Oliver Kalb has been making music under the name Bellows since 2011. He released Bellows' first album, the understated indie-folk-pop masterwork, As If To Say I Hate Daylight, while attending Bard College in 2011. That release, as well as 2014's Blue Breath—an album recorded while in search for a place to call home after graduating—established Kalb's skill as a lyricist and as an arranger. His most recent release, last year's Fist and Palm, is Bellows at its best, channeling new electronic influences into Kalb's intimate acoustics. Never one to shy away from self-criticism (as is perhaps most evident on Fist and Palm) it is no surprise that Kalb was willing to reveal his five favorite and five least favorite tracks of the many he has penned in Bellows' six-year history. Read on for Kalb's own thoughts on the process, and be sure to grab tickets to Bellows' July 15 show at Baby's All Right.
Oliver Kalb: I’ve been writing and self-recording music as Bellows for the last seven years. Recording is a pretty intense and life-consuming black hole process for me. When I’m recording an album, I listen to each of the songs obsessively, trying to iron out all the lyrical flaws and dips of the production, bouncing new mixes and walking around alone trying to imagine how each song can expand and develop in its recorded world. Sometimes this makes for really cool experiments, and songs I feel really proud of — when a lot of work goes into a song and it pays off, it’s cool to listen back years later, and hear the product of long periods of intense anxiety and labor live and breathe in a finished state. But other times, when I listen back to my own records, I’ll shudder at certain tracks. There are some songs I’ve released that I just totally hate, songs that make me feel really embarrassed when I hear them.
In the myopic world of self-recording, sometimes flaws that would be really obvious to someone listening with an untrained ear won’t be apparent to the actual person making the music. It’s very easy to get tunnel-vision when you’re working on an album, and think you’ve stumbled upon a really interesting and weird experiment, that to anyone else listening just sounds like a bunch of convoluted nonsense. I can hear some of my own songs, in hindsight, as really ugly kinks that might’ve been ironed out if I’d given myself some distance from the project. Years down the line from some of the records I’ve made, I’m able to see a little more clearly which experiments were successful and which were just kind of bad or confusing ideas, in need of an editor. So I decided to use this spot to explore what I think are my 5 best songs, and why I still respond to them after so many years, and then also what I think are my 5 worst songs, and why they’re bad, or at least why I don’t consider them good vehicles for conveying the ideas or feelings I hoped they would.
There’s a venerable tradition of documenting a day in song—but what if this process could be automated? How can you document a moment or day in a way that is smoothed out of the messiness of personal experience? DC punks and Priests affiliates Flasher offer such an attempt on “Winnie,” the A-side to their upcoming 7”. “Winnie” recalls a motel breakfast in Winnie, Texas last May, intercutting verbatim quotations from news coverage of the Egypt Air Flight 804 with pharmaceutical advertisements heard on the TV that day. It’s a song that luxuriates in the weird, improbable sentiments created by juxtaposing the two source texts, and their uncanny effectiveness as pop lyrics—“these feet want to keep the beat moving,” taken from a diabetes medication commercial, is just one of many ear wormy hooks the track features. The track itself is riff-fueled post-punk joyride, sounding like something off an early Mission of Burma single; off-kilter but enthused with a deft pop sensibility. Flasher describe the track as a “bricolage tribute to the paranoia-fueled auto erotic American psyche,” but the song works just as well as a catchy-as-hell rave up.
It is possible that listening to music consists less in distracting the mind from “acoustic suffering” than in struggling to reestablish animal alert. What characterizes harmony is that it resuscitates the acoustic curiosity that is lost as soon as articulated and semantic language spreads within us. — Pascal Quignard, from Hatred of Music
Since 2014’s A Wilderness of Mirrors, Brisbane-based artist and Room40 label head Lawrence English has been investigating the role of music in terror and warfare through harmonic density and extreme dynamics. His latest album, Cruel Optimism, also focuses on fragility and power (or lack thereof) in the face of human greed, malice, and intolerance. Despite the album’s foreboding bent, it is a work built upon affirmation—encouraging resilience, solidarity, and defiance despite recent global calamities. “This record is one of protest against the immediate threat of abhorrent possible futures”, Lawrence writes in the album’s liner notes. With Cruel Optimism, we are kindly invited to engage in endless dialogues just like this one. For, if anyone’s qualified to talk about the primordial, often unacknowledged link between sound and violence, it’s English. We talked enthusiastically about an array of subjects, such as the politics of perception and colonialism, the (mis)uses of technology, the unfortunate depoliticization of music, and the video for Cruel Optimism’s “Negative Drone,” premiering below. Our conversation is after the jump.
This interview with Palisades' Leeor Waisbrod and Ariel Bitran appears in AdHoc Issue 16.
As anyone who has been hanging out on the Brooklyn underground scene for long enough will attest, New York is the kind of place where anything can happen, until it can’t. From April 2014 to June 2016, a one-time used furniture storefront and former beef smokehouse at the corner of Broadway and Stockton in Bushwick became home to one of our city’s most beloved DIY venues, known equally for its no-frills interior, welcoming atmosphere, and wholehearted embrace of the city as a melting pot of perspectives and sounds. Palisades was the kind of place where you show up at 8 to see Xiu Xiu, come back at midnight for RP Boo and Traxman, then return a month later to see Skepta, and probably see a lot of the same faces in the crowd. AdHoc booked a lot of shows there, and when the venue suddenly shuttered its doors earlier this summer, we felt like we’d lost a home away from home.
In the following oral history, founder Leeor Waisbrod and booker Ariel Bitran open up about how Palisades came to be, the creative community it nurtured, and the difficulty of staying afloat in a city where the odds are stacked against independent venue owners, financially and legally—even the ones who try to do everything by the book.
When U2 and Apple conspired in September 2014 to deliver the tepid Songs of Innocence to the iTunes of every Apple user without their consent, the decision was met with seemingly outsized anger. Customer complaints forced Apple to create a page detailing how to remove it. A befuddled Bono responded to the debacle in an NPR interview: "We wanted to deliver a pint of milk to people's front porches, but in a few cases it ended up in their fridge, on their cereal. People were like, 'I'm dairy-free.'”
There were, of course, ethical complaints to be made about the implications of a major rock band giving an album away for free. Bands and trade associations alike decried the act as devaluing music. But criticism seemed to center on the spookiness of having a company like Apple make a unilateral decision to place mediocre music into people’s music libraries. However innocuous a gesture it was, the Songs of Innocence release demonstrated just how ominous and ubiquitous Apple’s power over the way we consume music was becoming.
Songs of Innocence can be seen as a prelude to the roll out of Apple Music. It served as a test of how easily Apple could use its vast user base to instantly make its new products competitive. In the four months or so since its launch, Apple Music has accumulated over 11 million users: about half of the 20 million paid subscribers Spotify has accumulated in the past eight years. To do this, Apple has leaned heavily on its pre-existing infrastructure, namely the ubiquity of iPhones and iTunes. Apple Music appears automatically with updates to iPhones and iPads, and was rolled out with a three-month free subscription.
When we last heard from Gel Set, Laura Callier was foiling Stacian’s brutally frayed techno with her own blissfully isolated synthesizer music on the Voorhees split 12-inch issued by Moniker last summer. Callier and the Chicago-based imprint team up once again now with Human Salad, Gel Set’s debut LP. Featuring ten tracks of wiry and seductive mutant techno, Human Salad establishes Callier as the sonic torchbearer of artful electronic experimenters Chris & Cosey but with a lo-fi toolset rather than high-price gadgetry. “Ether Or” closes the LP in a frigid fit of mechanized minimal wave, automating a distant sensuality that was simmering just below the surface of the LP's nine preceding tracks. As a series of rhythmic, industrial ephemera forms the song's austere groove, Callier layers her urgent but detached refrain, asking “Why can’t we just be together?”
Human Salad is out July 7 on Moniker Records. Check Gel Set's tour dates with Matchess after the jump.
Like all things ‘90s, power-pop revival vibes have been popping up here and there recently, but you wouldn’t mistake Chicago shredders MAMA for a Sloan throwback act. On their fresh double 7’’ for rising label Automatic Records, Night Shoot, the band’s loud and peppy way with their instruments and no-fucks-given attitude illustrate quite to the point how the genre’s gotten its name. Album highlight “25 Forever” recalls the wide-eyed youth angst of pretty much every single song Cheap Trick ever recorded, while musically reclining comfortably in the hardest, drunkest, and rawest corner of the garage. Imagine a Burger Records band paying a spirited tribute to The Dictators, and you won't be far off the mark.
Night Shoot is out now on Automatic Records. MAMA is playing a bunch of dates in Chicago and Milwaukee in April; check out the details here.
Desire Will Set You Free, a movie which promises to offer a glimpse into Berlin's "queer and underground scenes," is currently seeking funding for post-production through Kickstarter. Director Yoni Leyser's previous film, the documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, recieved critical acclaim. The movie centers around the relationship between an expatrate and refugee living in Berlin, and will feature performances from an exciting roster of musicians. Nina Hagen, Blood Orange, and Einstürzende Neubauten's Jocehn Arbeit all make appearences. The soundtrack will also feature contributions from, among others, Automat with Genesis P-Orridge.
You can check out the Kickstarter here. Watch the mildly NSFW Kickstarter trailer below.
Automat only started working together three years ago, but the Berlin-based band is immersed in a pretty illustrious history. A three-piece, the band features Jochen Arbeit of Einstürzende Neubauten fame, as well as Achim Färber, noted drummer of Project Pitchfork. Their groove-based debut album, inspired by Berlin's airports, is mostly instrumental but features some impressive guest vocals-- or perhaps storytelling-- from the likes of Lydia Lunch, Blixa Bargeld, and Genesis B. P-Orridge.
You can stream the album below. Automat is due out April 4 via Bureau B.
I need a shave and some vegetables. It's been days of little sleep and over-saturation of images and happenings. Someone took DJ Spinn's Jordans. Crickets are seasoned like Takis. You shouldn't make eye contact with a guy trying to sell you dope in a flea market. From last Wednesday through this Monday, I was in Monterrey, Nuevo León for the fifth annual Festival Nrmal, a showcase for large Mexican acts and cool international ones. The festival's organizers are interested in building it up as a pre-SXSW destination. Musical highlights ranged from the surprising-- Colombia's La MiniTK Del Miedo doing this bizarre cumbia new metal, Mexican rap champs, La Banda Bastön-- to the consistently excellent-- Pure X, DJ Rashad, Power Trip. But music only consumed so much of my stay on Wednesday through Monday.
Strange place, Monterrey. Like many cities in the world, there exists a jarring income gap. San Pedro-- sharing the same relation to Monterrey as Scottsdale, AZ does to Phoenix-- has mansions on a mountain and a large upscale shopping area. But the Santa Catarina river that runs along the city's main highway is lined with ramshackles that are either lined with drying clothes or rotting after the flooding incurred by a 2010 hurricane.
Monterrey's atmosphere was generally colorful. I was walking down a main artery near my hotel for a couple of blocks before I realized that all of the photos of mouths and illustrations of orthopedic prodecures were adorning dentists' offices. There were a lot of dentist offices, most of them with store fronts right on the street. The displays on the outside of them are the medical equivalent of busty women in lingerie wheat-pasted on the face of a strip club. The whole area-- basically a small dentistry disctrict the size of some cities' Chinatown-- was a few blocks away from the hotel, and a stone's throw from the so-called "punk mall."
Lucas Nathan is the host body for Jerry Paper-- a musical entity that appears whenever Lucas performs or records. As Jerry Paper, Lucas crafts crooning, lounge-synth pop. His newest record, Feels Emotions, is his first to be released on vinyl and is due out Feburary 11 via Patient Sounds. The record's liner notes offer some details on complex comsology of Jerry Paper. A defector of the Temple of Pure Information and Mainframe Devotion, an alternative spiritual community, Jerry Paper sought to help bring Trance Channels-- a sort of musico-mystical ritual-- to the masses. We spoke to Lucas about his relationship with Jerry Paper, his love of limitations, and the problems of articulating mystical experience.
Ad Hoc: What’s your working relationship with Jerry Paper like?
Lucas Nathan: I live my normal human life. I do shit and work at jobs and everything. Basically when I start a project I’m kind of obsessive and I feel like it’s kind of an exorcism. I feel like I need to finish and need to let Jerry out. I do feel that there is a separation between normal life Lucas and Jerry, the musical entity. I do feel a possession aspect to working. Often times I’ll be sucked in and kind of sit there doing some repetitive task-- like playing the same line over and over again until it’s right-- and wake up six hours later and be like “Oh shit, I need to eat some food.” Or “Oh fuck, I was supposed to do something today and all I did was sit here doing this."
Ad Hoc: Could you talk about what Trance Channels are?
LN: The record will actually come with an insert with an explanation from Dr. Abie Sea on Trance Channels, but I can give you an overview. Basically, the idea is that, Diane and her band, through training have figured out a way to basically tap into infinite loops. This is a skill that obviously most people don’t have. It’s, like most musical actions, kind of inexplicable. The long and short of it is that it means tapping into frequencies normal people can’t access. Basically the point of the Wellness Group is to bring that to normal people and to take outside its normal context. Obviously my music doesn’t sound like that-- that’s not its theme. But it’s definitely drawing from those experiences-- that kind of infinity that is virtually inaccessible, but we can try.
Steve Moore and Daniel O'Sullivan are two musicians with rich, diverse pedigrees. On top of being one half of space rock band Zombi, Moore is also an experimental producer and film composer. O'Sullivan, meanwhile, is known for his contributions to groups such as Guapo and Grumbling Fur. And yet, despite these multifarious pursuits, the two have somehow found time over the past few years to join creative forces and crank out a series of dark, danceable, electronic pop tunes. Moore and O'Sullivan call their collaborative project Miracle, and released a debut album, Mercury, last month. The record is an extremely engrossing, emotive listen, a work clearly born from the harmonious union of two accomplished voices. We spoke with Moore via email about the new album, the duo's collaborative process, The Silence of the Lambs, and an exclusive mix that they put together for Ad Hoc.
Ad Hoc: How did you guys originally get together as Miracle?
Steve Moore: We met in the Summer of 2006. Guapo and Zombi were doing a short US tour together. Daniel and I kept in touch and the following year we started trading ideas back and forth, with no real goal in mind. A year later, upon the completion of our first song ["Breathe"], it was decided that we were a band, and we needed a name. Daniel suggested Miracle, and then we existed.
Ad Hoc: There have been a few minor Miracle releases over the past few years, but this is the first full-length from the band. Did you envision those early releases leading up to an album?
SM: I don't think we really thought of it like that, in terms of what to do next. I think the plan was just to be making music together. The Fluid Window EP might have ended up being a full-length, only we were really excited to get this stuff out into the world, and it had taken us a while to get things up and running.
While I'm a fan of bad puns, the name Salvia Plath usually makes others cringe. But upon learning that the project is the latest from Michael Collins, grimaces end up getting swapped for curious brows. Two years ago as Run DMT, Collins self-released Dreams-- a loosely conceptual cassette of short, '60s-inspired pop songs woven with interludes of ambient synth and spoken word samples from first-time Dimethyltryptamine users sharing their drug experiences. His playful approach to psychedelia was met with acclaim, leading to the creation of his own label, Culture Dealer, and-- despite Salvia Plath's shallow word play, a release on Domino's Weird World imprint. But what's in a name, really?
Ad Hoc: Where does the name Salvia Plath come from?
Michael Collins: It comes from a deep connection to two experiences while smoking salvia, which are equally integral in opening up my perception on reality as I knew it... A lot of people, when they hear a band name that has a pun in it or is funny automatically feel like the music is coming from an insincere place. It gives people different thoughts, who focus a lot on things like band names or clothes that you wear, or whatever the fuck, you know?
Part of the reason why I don’t really give a shit about keeping it light and breezy and funny with things like a name is just that the people who like my music probably would have a sense of humor about that kind of thing. If they don’t, and they’re critical about it, they probably won’t really like the songs, and that’s just a-ok with me... Comedy is really important to what I do, and also not over-thinking anything. There’s room for real shit to happen, and I think the more funny you are, the more fun you have in your life and more to get deep with people and with yourself and with your art.
Any person involved in a creative field is automatically subject to a host of critical choices concerning self-image and intent. Living in this technology-saturated era only further complicates this predicament, forcing artists to situate themselves in a world where boundaries between the public and private self have become increasingly blurred. Destruction Unit is a band that is conscious of these challenges, but above all else, they're just invested in making music. Their upcoming release on Sacred Bones, Deep Trip, offers a potent sonic experience, something to blast at full volume by yourself and become lost in. We jumped on the phone with guitarist Jes Aurelius to talk about social media, the band's involvement in the Ascetic House collective, and their hometown of Tempe, AZ.
Ad Hoc: Deep Trip is your first proper studio album. How did the process of recording it differ from your previous releases?
JA: For the most part, the process is the same. We recorded pretty much in the same way, where most of it was done live. I guess the main difference was that we had people helping us who knew how to use the gear better and had access to better equipment and an actual nice studio, as opposed to how pretty much every other Destruction Unit record was recorded,with an 8-track tape player or a reel-to-reel, and [singer] Ryan [Rousseau] figuring it out as he goes along.
Keith Fullerton Whitman is one of those genius types with an overclocked mind who has no choice but to cram as many words as possible into a single breath. Luckily for both us and for you readers, he gave us about an hour's worth of interview material in only 27 minutes. Hence, we're publishing our conversation in three parts, with the first-- this one-- focusing directly on his forthcoming split with Floris Vanhoof on Shelter Press. Since last decade, Whitman has been exploring the potentials of the modular synthesizer. His process nowadays is one of exploring minute shifts with massive sonic implications, creating self-contained butterfly effects through electronic wittling.
Ad Hoc: We should start off by talking about this studio recording on the split you have coming out on Shelter Press. Is there a bifurcation between your live and your studio material? There seems to be this somewhat academic element to this work, academic in the GRM sense of the word. There's the this methodical progression from tone to rhythm to, for lack of a better term, song.
Keith Fullerton Whitman: That one track with the drums is a nine-minute, more linear kind of thing. I don’t see it as a division, no-- It’s all continuous. It’s funny, because that whole side is the exactly the same set up. It's all the same patch actually. Do I turn the clock station on or do I leave it turned off? The first three tracks, they’re more free-form, but it's literally the same patch, just recorded in four slightly different configurations, in four different ways. It’s funny to make stylistic distinctions because they’re all wrapped on to the music-- all kind of similar. It’s just what you hear that’s very different. It’s funny how the mechanism that makes the music is almost identical.
Well to be honest, any band that contains a member of Eddy Current Suppression Ring has an automatic spot on the RSTB turntable, but Ooga Boogas have caught our ears and hearts before with their 2008 LP, Romance and Adventure. Their latest self-titled affair shows no more effort to even an album out tonally but it is a vast refinement of their sound though-- four years tends to do that to a band. The record embraces its eccentricities and weaves them into a dark carnival of oil-slick midnight guitar jams, boogie-baiter epics and even some beat-chugged synth stabbers find their way into the mix. Now on paper that sounds like a bit of a disjointed potpourri, but under the steady hand of the band's Mikey Young (who has been involved in about 70% of the great Aussie bands of the last few years) the brew bubbles potently and the record comes across as a true album in the age of digital singles. Repeated listens open it up to ebb and flow with some of the best that the South Hemi has to offer. Definitely an album that your turntable is craving and a must for fans of Young's recording work and other projects. (via Raven Sings the Blues)
Overdriven chiptune? Hell, why not? Dan Friel and his late collective, Parts and Labor, are often go-to's for the balance of pummeling sheets of sound and killer melody. "Thumper" has exactly that-- a hook that automatically drills itself to the very core of your head and takes up permanent residence alongside memories of getting creamed in Bionic Commando. Or at least the last time you were punched in a mosh pit. Giving weight to that nostalgia is Friel's approach to composition: the synths you hear on the record are from a 1984 Yamaha Portasound (Friel's first instrument, period), while the sequencing and fraying around the edges were done on a 2001 computer running OS9. It gives "Thumper" an extra sweet punch, creating one hell of a lead-in to his new record.
Total Folklore is out February 19th on Thrill Jockey. You can pre-order the record here, and the first 500 who purchase the vinyl will receive an orange pressing of the album. In addition, anyone who pre-orders will be entered to win a custom made music box that plays the hook from "Thumper."
Reclusive Canadian producer Slim Twig has another full-length, A Hound at the Hem, co-released on Pleasance and Calico Corp. The album was inspired by the Serge Gainsbourg album Histoire de Melody Nelson, which in turn was inspired by the classic Nabokov work, Lolita. Sonically, one can hear Gainsbourg’s influence in Slim Twig’s vocals, while fellow Canadian Owen Pallett contributes grandiose string arrangements. Harpsichord and mellotron also add to the Baroque feel of the album, but Slim Twig’s vocals have an old-timey Southern feel. The first single from the album is the swinging and swaying number “All This Wanting”, which has a video by Emily Pelstring, who coincidentally also directed U.S. Girls’ “Jack”. Watching it is akin to a very twisted Muppet Show episode, with sock puppets dancing, kissing, and puking in front of Slim Twig’s musical performance. A Hound at the Hem is out now on Pleasance Records and Calico Corp. Slim Twig is going on a European tour with U.S. Girls to support the release (dates after the jump).
In June, when John Maus shared the track "Bennington" from his upcoming Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material, I decided to write him an open letter about the song in lieu of the customary, disposable, three-sentence blurb. Three weeks passed, and while I had hoped for a reply, I never really expected one. Yesterday, out of the blue, John sent a cryptic email stating that a person by the name of "Frank James" had ripped up Ad Hoc and that I should go clean up the mess he made. He signed off with a winky face.
The following is John Maus' response, a staggering 24,000 words posted over the span of 20 blog comments. Long enough to fill a small book, the piece includes some backstory on the rarities collection, a revisiting of his much-misunderstood comments on record store closings, and an in-depth musicological analysis of Gary War. There's also an extended meditation on the subject of unrequited love, along with a reprinting of his letters to the girl from Bennington between the years 2005 and 2009. Wow.