop, and familiarity with the local music scene. The ability to gain school credit for the internship is strongly preferred but not required.

For consideration, please specify which internship you'd like to apply for in your cover letter, and submit your resume, 2 writing samples, and a list of your top 5 albums and tracks of 2018 (so far) in an email to with the subject line “FALL INTERNSHIP 2018″ by Friday, August 3rd.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Femme Fridays: Looking Closely with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner”

Femme Fridays: Looking Closely with Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” Photo: A&M Records

Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work and talent of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we’re looking at Suzanne Vega’s classic hit, “Tom’s Diner,” in honor of the songstress’s 59th birthday this week.

Some melodies just never seem to disappear. They weave into our collective memory without notice, surreptitious and enduring, until it seems like they have been rooted in us all along. Beloved folk-pop singer Suzanne Vega is author to one such melody: 1989’s “Tom’s Diner,” an expository tune where she details a rainy morning at a Brooklyn cafe. Nearly 40 years have passed since it was written, yet its simple, a cappella arrangement feels more charming than ever.

Vega's voice is a gentle reprieve from a world inundated with noise and confusion. It is grounding. “I am sitting /In the morning /At the diner /On the corner,” she begins. No frills, no feelings—just the close-mic’d cadence of soft vocals and quiet intakes of breath. Look around, Vega seems to ask us. She does plenty of it herself, detailing her morning newspaper and taking in the movements of people at the diner: “There’s a woman / On the outside / Looking inside / Does she see me?”

Vega’s lyricism has sometimes been noted for its detached, or even clinical, perspectives— but with her tender voice and smooth melodies, I’d argue that she expertly turns the mundane into pop fodder. It’s telling, too, that this seemingly dry track would eventually be used by mathematician and electrical engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg as a marker of “warmth” when developing the MP3 in the early ‘90s. Vega’s was not a world of cold observation—the careful curiosities of any woman can glow, too, if only you listen closely.

The Vandelles Made a Song About Rude People on the Internet

The Vandelles Made a Song About Rude People on the Internet Photography by Jasno Swarez

Look what the tide brought in: Brooklyn Hula-rockers The Vandelles are back after a four-year hiatus, and just in time for summer. Their new single, “Techromancer,” pumps with wet guitar licks and throbbing basslines. Feedback drenches the start of the track, peaking and crashing away once vocalist Jasno Swarez enters the scene. “I’d rather be dead than you,” he sings on the song’s hook, “I’d rather be black and blue / I’ll greet the darkness when it comes.” This fury is influenced by the least beachy of sources: the Internet.

“Techromancer” points a finger at a world “obsessed with technology,” Swarez told AdHoc over email. It’s part of what he calls “the power of anonymous anger on the internet.” “I think everyone has had people say terrible things to them online—the chorus of “Techromancer” is me expressing my frustration with that,” he said.

Hear it for yourself below, and be sure to catch The Vandelles tonight July 13 at Mercury Lounge with Ume.