Brooklyn-based psych-folk project Olden Yolk, led by Shane Butler of Quilt and Caity Shaffer, haven’t been together for very long, and then only intermittently; a cursory search through their Bandcamp page shows a couple songs released in 2013, and a very haunting tribute to Butler’s mother released earlier this year. Their new track, “Takes One to Know One,” showcases a band that sounds, both musically and conceptually, mature beyond its years. It starts off with a loping, minor-key acoustic riff, backed by haunting strings, followed a driving backbeat and then Butler and Shaffer's circuitous vocal melody. As the song tumbles on over its eight-minute runtime, it takes on a hypnotic, trance-like quality, one that its accompanying music video—full of flashing stock images of old New York—captures perfectly.
"'Takes One to Know One' is a play on [a] phrase typically meant to assign blame through commonality," Butler and Shaffer said of the song. "Its use in the song is closer to an acceptance of our collective situation rather than a belittlement of it. It was written in our hometown of New York City--an iconic place whose icons (monuments, buildings, public art) are continually morphing and breaking down, shifting whatever former meaning had once been assigned to them. Some moments hit right when you feel like the 'writing's on the door.' The song, written during an especially jarring year of disillusionment, explores the process of finding solace in passing visages—a stranger's smile on the subway or the beauty of haphazard graffiti on a brick-laden wall. The song cycles around a group chant at the choruses. Its instrumentation is highly inspired by the percussion style of Jaki Liebezeit (of the German group CAN), a favorite of ours.”
Do Make Say Think are an instrumental post-rock group from Toronto, Canada whose music is defined by its weaving guitar lines and atmosphere of dread and exaltation. Now over 20 years old, the group recently released Stubborn Persistent Illusions, their first album in eight years. Ahead of their headlining show tomorrow Saturday, December 2nd at Murmrr Theatre, multi-instrumentalist Justin Small shared a playlist of what he described to us as “essential and influential non-post rock jams every post rock fan should hear.” Check it out below.
Self-described Brooklyn “funk-punk” group Operator Music Band create songs awash in layers of crescendoing synth and jagged guitar riffs, with sung-spoken lines and hypnotic, motorik drumming serving as an anchor to the songs’ grooves. The band’s first album, Puzzlephonics I & II–released earlier this year–served as a stunning introduction to their slightly off-kilter brand of funk; their new EP, Coördination, brings their synth experimentation and their sense of rhythm to the forefront. Lead single “Realistic Saturation” begins with the warm sound of a strummed guitar and an insistent drum beat (courtesy of Ava Luna’s Julian Fader), but a few seconds in, synths come in from every angle, and with a myriad of textures–washed out, bleep-bloopy, low and horn-like. “Communicator 4,” after riding a snare- and bass-based groove, switches it up halfway through the song for a faster, rhythmic synth trip. The five songs on the EP keep on hurtling forward until their too-short ends, the sound of a band that has the musical chops to ride a beat forever but the restraint to keep us wanting more.
A few months ago, AdHoc shared Honey Harper’s debut single, “Pharaoh.” The track—a slow-burn country tune that was ten years in the making—kicks off his debut EP, Universal Country, out now on Arbutus Records. Harper, aka London-based William Fussell, has a knack for carving out a wistful, nostalgic space within his lyrics and melodies. On the mournful “Secret,” Fussell seems like he’s one drawn-out syllable away from breaking into tears, singing, “How long must I belong to this?” The country-western “SOFR” chugs along with the help of a soft drumbeat and weeping pedal steel; one imagines the song wafting from a jukebox in a low-lit bar, everyone staring into their half-empty glasses. The songs draw the best out of the genre Harper chooses to constrain himself in: an art both immediate and indelible in its vivid evocations of longing.
Relatives are a New York and Providence-based folk-rock band whose slow-burn melodies and roundabout lyrics are equal parts playful, bookish, and melancholy. The duo—Katie Vogel and Ian Davis—started writing together in 2007, and their close kinship is evident in the strength of their songwriting.
Their new album, Weighed Down Fortune, is filled with songs that are spare in instrumentation yet feel lush and full. “Hope Springs” rides a bouncing beat and jumpy melody in service of puzzling, circuitous lyrics like “surely someday we’ll find that after all it was intended as such.” Perhaps the funkiest and most immediate song on the album, “Typee,” counters its danceable beat with cryptic lines like, “It’s an apocryphal world—we can’t keep scratching our noses but never stop the itching as such.”
Another track, “The Ambiguities” reminds me of Mount Eerie and Julie Dorion’s excellent 2008 collaboration Lost Wisdom, both in its intimate vocal harmonies and in the simultaneous sorrow and hope embedded in its lyrics. Davis says he drew inspiration for the song in “Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, a novel by Herman Melville about wealth, loss, sex, death, and angst." Melville’s novel and Weighed Down Fortune are alike in more ways than one: Both are oblique and evasive works that touch on romance, philosophy, writing, and family dynamics; but, in the end, a simple strength and beauty shines through.
Danny L Harle is an experimental pop musician intimately connected with the London-born PC Music label. As a producer, he crosses international borders, collaborating with artists from Asia, Europe and the US and creating a unifying, global pop sound in the process. His latest EP, 1UL, showcases his production skillset and inclinations: maximalist, sugar-sweet melodies with expressively pitched and edited vocals. Danny spoke to AdHoc about his music and his vision for the future of pop ahead of his Halloween show at Brooklyn Bazaar on Friday, October 27.
AdHoc: What are your thoughts on how PC Music has grown over the past four years, and where do you see it going?
Danny L Harle: There are always a lot of big exciting projects in the works, and that’s how we always operate. For me, the goal has always been to make music which is accessible, but is also deeply experimental in its heart and is an expression of things that I love. For example, releasing the Carly Rae Jepsen track is one of the pinnacles of what I’m setting out to achieve: it has its heart in the sort of trance music I love, and the kind of clarity of expression that I love. It’s just very exciting dealing with the pop industry, because there’s an open-endedness to everything.
There are various TV/film/game ideas that are always in the works. I’ve always loved kids’ TV, and I’ve always been into the fact that you can be completely experimental and kids basically don’t know what’s going on, especially under the age of three. I’m really into that, and I’m really into storylines of TV shows in that world—like the illogic of them [laughs]. That’s the kind of level that I’m at in terms of following narratives. I get it when there’s a funny monster that runs really far away then back to the front of the screen—like, very simple ideas. I’m into extremes of simplicity and I think kids are on that level as well. And really funny stuff, like the sort of thing that kids would find funny so it has to be really clear.
A long-range goal is sort of to infiltrate the world of pop music and push it over the brink of insanity. I like when pop delves into the realm of fantasy–I feel that pop music, and culture in general, points toward either reality or fantasy, and I really like that as an idea. I’d say pop at the moment is a reflection of post-EDM culture, which is like, “We’re done with the electronic stuff, let’s get real, with real sounds and with real people singing about real things,” but it’s a pendulum that swings from side to side, because of course this “real”-sounding music is just as fake as the EDM.
Ultimately, my heart lies in the more honestly fake-sounding music. I’ve been writing some Japanese pop music that’s coming out soon, and their aesthetics have been in that world for a long time. They can have a pop star like Hatsune Miku do a sold-out live show, and no one bats an eyelid. Whereas if she does a show in the UK, it’s presented as a more of an art [thing]. In Japan it’s just a live show from a pop star, even though she’s completely fake. I like that kind of pushing against reality, and it would be fun to push things more in that direction, both working with artists and with major label stuff as well.
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."
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.
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.