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.
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.
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.
The video for “Enter Shimmer” begins in silence. Snow covers the ground of a nondescript sidewalk. It covers the cars; it piles up on the curb and the foot of the building. Light snow falls across the screen, but otherwise the scene might as well be a still frame. Soon, though, you start to notice that a figure has been walking, slowly, from the edge of the horizon toward you, wearing an oversized white hat and a dress. Forty seconds in, a loud, dissonant guitar riff begins to play. The white snow is still falling, but the mood has changed into something far more agitated. The camera pans around the white-hatted figure and we follow them around the corner, into a side door, and up a dark staircase. The music becomes even more urgent, and erupts into a pinched scream. For a moment, it's uncertain where the figure is heading. Then, red curtains appear, and a microphone, and the figure takes the stage, screaming and stomping before an invisible audience.
Ani Ivry-Block, Shimmer’s leader and singer, has crafted ten such videos, each singularly esoteric, one for every song on her band’s album. They are, by turns, unsettling, strange, exhilarating, arousing, funny, and terrifying. “Crystal Listerine” stumbles around in fits and starts of jagged guitar and hushed singing, but the video–which features a brightly-lit figure silhouetted behind a white sheet–provides a ghostly juxtaposition. The clip for “Let Em Know” showcases a homemade-looking, rotating wooden stage set up in someone’s backyard, one that Ivry-Block jumps around on while wearing a sleep mask and space blanket. You can almost imagine someone driving past, wondering what the hell is going on.
“These videos were made over the course of ten months from October 2017 to July 2017,” says Ivry-Block. “The videos couldn't have been made possible without the help from my friend Jonah Peterschild, the man behind the camera for the majority of the shots. Get ready for visual album number two, coming out mid 2018!"
Music fanatics express their devotion in myriad ways. Some travel the country, carving a path in a band’s shadow; some join fan clubs, form cover bands, or get tattoos. But the New York-based group Object Collection spun their obsession with Fugazi into something far more idiosyncratic, distilling sounds from Fugazi’s extensive live archive—guitar noodling, audience noise, and stage banter—into a challenging, cacophonous, 100-minute “opera-in-suspension.” It's calledIt’s All True, and the live performance is something to behold: big lamps, balloons, and jerky, improvised choreography all work together in service of preserving Fugazi’s ethos and aura.
Stage renditions of It's All True will be performed on an upcoming tour, but leading up to that, Slip is releasing an album version on October 6. It's a pretty a disorienting listen: Opener “Introduction” and its soundcheck-esque guitar and drum noise could, theoretically, be the intro for any live album, but this familiarity is upended at the beginning of the next track, when a voice inexplicably screams out, “It could be so much fucking fun!” The rest of the the tracks follow this tumultuous pattern, with the indelible voices occasionally bleeding through, most notably Guy Piciotto’s infamous dealing with a heckler: “Ice cream-eating motherfucker…that’s what you are…” the snippet is surrounded with clanging noise, and makes his out-of-context rant all the more striking.
“All of us were both blown away and disoriented by the work—it was well beyond anything we had anticipated when agreeing to Travis’ early request,” Fugazi’s Guy Piciotto said in a statement to Object Collection. “We feel moved by Object Collection’s engagement with our archive material and salute everyone involved for their hard work and patience and for wrestling with such integrity with our sounds and words.”
Politics will forever be tied to the musical landscape, but the age of Trump has especially provoked artists to respond in kind and in force. The author Dave Eggers, for example, launched his “30 Songs, 30 Days” playlist, featuring original work from the likes of Patti Smith, U2, and Tracy Chapman, in order to “combat apathy, entertain the citizenry, and provide a soundtrack to resistance.” Other artists have framed their music specifically within this politically charged year: “FDT”, Fiona Apple’s “Tiny Hands”. The urge for musicians to frame this moment and provide its theme song is strong, and there is no shortage of material for artists to use to write these songs.
However, Alex Tebeleff, the songwriter of Paperhaus, drew his initial inspiration for the band’s new song, “Told You What To Say,” not from 2016, but from the 1980s. “[The lyrics] were inspired by a trip to Colombia and learning about the history of the war there,” says Tebeleff. “It’s also a reflection on my Jewish background and my life-long interest in the history of European fascism and its legacy in the world today, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Musically, the song rides a wavering synth line and an insistent snare—as the track goes on, it becomes louder, more urgent; the instrumentation explodes at the end, not content to let the song’s message of antifascism and its difficulties play out as a whisper. “The second verse,” Tebeleff admits, “does describe a scene similar to and partially inspired by the emotionally toxic rallies during the presidential campaign." The song’s tracing a line through different eras of fascism and conflict is its strength: events transpiring now have their origins and parallels in the past, and to connect them is to begin to understand how and why they hold such a grip on the human zeitgeist today. As Mark Twain more succinctly put it: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
“Anything For You,” the new track from Brooklyn mainstays Zula, is a swirling collage of chiming guitars, atmospheric violin, twinkling piano, and an airy, circuitous vocal melody, glued together with a driving backbeat. The band, led by cousins Nate and Henry Terepka, have always excelled at the sort of grooves that get you out of your seat and on your feet, but this track sees the group tightening their sound into a mesmerizing and hook-laden four minutes. Lyrically, the song feels like an omen, a warning about the dangers of leaving privilege and power unchecked: “Could it happen to you if you police the ones that you love?”
"'Anything For You' combines a bunch of elements that we really love as a band: a breakbeat shuffle, a reflective headspace, and an intensified feeling of desperation or running in place,” says Henry Terepka. “The song’s syncopated rhythm developed out of a jam with bassist Noga Shefi in Fall 2014. The lyrics were inspired by white-male domination as embodied, experienced, and witnessed in private homes, on college campuses, and in seats of power.”
“Hannah Epperson's violin playing,” he continues, “brought the end of the track to life with an improvised atmospheric performance, extending the yearning sentiment of the song to panoramic dimensions. For us, 'Anything For You' is one of the more melancholy, intimate, earthy songs on the EP.”