Lina Tullgren writes honest and emotional songs, songs that seek to let us in so that we might heal. Her debut EP Wishlist, re-released last year via Captured Tracks, brought us into her world with its atmosphere of equal parts melancholic nostalgia and bright eyed optimism. Tullgren does what many other artists only wish to do, and achieve with varying levels of success, she produces a space that requires us to be vulnerable. Experiencing the intimacy of her lyrics and the stripped-down songwriting of her first EP is like returning to a childhood home after having been gone for years, feeling the weight of its changes weigh on one's self while at the same time catching the glimpses of the happiness that the same space still holds.
While her newest LP, Won, sees Lina pushing forward towards a new and more confident voice as a songwriter, her ability to craft spaces for us to experience intimacy and vulnerability has not waned. Her video for "Red Dawn," which AdHoc is premiering today, makes this readily apparent, as it has Lina asking us what it means to "wear your heart on your sleeve." Like much of Won, the track has a larger sound than the songs on Wishlist due to the addition of Tullgren's new backing band, but the video's barn studio setting still reveals Lina's desire to remain intimate with her audience. In a series of questions, Lina told us about her interest in the space between hope and heartbreak, her belief in love, her love of joking around with "indie music kids," and her desire for us all to remain vulnerable.
AdHoc: A lot of your writing seems to focus on the intersections between heartbreak and solace, loss and hope, what is it about that space between those feelings that interests you, perhaps especially at this moment in our political climate?
The time in between, lost in the balance as we change and develop as people, has always interested me ever since I learned how to watch people. I was very shy as a kid so a lot of my time was spent not speaking and watching my parents and their friends and how they lived and talked. I was very fortunate to grow up with creative adult figures who would treat me as an equal and be honest with me. One of the reasons I focus so obsessively on that time in between is because change never fails to deeply affect me in visceral, profound ways, and I can see how others relate to that as well. A lot of art is made about love: the subject is typically focused on a relationship in its most positive form or about the ending of that relationship. Sure those things are charged and filled with beautiful raw emotions, but the focus becomes more about the other person and less about the self, which is simply not as interesting or real to me. If I'm going to write these songs and put my own life process out there in this format, I want it to be accessible to the humans I'm singing it to who are right there in front of me. A pure connection. I'd like to think we always learn from changes, from the “intersections” that exist. [And] sure, this can also connect to politics because there is an insane amount of upheaval that’s been in progress for some time now. I don’t claim to be a political writer in any way, but interpretation is everything and though the songs on this impending record are not necessarily written about the current scenarios playing out in the country, certain images and feelings can be applied and transferred all over. You can find it if you look for it.
What was the recording process for this video like? I notice that a fellow Tullgren, Max Tullgren did the video work and that your longtime friend and collaborator Ty Ueda did the audio (in addition to playing guitar alongside you here), could you talk about working with them both?
I was rehearsing with my band at Ty's barn studio in Barrington, NH when we decided to shoot this video. My 16-year-old brother, Max Tullgren, lives close by in South Berwick, Maine which is where I grew up. In addition to being “longtime friend and collaborator,” Ty actively shoots film and video and also did all the editing on this one. Obviously he could not shoot it due to the fact that he had to play guitar in it but luckily Max is great with a camera himself so he was able to swing by and help us. This is also the studio where we recorded and mixed all of Won.
One of the “Red Dawn”’s lyrics is “no time, got no time to waste with love” and in an interview with Impose last year you defined love as “DEAD,” how does not believing in love or in its importance to you change making music that is so recognizably vulnerable?
It should be known that I'm an incredibly sarcastic person and if I did say that love was “dead” in another interview it was likely done in jest with intentions to disarm all these serious snobby indie music kids. I'm not calling ALL of you snobs! But some of you just cannot take a joke. I do believe in love and its importance quite a lot, in fact, for I am simply a true jokester with a full heart. As said above, the music I create IS incredibly vulnerable and I amount that to the belief in love that I hold close. As I get a little older, losing and gaining new people in my life all the time, I feel less inclined to run from strong human emotion as I did in the past. does that make sense?
Totally. One final question: what does it mean to you to “wear your heart on your sleeve?” Since you put out the Wishlist EP your music has been described as vulnerable and intimate, is the new record a pushing away from that feeling in an effort to become more assertive or is the lyric meant to question what it is to be vulnerable at all in a world that seems to be an antithesis to that vulnerability?
That’s an incredibly thoughtful question and I appreciate that. I would give a “yes” to both parts of that question. I think there is an incredible amount of cynicism-sometimes unwarranted and sometimes not-and lack of communication in young people these days and I've been observing it progress over time in a way I find to be difficult to interact with. that’s not to say that I’m not cynical myself and I also don’t claim to be an expert in communication, but I will say that I do actively try to practice the wearing of the heart on one's sleeve in friendships, intimate relationships, fleeting interactions, [and] what have you because there is too much hurt and doom in this world for us to not be completely open about how we feel about one another. Call me a total loser corn-ball if you want. And please go and kiss or hug all of your friends and parents and cousins! right now!
“Absent Personae Postscript” is weaponized history, rerouted through trauma, cybernetics, and orality. The final track off of PTP’s collaboration between Deforrest Brown, Jr. and Kepla, offers a fragmented narrative that traces a Black history embedded within the skin, within the voice, within the body of a community under “trap-conditions,” under the "lash" of a mechanized and mechanizing apparatus spanning economy, sociality, and punishment. Brown, Jr. reminds us that “there is only evasion” in this state of things, and “Absent Personae Postcript” fidgets with an evasiveness, a rhizomatic awareness whose reticulating components swerve and fissure into mitosis. The whirling cleavages, the chirping schisms that Kepla fashions splice into the rerouted figures and histories Brown, Jr.’s solemn words purl. The floating, spectralized form that recounts Brown, Jr.’s dérive further enhances this sense of deterritorialization and reappropriation: Brown, Jr.’s voice speaks the figure of the encoded and encrypted Black Body—depicted with various digital manipulations in Chris Boyd's haunting video—into existence.
The triumph in the piece lies in that fact that, through the interplay of sonics and lyrics, Brown, Jr. and Kepla radically affirm the power of the voice—and to reinscribe a Black physicality beyond deployment, mechanization, and objectification. Over its trickling 11-minute runtime, the two assemble a fugitive ontology of the Black Body in which technologies of language, sound, and image commune with the resonances of a spoken heritage felt down to the cellular level. As Kepla channels visceral anxieties and dismemberments of the trap into the haptic glitches and tactile code of sub-bass, Brown, Jr.’s oration thrums and concresces into a re-codification of identity, a re-mythologizing whose cryptic poetics serve both to evade institutionalized meaning and encrypt a sense of being from the avaricious nodes of a power-knowledge network geared and lubricated to appropriate and eliminate radical transmissions centered on Blackness.
When Brown, Jr. announces that the apparatuses of control and oppression suffer “a loss of discrete control” because of the “discreet evasion” of the Black Body, his clinamen, his slight and silent homophonous slide from the "ete" to the "eet" fractures—ever so slightly and ever so slyly—a system of language intent on smoothing legibility and concretizing order. Run through feedback and trauma, Brown, Jr. presents a fleeting moment of resistance, a remapping and rewriting of the conditions of the trap into something delightfully ambiguous and radically spacious. In “Absent Personae Postcript,” cybernetic horror sunders into evanescent hope, fracturing just enough to trace a space, a space of art.
PTP will release Absent Personae on 9/29 on vinyl w/ "Absent Personae Postscript" as a bonus track. You can pre-order it now here.
Some of the best writers are the laconic ones, the ones who sculpt with sparsity, whose instruments imbricate themselves just as deeply into silence as they do into sound. On In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower, quietly released earlier this year on Houston's Sutra label, Barry Elkanick of Chalk plays, sings, and composes with a concise conviction, a muted and minimalist virtuosity. The cassette, barely over 20 minutes and decidedly sparse, feels infinitely spacious as its seven tracks yawn and stretch and palpitate into each other. From the chamber of lush guitar strumming of "Harmony in Red" to the plush synth territories mapped out by "Plateau," Chalk inscribes hollow spaces where resonating instruments and Elkanick's muffled vocals alike accrete into a sonic terrain as milky and commodious as his visual work. When Elkanick delivers the hooking question-chorus of "Dark Seam," the unintelligibility of his words colors the haptic indeterminacy of the record's landscape itself: it's impossible to tell whether Elkanick is talking about a "dark seam," a "dark scene," or a "dark seem." On the track, seeming becomes a scene becomes a seam that swathes sign and sound and silence into a space of pure feeling. For a record whose coy title warps that of Proust's second volume of his enormous opus InSearch of Lost Time, In the Young Shadow of Girls in Flower condenses the bourgeouis loquacity of one of modernism's foremost belletrists into something more tactile in its immediacy, something dry of excess yet impossibly sticky—something that coats the hands. Like chalk, perhaps.
Find the remaining cassettes of the limited release here, and stream the record in full below.
Princess Nokia flexes on "G.O.A.T." And she deserves it, too: coming off the explosive 1992 mixtape and riding high on a worldwide fanbase cemented by a blistering world tour, the New York rapper has earned a ride on her own coattails. And if the accompanying video for "G.O.A.T.," Destiny Frasqueri's first track since 1992, is any indication, Princess Nokia is enjoying her life at the top. Lounging on the three-wheel Polaris Slingshot as comfortably as she luxuriates over Wally West's icy throne of a beat, Frasqueri issues one-liners like edicts from a gold-bedecked (and gold-betoothed) monarch. Clad in "skinny jeans and a studded belt," Princess Nokia reminds us that she's become "that weird girl that's running shit."
When she stares at the camera and declares that she "changed rap forever, man," it's no coincidence that she includes the word "man." Eyes directed at the male-dominated, patriarchal industry, Frasqueri sets her sights on label bosses and other suits that stifle and marginalize femme voices, and brandishes normative signifiers of both masculinity and femininity to explode them both. Atop the rubble s(p)its Princess Nokia, festooned with a Yankees Cap and Air Force 1s.
"LILT" begins with funerary horns lurching over skittering snare shots. As this introduction foretells, "LILT" itself plays out as an exercise in extremes—juxtaposition, syncopation, and tension tremble across the turbulent surface of Mike Lockwood's new record on Driftless Recordings, BONEPOCKET. Described by the label as Lockwood's "debut instrumental album as a composer," the record also marks a stylistic departure for Driftless as the "first true Jazz release amongst many ambient / instrumental / experimental releases."
Rife with clamoring instrumentation and bombastic contrasts, "LILT" soundtracks a breaking of new ground, both in terms of Lockwood's personal progress as a composer and in purely sonic terms: "LILT" sounds like nothing else. Growing out of the quivering start, clarinets, saxophones, bass, and jazz guitar swell into focus, swirling into a disjunct latticework of competing sounds. As this assemblage reaches its sqeualing summit, it careens back down to its origin—its original sparsity—collapsing on its impressive yet unstable framework. In this fantastic reversal, Lockwood and his cohort settle back down into a lilt, the delightful horn threnody of the track's beginning. "LILT" reminds us that ecstasy is nice, but so is clarity, so is comfort.
BONEPOCKET, Mike Lockwood's debut on Driftless Recordings is out now. Stream the first track, "LILT," below.
Lilting without lull, Multa Nox's latest track from her upcoming full-length Living Pearl, lusters. Propelled by a gentle momentum of clicks and sputters, the dreamy "i have not whispered everything i can bear" inhabits a milky sonic space lacquered with a textural richness of drone tones and vocal ornamentation. In this space, Brooklyn-based sound artist Sally Decker bathes her composition in a softness inflected with an incantatory grandiosity that swells along with the inertia of the gingerly shifting drone. The exact words that she utters remain blanketed in a gentle ambiguity: what flickers in and out could be some permutation of the words "just" and "end"—only the phonemic traces stand out amid the wash of sound.
Language, enunciated in Decker's whispers, becomes disentangled from signification, becomes vibration, becomes physical. And with that, her whispers bear an enormous weight: the ability to transform words into something sumptuous, something delectable.
Multa Nox's LP Living Pearl is out June 2 on NNA Tapes. Stream "i have not whispered everything i can bear" below.
There's a vastness that Cody Fitzgerald and company shoulder in "Gold Age," the new song off Stolen Jars' glint EP. From the very first organ chime to Fitzgerald's ecstatically hushed vocals, "Gold Age" communicates a subdued grandiosity in its artful sparseness. The streaky skyspaces of two landscapes—the pastel pink atop rocky soil and the chilly blue above an urban street at dusk—further convey this immensity in Jenelle Pearing's spectalur video for "Gold Age."
But this enormity neither weighs the song down nor crushes the glimmering moments that make Stolen Jars' catalog so precious. The skittering drum blasts, the impassioned yelps, and the syncopated guitar strumming all hint at microscopic imabalances that "Gold Age" elegantly glides across in its delicate agility. "Gold Age" retains a certain nimbleness, a nimbleness incarnated by Nora Alami's graceful spins and leaps in Pearing's video. Like the song itself, whose teetering instrumental elements seem to threaten a collapse as Fitzgerald's voice slides from a whisper to a yell, Alami's choreography nearly topples over itself: at one point, she appears to lose her balance before vainly attempting to prop herself up again.
Pearing's video, a companion to the visual album's track, dramatizes Stolen Jars' coming to terms with the sheer emotional force of its music. Quivering yet radiant, "Gold Age" swells into something more substantive than just visual and sonic surfaces, a synthesis of palettes more grandiose than the sum of its parts.
Portland-based four piece Cool American plies a unique trade, somewhere between sneakily virtuosic slacker rock and overdriven power pop-punk in the vein of Tony Molina—an intersection embraced by the group in their cheeky self-identification as "dorito rock." On "Maui's," the latest transmission from Cool American's upcoming full-length Infinite Hiatus, both tendencies shine through, goading each other in a playful back-and-forth.
"Maui's" is a gentle recollection of a Saturday long past, strummed and lovingly recounted until it suddenly veers off course. A "twitch" Nathan Tucker describes becomes a genuine "warning" that the song might swerve out of control. And it does: as the subject tries to "have another drink and ignore" this premonition, this sense of pent-up tension, the song explodes in a wash of guitar pedal dissonance. But the new direction is neither aggressive nor unflattering: the heavier section retains the first's jaunty whimsy—albeit with a little more teeth.
Infinite Hiatus is out June 2 on Good Cheer Records. Listen to the premiere of "Maui's" below and be sure to catch Cool American play with Turtlenecked and Museum of Recycling at Alphaville June 25.
Miniature intimacies—from lingering family portraits shakily-camcorded pickup basketball games—constellate the sumptuous video accompanying Hand Habits' "Book on How to Change." The flickering graininess of the film casts a somber pallor over the gorgeous shots of snow-capped summits, RV lots, and domestic assemblages—conjuring the "world so grey" in which "the colors fade into another" that Meg Duffy's hushed lyrics envision. Capturing glimpses of the small-town "quotidian moments," as director Chantal Anderson describes in her artist's statement, the video documents a departure delicately unfolding into a gentle self-actualization. As the peripatetic protagonist arrives at a rocky outcropping just beyond city limits, she regally position herself atop a small summit and grasps the deep blue air around her, relishing a chance to start "messing" with her very own "dream." Like the song, a highlight from Hand Habits' recent Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), the heroine appears at ease upon her radiant perch. The rugged alpine landscape, ghost town urban decay, and spaghetti western closeups all attest to the sheer emotional intensity seething beneath the pattering drums and lilting vocals of Duffy's muted epic.
Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void) is out now on Woodsist. Hand Habits is currently on tour with Mega Bog. See their dates below.
Mouth Mouth, the latest full-length transmission from New Zealand's Yeongrak, is infernal to the teeth. Swathed in contorted melodies, skeletal percussion, and incinerating distortion, the cryptic producer's latest interrogates the limits of what is sonically tolerable, shunting effect upon effects to create its hellish soundscape. Throughout much of the record, from the dully thumping opener, "ape rottin'" to the punishingly impenetrable closer, "shouldnt have a light fixture there anywy," Yeongrak shrouds the growls, burbles, and the palpitating beats in a thick saliva of filtration and mutilation. And like saliva, this distortion corrodes the structures, instruments, and voices trapped within its inexorable viscosity. Occasionally, Yeongrak swallows this strangulating spit, allowing the distortion to dissipate. At its most lucid, on cuts like "email@example.com" and "bandagey eggroll," a fractal, gurgling landscape irrupted by shards of shrieks, squelches, and synth stabs comes into focus. As infuriating as it is irresistable, Mouth Mouth has gnawed its way into becoming one of the most bizarre and rewarding releases of 2017.