Some of the best writers are the laconic ones, the ones who sculpt with sparsity, whose instruments imbricate themselves just as deeply into silence as they do into sound. On In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower, quietly released earlier this year on Houston's Sutra label, Barry Elkanick of Chalk plays, sings, and composes with a concise conviction, a muted and minimalist virtuosity. The cassette, barely over 20 minutes and decidedly sparse, feels infinitely spacious as its seven tracks yawn and stretch and palpitate into each other. From the chamber of lush guitar strumming of "Harmony in Red" to the plush synth territories mapped out by "Plateau," Chalk inscribes hollow spaces where resonating instruments and Elkanick's muffled vocals alike accrete into a sonic terrain as milky and commodious as his visual work. When Elkanick delivers the hooking question-chorus of "Dark Seam," the unintelligibility of his words colors the haptic indeterminacy of the record's landscape itself: it's impossible to tell whether Elkanick is talking about a "dark seam," a "dark scene," or a "dark seem." On the track, seeming becomes a scene becomes a seam that swathes sign and sound and silence into a space of pure feeling. For a record whose coy title warps that of Proust's second volume of his enormous opus InSearch of Lost Time, In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower condenses the bourgeouis loquacity of one of modernism's foremost belletrists into something more tactile in its immediacy, something dry of excess yet impossibly sticky—something that coats the hands. Like chalk, perhaps.
Find the remaining cassettes of the limited release here, and stream the record in full below.
How to Slip Away is a strange, sparse collection of music from Brooklyn-via-Vermont musician Zach Phillips. On "Fucking Up," perhaps the track most emblematic of the delightful quirkiness of the record, Phillips enlists friend and one-time Jib Kidder collaborator Sean Schuster-Craig for a ditty whose rushed, atonal monophonic guitar does sound—after all—a little fucked up. Its an oddball assemblage of fucking up, replete with kinky chord stylings and abrupt starts, stops, and hiccups along its minute-and-a-half runtime. At points a polemic against everything from mosquitos to superheroes, a very brief history of fucking up, and an autobiography of Phillips' experiences with fucking up, "Fucking Up" never really finds a center—or even a destination. Which is to say, it can't stop fucking up. The off-kilter track, despite its falterings and bizarre structure, is wonderful, an addictive bright spot in Phillips' goofy yet endearing How to Slip Away. If the goal was to make a bad song through confusion and profanity, Phillips and company fucked up big time.
Don't shelve The Vacant Lots in a vintage store. The New York two piece's music might sound nostalgic, but their punk energy and musicianship is anything but stale. On their second LP Endless Night, the group channels the spirit of influences like Suicide (whose late frontman Alan Vega's unmistakeable vocals feature on closing track, "Suicide Note") while traveling into untapped sonic territory with custom effect pedals and distinct arrangements. Ahead of their improvisatory live show June 30 at Sunnyvale, Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen caught up with AdHoc to talk Alan Vega, sonic tradition, and staying punk in 2017.
AdHoc: You collaborated with Alan Vega of Suicide recently. How was it working with such an iconic musician?
JARED ARTAUD: There are few people you meet in this world that change your life forever. Alan was doubtlessly one of them for me. Here he was in his 70s working at his art every day. Writing, drawing, painting, singing, recording. He was an unstoppable force. It was infinitely inspiring working with him. No matter what medium he used, his filter and vision would shine through: for instance, you could see the force and violence and spontaneity in his drawings that reminded me of his singing and performance style. Just spending time together and talking about music and art will always be some of the most lasting and memorable experiences of my life. There was something egoless and selfless about Alan that I found refreshing. He remained true to his art until the very end.
I was actually one of the last people to see him before he died. I went over to his apartment in Manhattan to listen to Endless Night together since he was planning on writing lyrics and singing on "Suicide Note." He wouldn’t talk about himself unless you asked him to. He would always ask you how you were feeling and would always ask you about your life. His support and mentorship really was powerful. Seeing Alan’s process firsthand and experiencing the way he executed his art really was something else. I got to work with him and co-produce his final album IT, and it’s an incredible record. However, it’s a shame that someone has to die before they get some of the kind of recognition they rightly deserve.
Everything about "Catching an L" is oversaturated. From the overexposed colors that bleed in and out of the dizzying video to the meandering horn that blares over a whirlwind drum performance, the first song off Greg Fox's upcoming full-length The Gradual Progression projects a sonic and visual landscape as engaging as it is overwhelming. The result is, quite literally, a trip: the video depicts a 4-wheeler excursion across a rocky apline landscape, and the track doesn't sound much different. Synths jab, cymbals shriek, and unidentifiable sounds shiver in and out of the frame as a loungy horn skronk seems to conduct the assemblage.
It's an enthralling, overstimulating peek into Greg Fox's world, an ever-expanding cosmos soon to be slipping into free jazz and black metal on the upcoming Ex Eye album, a collaboration with saxophonist Colin Stetson. With its honk and propulsion, "Catching an L" forecasts both the freewheeling experimentation of Greg Fox's solo work and the abstract heaviness of Ex Eye. It's a colorful and hallucinatory transmission from one of experimental music's foremost technicians.
Catch Greg Fox play with Ex Eye at Saint Vitus August 8 for one of the jazzy metal four-piece's first shows ever, and be sure to prepare by listening to the groups self-titled debut, out now on Relapse.
Princess Nokia flexes on "G.O.A.T." And she deserves it, too: coming off the explosive 1992 mixtape and riding high on a worldwide fanbase cemented by a blistering world tour, the New York rapper has earned a ride on her own coattails. And if the accompanying video for "G.O.A.T.," Destiny Frasqueri's first track since 1992, is any indication, Princess Nokia is enjoying her life at the top. Lounging on the three-wheel Polaris Slingshot as comfortably as she luxuriates over Wally West's icy throne of a beat, Frasqueri issues one-liners like edicts from a gold-bedecked (and gold-betoothed) monarch. Clad in "skinny jeans and a studded belt," Princess Nokia reminds us that she's become "that weird girl that's running shit."
When she stares at the camera and declares that she "changed rap forever, man," it's no coincidence that she includes the word "man." Eyes directed at the male-dominated, patriarchal industry, Frasqueri sets her sights on label bosses and other suits that stifle and marginalize femme voices, and brandishes normative signifiers of both masculinity and femininity to explode them both. Atop the rubble s(p)its Princess Nokia, festooned with a Yankees Cap and Air Force 1s.
Kill Alters slithers. On "Ego Swim," a cut from their upcoming record No Self Helps via Hausu Mountain, the Brooklyn three-piece shapeshifts across sounds and signifiers, swimming atop squealing synths and slippery drums. As Bonnie Baxter's voice curdles over drummer Hisham Bharoocha's contorting rhythms, Kill Alters tickles the ossified limitations of genre: the hyphenation undergirding the category of noise-rock denatures into tildenation as the tilde (~) seems to wriggle out of the stability of the hyphen (-). Noise-rock, on "Ego Swim," becomes noise~rock—and the relationships between genres get a little trickier, a little more devious. The video that accompanies the bleating track captures the shameless instability at play on "Ego Swim." Fragments of images overlap, converse, and dissolve, depicting decontextualized neon signs, abandoned buildings, and big masks—sometimes all at once. Perhaps the most disturbing splices are the most resonant with the sonics of the track: footage of what appears to be Bonnie Baxter faceswapped with different people and things haunts the video and casts and eerie unrecognizability on the face of the song itself. Disfigured by these ill-fitting faces—from that of a pig to one smeared with makeup—Bonnie Baxter becomes an emblem of the song itself, less uncharacterizable as it is liminal, polymorphous. In its tortorous fluidity, "Ego Swim" isn't a dip into a kiddie pool but a nosedive into a whirlpool.
On Tuesday June 6, Elysia Crampton, Moor Mother, and Total Freedom joined forces to play an incredible series of noisy sets—as haunting as they were moving. Erez Avissar was there to capture the aura of the wonderful night.
Prickly and polyrhythmic, Palm's "Shadow Expert" bristles and clangs. On the second track off their eponymous EP and upcoming Carpark debut, the Philadelphia-based four piece tumble even deeper into their bizarro corner of mathy art rock. Its ersatz drum patterns and guitar spikes interlocked in an unstable, impossibly complex lattice, the song seems buoyed only by Eve Albert's airy vocals. It's sharply effervescent and charmingly evanescent.
Before the band's June 23 release show with Palberta, Palm shared an expansive playlist with personal commentary for each track. Parse Palm's vast range of inspiration, from DJ Rashad to Broadcast, below a stream of "Shadow Expert."
Julien Bracht and Markus Nikolaus of Lea Porcelain wield massive sounds, from grandstanding synth melodies to explosive drum beats. Exploding across Europe, the duo has—through highly sought-after live performances and a few tracks on Spotify—already amassed a dedicated following ensorceled by their huge tracks. Snippets into their enormous and expanding world, glowing synth-heavy tracks from "A Year From Here" to "Bones" possess an ecstatic grandiosity that flex Markus' sweeping vocals and Julien's tingly compositions. In anticipation of their upcoming release Hymns to the Night, AdHoc caught Julien and Markus to discuss their process, their backgrounds, and their plans—plans nearly as colossal as their music. Read the interview and get swallowed up in the heady expansiveness of Lea Porcelain, a sumptuous universe unto itself.
Could you speak to the story behind the new record? What kind of narrative does it create?
Markus Nikolaus: The album creates the narrative of a journey. It makes you wander through certain moods and it will start to paint a picture in your mind. Rrom beginning to end, you will be left with various narratives: one of the uprising, the rebellious, the roadtripping, the adventurous, the naughty, the melancholic, the sad and the lonely in addition to one of the hopeful, the cheerful, the uplifting, the positive and the optimistic view that this life, no matter how hard, is worth living under any circumstance—because everything is an experience worth living and there is no negative or positive. Everything is in balance, and there are just experiences to be made—and that is what our album is: an experience one has to make.
What were you thinking about when going into record the full-length?
Markus: We didn't think at all. We just started writing to escape the projects we were in by the time. The idea was very simple. Free approach, no pressure, a lot of vine and no borders. That's it! And as we started, we felt how much fun it was and we just kept writing and writing for weeks and months until we realized that we had really created something here. Then we quit everything else and just concentrated on Lea Porcelain.
Under the banner of the Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air), Julian Koster has assembled an unprecedented mixed-medium project consisting of a beloved podcast and zany live show featuring Koster's orchestral indie pop groupThe Music Tapes and narrated from the perspective of an imaginative janitor of the Eiffel Tower. A member of the ersatz Elephant Six collective, creator Koster has performed with Neutral Milk Hotel and Black Swan Network in addition to releasing music under his own name. Before his orbiting troupe touches down in Brooklyn Bazaar June 4, AdHoc caught the multi-talented Koster for a glimpse into his giddy world.
AdHoc: We’re really excited for the show—it’s pretty unlike anything we’ve hosted before. Could you tell us a little about the story behind the podcast?
Julian Koster: Sure, in the podcast, a janitor of the Eiffel Tower is our hero—if you can use that word in relation to him. But you don’t need to know a thing about the podcast or ever have heard it to see the live show—it’s kind of a show in its own right, designed for someone who’s just walking in the door.
And in that show, the janitor is actually hired to clean that night’s venue, so the janitor’s been hired to clean the Brooklyn Bazaar, and he’s there alone, in the middle of the night, cleaning—or trying to clean—or cleaning badly. And he’s imagining the stage that’s there and [that] the lights are there, and he’s imagining putting on a show he’s done all his life since he was a kid. He’s imagining an audience, and that’s you. And so, when you walk in the door, you’re walking into the Brooklyn Bazaar all empty, being cleaned and worked on, and you’re in his imagination. So it’s almost sort of like walking into a circus in a janitor’s imagination in the middle of the night and none of it’s actually happening—but it is happening, all over the Brooklyn Bazaar.