As bonecrushing as it is beautiful, Ian Chang's music tremors with pure percussivity. On Spiritual Leader, his debut solo EP, Chang employs groundbreaking Sunhouse Sensory Percussion to bring a distinct physicality to beat-based music: what bangs throughout the record are splices of sound collected by Chang and played—virtuosically—on his hi-tech setup. Before Ian Chang unleashes his explosive live set September 27 at Baby's All Right, he took a moment to speak to AdHoc about musical geographies of taste and his innovative process.
Spiritual Leader is your first release as a solo artist, but, in addition to this project, you play in Landlady, Son Lux, and moonlight in other bands. How do you approach these projects compared to this new solo material?
For me, making music with others is a form of empathy, while playing solo is more of an introspective meditation. Collaboration has always come very naturally to me. I love inhabiting and contributing to other peoples' artistic visions. Embarking on a solo project has been a great challenge. I haven't made any music of my own since high school. The thing that I couldn't find was a good seed—a central concept from which everything could grow and flourish naturally. With this EP, I have found a seed, and, hopefully, with the right attention, it can grow nicely from here.
Madeline Kenney loves to move. In the most literal sense, she’s talking about her Oakland home: “I don’t know if I can pay expensive rent just to be touring all the time,” she tells AdHoc over email, ahead of her headlining set at Trans-Pecos. But getting to this point in her life–California, touring musician–took a lot of moving, both physically and figuratively. Tracing the winding path of Kenney’s life reveals frequent and seemingly random detours: she’s studied neurobiology and has had a nearly decade-long career as a baker before focusing her energy as a musician.
Kenney’s endless curiosity and wandering spirit, though, shows itself in full force through her music. Her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, is full of musical and lyrical detours–the cascading melody of “Always” seems to be searching for answers; the twinkling piano provides a guide. On several songs, Kenney loops her voice into a round, with each part singing the same mantra: “Don’t you worry about a thing.” With each piece of her musical puzzle, Kenney contends with her place in the universe, and the simultaneous excitement and uncertainty of innumerable possibilities.
AdHoc: I wanted to talk about your approach to composition. Your music, to me, is kaleidoscopic, meandering, searching; you layer sounds–fingerpicked guitar, harmonized vocals, steady drums–that create an almost ethereal space. You wrote, arranged, and tracked every song on the album–what’s your thought process when you begin to write a song, and when arranging it?
Madeline Kenney: Wow, thanks for such a thoughtful and kind description of my sound! Sometimes songs come together from a melodic idea on guitar or on my loop pedal, but more often than not I come up with melodies when I'm nowhere near an instrument. Then I have to do the work to put music to the lyrics or melody I've come up with. As far as arranging and layering sounds, I think that comes from hearing many melodies at once and wanting to squeeze everything in.
First impressions are often simple ones: how can a passing glance reveal one's full complexity? Honey Harper’s debut, “Pharaoh”–his very first release–is an exception to the rule. The loping country tune shimmers and shines as it leads the listener through a nostalgic, reverb-soaked vocal melody and a beautiful pedal steel riff. It feels carefully constructed, with each detail adding to its slow beauty. “The song kept re-appearing in different forms at different times,” says Honey Harper. “The lyrics were written in 2008, the melody was written in 2014, [and] it was completed in 2017.” Kudos to Honey Harper–perhaps the best things are nearly a decade in the making.
On Monday, Mount Eerie—aka Phil Elverum—graced Murmrr Theater's stage for the first of two nights, playing songs from his latest record, the singularly sparse and haunting A Crow Looked At Me. The ever-gracious Nick Karp was on hand to take photos—check them out below.
Beverly makes indie rock lucid in all senses of the word—from their ebullient guitar work, to their limpid lyricism, to the hyperrealist art adorning The Blue Swell, their latest record for Kanine. Distilling the sounds of their forebears—including My Bloody Valentine and The Breeders—and the thrum of the New York scene, the Brooklyn-based rockers concoct a radiant mélange of melody and reverb. Ahead of the band's show September 12 at The Park Church Co-op, vocalist and guitarist Drew Citron spoke with AdHoc about the interconnected processes of sound engineering and live performance, as well as the role of the artist in this time of crisis.
AdHoc: You’ve been a band for about three years now. In that time, Beverly has gone through a lot of changes, including parting ways with Frankie Rose and gaining Scott Rosenthal. Do you feel like you have a firm grasp on what music and art you want to make through Beverly? How has that changed or stayed the same over time?
Drew Citron: Yeah, I mean I have always had a pretty firm grasp on the music because 90% of the songs are written by me. So in that sense, it's stayed the same. If anything, the direction of the band has become more focused over time, as I've gotten more confident with writing, singing, recording and performing.
Seattle band Versing makes woozy and crackling power pop, ever so slightly askew. The group's members—Daniel Salas, Graham Baker, Kirby Lochner, and Max Keyes—met and collaborated at the University of Puget Sound’s KUPS radio station, and you can hear the world of college radio in Versing’s sundry songs. Together, the band synthesizes the breadth of their musical influences—a sprinkle of Pavement here, a pinch of Sonic Youth there—into something fresh and exciting.Their new single, “Call Me Out,” off the upcoming album Nirvana, exemplifies the band’s laid-back playfulness, along with the thoughtfulness and complexity of Salas’s songwriting. The track starts off with a rush of guitars and rolling drums, before settling into an octave-bouncing riff. It distorts as it hurtles toward its end, like a Weezer (or, more aptly Nirvana) song that, instead of trading off between soft and loud, just keeps getting louder. Lyrically, the song is a stitched-together patchwork of philosophical musings, with Salas singing, “Distal thoughts at last awoken," like the too-cool guy at the back of the night-time college class, holding a guitar.
The accompanying video is an off-kilter, frame-within-a-frame-within-a-frame shot of the band, made possible through the use of four iPhones and a DSLR jury-rigged onto a cardboard contraption. “I was inspired by David Hockney's The Jugglers, where he filmed the subjects from multiple cameras at the same time, then stitched them into one fragmented but still somehow cohesive shot," says Salas. "It seems to give the scene a heightened sense of depth and realness, and I liked the idea that more eyes could make a more complete picture—that having more people watching over your actions and calling you out when you screw up isn't necessarily bad, but actually useful."
“UFO,” the new song from Upper Wilds—a.k.a. Dan Friel, formerly of Parts & Labor—wastes no times with long-winded introductions. After a brief, and relatively calm, moment of static, the listener is hit with a wall of noise and a monumental riff. Anchoring the heavy, almost overwhelming backbeat are Friel’s melodic vocals—a lone voice bellowing out through the sea of sound.
Friel has this to say about the track: “'UFO has a big riff and is about space junk, which pretty much sums up the new album. It's built around a riff I've had kicking around since the Parts & Labor days, but really required a whole new context to properly stomp. Lyrically it's about the international Spacecraft Cemetery, and the love of solitude. The Spacecraft Cemetery is deep in the Pacific Ocean, at the farthest place from land on Earth, and it's got a fascinating history, both literal and literary."
Upper Wilds’ first album, Guitar Module 2017, comes out on September 22 via Thrill Jockey. Catch their record release show on Saturday, October 7 at Alphaville with E, Gold Dime, and Video Daughters.