Stadiums & Shrines has its roots in the golden era of underground music blogs. Founded by Dave Sutton over ten years ago, the site retains the anti-commercial, esoteric ethos of those years, which feels remarkable in an indie music industry that seems to become more professionalized by the day. Combining impressionistic prose with abstract imagery and top-notch music curation, Stadiums & Shrines continues to carry the proverbial torch for the joys of discovering new music on the internet, even as it’s evolved beyond its original function as a daily MP3 blog.
The site’s Dreams series began in 2012, inviting artists to write musical accompaniment for surreal landscapes by collage artist Nathaniel Whitcomb. And with the newly assembled Dreams compilation, released on Cascine this past Friday, June 15, Sutton and Whitcomb have assembled the definitive collection of these audiovisual pairings in a double LP and accompanying gatefold book. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Bing & Ruth, and Ricky Eat Acid have all contributed tracks to the series, taking inspiration from Whitcomb’s collages as they tour the imagined landscapes of their unconscious construction.
Like the photo collages of Chris Marker or Duane Michals, Whitcomb’s pieces force our quotidian experience into unfamiliar territory. You feel as if you know these places, and yet you recognize the distinctly imagined or impossible qualities of each landscape. The audio components for these Dream collages create space for extended rumination, offering hints as to how they want to be heard, but never quite telling us.
We spoke to Sutton and Whitcomb about DIY spaces, ambient classics, and reaching for abstraction in a concrete world. You can catch the upcoming release show for the Dreams compilation, with Julie Byrne, Bing & Ruth, and Yumi Zouma (DJ set) at National Sawdust on July 1.
Can you guys introduce yourselves?
Nathaniel Whitcomb: I’m Nathaniel, and I’ve been doing collage work pretty much for the last decade or so on and off, and the dreams collage has been a culmination of that collage work and an ongoing thing for the past eight years. So this is the result of all that work. And outside of that, I used to work in advertising and have transitioned to being a stay-at-home dad for the last two years, and that’s been awesome.
Dave Sutton: I’m Dave, and outside of S&S I work in music. S&S was my first entry into a community of music blogs, which eventually introduced me to The Hype Machine, so I work at Hype Machine doing editorial. As of the past year, I’m working at Ghostly International doing similar work.
Ghostly! I really dug that latest Mary Lattimore album.
Dave: Me too. It’s been a true honor to work on that album. Super excited for her.
Emma Louise could have made another pop record. The Australian singer-songwriter more than proved her craft on her first two full-lengths, and has grown into something of an indie darling Down Under after touring with Sam Smith for the Oceania leg of his “In the Lonely Hour” tour.
Produced by Tobias Jesso Jr., Lilac Everything, her latest album, sees Louise ditching the pseudo-twee pop persona of her past releases and boldly experimenting with her voice, which she pitches down on every song. The result is a series of quiet, genre-defying pieces. The production is spacious and ambient, and the vocal manipulations shade each lyric with an extra layer of sadness. Over email, Louise told AdHoc that “it just felt so right.”
The first single, “Wish You Well,” is surprisingly Zen for a breakup anthem. “I hope you keep singing with your eyes closed,” she croons over a steady swell of piano and percussion. There’s no bitterness here, only sadness at what could’ve been, and some meager hope for what might be.
No one really knows anything about producer Blue Angels. His label, UNO NYC, is upfront about this. They once told RA that they “don’t know much about him except that he’s a young kid in Maryland and very talented.”
Following last year’s Vaces—which is up on UNO’s site as a free download, and is accompanied by a surreal, pumpkin-themed music video—Blue Angels’ new EP, High Dive, sits somewhere between Sinjin Hawke and Holy Other. Even in its darkest, most industrial moments, there’s a clear sensitivity towards ambience and melody. You can hear it in the agitated corners of “Why,” where a submerged vocal sample conjures a mood at once sinister and sincere. The recursive, lo-fi crunch of “Floss” manages to tread this line for a spellbinding seven and a half minutes. In the face of Blue Angels’ utter anonymity, what we’re left with is simply the music. The EP works as an invitation, beckoning listeners toward the shadowy worlds it already inhabits.
Over email, Blue Angels offered AdHoc a single line — a hieroglyph awaiting translation: “I am feeling much better these days.” High Dive is out May 18th on UNO.
Christina Schneider has been putting out music under the monikers C.E Schneider Topical, Jepeto Solutions, and Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant, but it’s with the name Locate S,1 that she’s taken her specific brand of off-kilter bedroom pop to its dizzying, prismatic peak. Schneider’s most recent album, Healing Contest, produced entirely by Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, was released in April on Sybaritic Peer and is by turns inviting and disorienting. That half-facetious tension in the title plays out over the course of the album: Just when you think you’ve got them pinned down, these songs turn themselves inside out.
On “1 800 Capital C,” Schneider brings that tension to the fore by working sharp, catchy songwriting into a heady dreamscape of post-ironic elevator music. She told AdHoc over email that she wrote it in the shower in Greece, while “thinking about American capitalism.” As such, it’s easy to fall for lines like,“Have you even tried the simulator / Have you breathed the cool mist of the mist machine?” Schneider wraps you in what feels like a theme song for the cool mist of capitalistic inertia before you can ask yourself if you’re buying what she’s selling. Through a veil of lilting synths, she implores: “What we want you to do is / Pick up the phone and call the number on the screen.” All we have to do is call.
The decidedly lo-fi video for the track, which we’re debuting today, was directed by Taylor Ross (of Surface To Air Missive). Schneider told AdHoc that the video “features everybody who played on the album, and that makes me happy.”