A few weeks ago I spoke with Austin psych trio and perennial Ad Hoc faves Pure X over the phone. They were en route to Arkansas as they continued their trek across the U.S. touring in support of their recently released sophomore record, Crawling Up The Stairs, unfortunately forced to pass up on a litany of good skate spots along the way (the avid skaters, tragically, forgot their boards). Their heads stayed high as they searched for peaceful camping spot in unfamiliar territory during a rare bit of free time on the road. All members were present, but singer/guitarist Nate Grace and bassist/sometimes-singer Jesse James were the most vocal as we talked about their new work, what records to make love to, and how the universe moves.
Ad Hoc: In what ways do you think you guys have grown or changed as a band since Pleasure? There are a lot of surprising choices in your arrangements and instrumentation, does it reflect any developments in your personal lives or lives as artists?
Jesse James: Just because we wanted to keep it fresh and have fun. We just gotta keep changing it up no matter what-- change or die! It’s been two years since we made that record and we’re different people now.
Nate Grace: Plus, by the time [Pleasure] was out we were already burnt out on playing those songs-- we had been playing those songs for a minute. Then I got hurt so then it was like, “Well, fuck... Let’s go hard on this record that we’re already doing," because we had started recording Crawling Up the Stairs before Pleasure was even out so we were already knee-deep into the next record. People were telling us “oh, put out this 7-inch; oh, put that out," but we just wanted to work on this album. I was injured for that while and had nothing else to do which actually was kind of a blessing because it did force us to just keep cracking in the studio, staying off of the road, and just concentrating on making this record. And right now it’s like we can finally reap the benefits of it which is so nice. Now we get to fuckin' tour! it feels good.
Jesse James: It would’ve taken us a lot longer to do this right had we been on the road-- It was really easy to tell people “no, we couldn’t tour” because we actually couldn’t, you know?
Nate Grace: That was just one of those weird things about getting hurt, too. We came back from Europe and I was just on Cloud 1000, dude. The last show on that tour in Madrid was one of the best shows we’ve ever played. One of the most fun shows, like, fuckin’ ever. It was ending on such a high note, and then we come back and not even two weeks after, I get hurt. We got really good on that tour-- it was the longest tour we’d ever done-- and then we came back and were forced to just go straight in and start recording, which was great because we had all this energy even despite all the injury and shit. We had all these juices going.
Listening to a Cut Hands album, you might never guess that William Bennett made his name a key figure in the power electronics movement. As a member of Whitehouse, Bennett was integral to the inception of the branch of industrial music that could be considered one of the earliest incarnations of noise music. Power electronics was as obsessed with the power of electronic sounds-- harsh sounds, grating, shouted vocals, anything painful, really-- as it was with the often violent power structures in society. Whitehouse often assumed patriachal aggressor personas, titling songs "I'm Coming Up Your Ass Tonight" and "Cock Dominant" while examing topics as extreme as Buchenwald and serial killers. A parodic article Bennett penned in the '80s from the perspective of a fascist for a Belgian art zine, Force Mental, recently led to issues with European bookings, which an anonymous figure encouraging venues to cancel shows from an alleged fascist. The issues were addressed in a blog post Bennett wrote, with legions of fans rallying to support one of the fathers of extreme music.
Ad Hoc: Can you talk a bit about the issues you were having with your shows getting cancelled in Europe? You covered the situation pretty well in your blog post, but is this something you've ever encountered before, or have you feared that this may happen?
Cut Hands: I appreciate that crazy stuff like this happens to all kinds of people everywhere so I certainly don't wish to make a special case out of it-- the guy in question since apologized after we fortuitously managed to get in touch. Actually, despite the hassles it caused a lot of people I care about, some good came of it. People's support has been so incredible. I was totally blown away and humbled by that and the bravery shown against intimidation.
Last night, Ad Hoc was proud to present Masaki Batoh-- lead singer of legendary Japanese psych band, Ghost-- for an bizarre evening of music on the Lower East Side. Last year, Drag City released an album that Masaki made using a machine which generated sounds from the pulse of brain waves, something of a requiem for the victims of the massive earthquake that hit Japan a couple of years back. He took that machine on the road, turning a volunteer's brain into an instrument at each stop. Damon Krukowski of OG alt-rockers, Galaxie 500, drove Masaki down from Boston, and upon arrival found drums at Spectrum which Krukowski couldn't resist playing during the show. For the second performance, Krukowski was going to wear the goggles and drum simultaneously, but Masaki found the brain of the first volunteer, Laura Brown, so ideal that he invited her to don the electrodes for the second set.
Hearing Container's debut, LP, for the first time in 2011 was like sipping your first Mango Lassi. Cool, refreshing, mysterious. Tangy. Its label, Spectrum Spools, was still a rookie, curated by a member of one of the period's essential bands, Emeralds. In terms of "mutant techno," the only premonitions were Pete Swanson's self-released cassettes in the wake of Yellow Swans. There was a mystique to say the least. Two years later, we're all properly jaded and Container's music not only holds up, but ascends furiously. With the imminent release of his 12", Treatment, on Immune Records, Ren Schofield has embraced the festival and club circuit. In an unlikely turn, the guy who runs I Just Live Here and used to make noise as God Willing may become one of the hottest techno acts, period. That is, if he keeps making techno.
Ad Hoc: What's on deck for Container?
Container: Well, when I get back from tour, I'll be writing new songs and recording again. The plan would be to finish up a double record for Spectrum Spools. That’s what I’m going to be working on all summer when I get back. Hopefully it will be out in the fall.
Ad Hoc: What’s your process like?
Container: My writing process, it kind of takes awhile. Mostly I just go in and mess around. I don’t usually go into the studio with a basic idea for something in my head; it’s more just jamming around. Some ideas will come together and I'll work on building songs through that. It takes a while for me to come up with a finished product—I'll play a song five or six times before it fully gels into something. I’ll have a song going for a couple of months or so and then I just work on recording it. I do a one-take recording, and do a few takes until I feel like it sounds the way it should be.
We seem to be in the middle of an acoustic resurgence, with Daniel Bachman and the folks at Tompkins Square digging up the graves of old Americans and parading the dolled-up corpses around town. Forget about that when you listen to Itasca. Kayla Cohen's solo acoustic project doesn't seem to eschew this context so much as exist wholly outside of it. This is not surprising, considering Cohen's participation in drone unit, Sultan, before moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. In our discussion, she was more likely to list a post-punk band, an avant-shredder, and a series of obscure female singers before she would even dream of repping John Fahey or Harry Smith. Indeed, Itasca's project indebted less to the acoustic guitar than to a narrowly defined female tradition that few would conjure besides Cohen herself. Experimental music, after all, is a realm where each artist speaks in her own language. This is the language at play on her debut, Grace Riders on the Road, and most recent EP, Proto.
Ad Hoc: Why make acoustic music in 2013?
Itasca: I like the idea of being challenged by simplicity. I still feel like acoustic music has untapped frontiers, for me personally. I can't say the same of a keyboard and loop sampler. And [the idea] of taking the concept of guitar and voice as far as it will go, exploring my own personal musical perspective as far as it goes. In a way, it's also easier to not have all this electronic stuff and programming to deal with-- to just sit down with a guitar. It makes it more about song structure than tone, though it can be about tone as well.
Take note: your favorite album of 2015 may be sitting on some band's hard drive right now. Such was the case with Tjutjuna and their sophomore album, Westerner. It was recorded in June 2011, and Altered Zones reported on a song from it just over two years ago. It seems selfish for the Denver quartet-cum-trio-cum-quintette to sit on one of the finest pieces of contemporary psych for that long, but the fact of the matter is that Tjutjuna could not have released Westerner at a better time. 2013 is shaping up to be the year that rock regrew some stones, and Tjutjuna will prove to be in large part responsible for this. Guitarist and keyboard player Brian Marcus helped shed some light on the band's process and context.
Ad Hoc: What are the origins of Tjutjuna?
Brian: It formed out of college, a group of us who grew up playing music together. We started a band called Mothership, which was not really experimental. It was very ambitious, but not experimental. And then friends who were in the band moved, and Tjutjuna formed slowly over the course of a year and it ended up with me; Robert [Ballantyne], who plays bass; James [Barrone], who plays drums; and Adam [Shaffner], who plays guitar. Then Adam left and we were a three-piece. He left before the recording of [Westerner]. We recorded this two years ago [in June 2011]. We've been kind of dormant.
Ad Hoc: Where do you see yourselves fitting in the rock pantheon?
Brian: There’s definitely the kraut rock thing. And we definitely love Japanese psych-- there's a fair amount of Boredoms love in there and [current tour mates] Acid Mothers Temple. We’re pretty heavy, but we’re not metal. We’re very psychedelic, but we don’t sound like that strain of psychedelic music that people tend to think of, like Brian Jonestown Massacre. I like them, but I don’t really consider them overtly psychedelic. Yeah, I really don’t know where we fit in.
Holodeck is a young label. So far, it's limited existence has been devoted to spreading the music of a small group of people, unintentionally crafting a thorough aesthetic in the process. Projects like Survive and Troller cop a pallette and melodic structure from some hazy memory of the '80s, yet these musicians are not simple nostalgists. Even though Holodeck founder, Jon, will allude to a lack of intent in the selection of certain synth patches and sonic fidilites, it's impossible to ignore what these choices signify. Perhaps what Jon is driving at-- as best exemplified by the affiliated, but unsigned Pure X-- is that these are the best tools for the clan to communicate sincerely through this abstract thing we call music.
Ad Hoc: So Holodeck is a year old now?
Holodeck: Correct, our first release was april 30 last year, but I guess we were technically existing at this point a year go-- so yeah about a year old.
Ad Hoc: That makes you as old as Ad Hoc
Holodeck: Yeah that’s true, that’s so crazy
Ad Hoc: What was your first release?
Holodeck: We released four tapes originally, but HD001 was Smokey Emery’s Soundtracks for Invisibility Vol. 1 but we’ve been releasing in batches for whatever reason. Others that came out were Thousand Foot Whale Claw’s Lost in the Dunes and the Troller self-titled and Lumen’s self-titled.
Ad Hoc: Holodeck started as a bookstore, is that correct?
Holodeck: Well, the kind of pre-cursor to some of the South By Southwest shows we have, we used to have South-By shows at a bookstore that I worked at. And that’s where I first met Emilie [Friedlander, Ad Hoc co-founder] actually, and I was the sound guy and the first show I did there was with La Big Vic [Emilie's band]. It was a bookstore I was working at at the time and sort of helped found a couple years ago in 2006. I wasn’t an owner or anything, but I was one of the three people running it, the bookstore is called Brave New Books.
There's a lot of music in the world-- it's kind of insane. So much music that, despite our best efforts to keep our ears to the ground and our fingers on the keyboard, we inevitably miss out on covering, or even fully understanding, what end up being some of our faves. In our new column, Missed Marks, we share some of the releases that we may not have caught right away, but now stay in heavy rotation:
After Robbie M's old group, the Midnight Express Show Band, scored a minor hit in 1983 with their paranoid funk classic "Danger Zone," the plan was to release a full-length record. However, the band broke up in 1985 before the dream could be realized, and afterwards Robbie primarily worked solo in the confines of his home studio in Rock Island, IL. Despite some early momentum and even spots performing alongside notable heavyweights like Roger Troutman, Keith Sweat, The Temptations, The Chi-lites, and many others, the singer/songwriter/synthesist spent most of his career toiling in relative obscurity and amassing a giant library of unreleased tracks while "Danger Zone" became a progressively sought after rarity among R&B record collectors.
Eventually, Robbie was introduced to a new audience when DC-based funk label Peoples Potential Unlimited started reissuing a plethora of rare, lost, or unreleased recordings from the Midnight Express Show Band, Robbie, and other artists from his own Tri-Fire imprint, including "Danger Zone." The response to the cult hero's return was overwhelming and eventually led to Let's Groove, the most thorough culmination of his work yet. The album compiles ten recordings from his own archive-- five instrumental, five vocal--, focusing mostly on romance, synthetic soul, and an older school of golden era dance music. The result is an optimistic mosaic of funk styles that, until recently evolving from passing curiosities to heavy influences on so much vital music being made today, were seemingly doomed to be lost in time. -- Matt Sullivan
This sponsored post has been brought to you by The Edge.
Spring is the air and The Edge is budding! That's right, the weather is finally warm enough for us to take our Crif Dogs to-go and enjoy them by the Williamsburg Waterfront. We're super stoked about whipping out our Topsiders and floral pattern dresses (don't hate!). The Edge is interested in developing a lot more than just real estate, so we made this sus mix inspired by the music scene that gives this neighborhood so much flavor! It's full of faves from our gals (shouts out Grimes!), some KILLER EDM, and even a couple of guilty pleasures.
Diiv: "How Long Have You Known"
Imagine Dragons: "It's Time"
Ducktails: "Letter of Intent"
Sky Ferreira: "Everything is Embarrassing"
Vampire Weekend: "Diane Young"
Laurel Halo: "Light + Space"
James Ferraro: "Global Lunch"
fun.: "Carry On (Acoustic)"
The Lumineers: "Stubborn Love"
Daniel Bachman: "Seven Pines"
Baauer: "Harlem Shake"
Benny Benassi: "Cinema"
Fatima Al-Qadiri: "Ghost Raid"
Prurient: "Many Jewels Surround the Crown"
Skrillex: "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"
This week, Colleen Green dropped Sock it To Me, her latest LP of 420-infected wanderer's songs for Hardly Art. Her run of singles from that album (including fave "Time in the World," "Heavy Shit," and the recent "Taxi Driver," whose video is streaming below) tend to elicit feelings of seclusion, effortless slack, and a numbed sort of mutual misunderstanding between yourself and your environment, but they're also testament to Green's subtle narrative skill that, at times, evokes the intimate, lost realism that you might expect to see in a Linklater flick. In commemoration of the album's release, Green prepped Ad Hoc a mixtape that more overtly addresses these cinematic connections: Incredible Songs From Incredible Movies. The film selection runs a strange gamut of cult classic adventures (Labyrinth), cheeseball comedies (Mallrats), and, of course, John C. Reilly (Walk Hard). You can stream the whole thing below via Soundcloud, and peep the tracklist after the jump.
Sock it to Me is out now on Hardly Art. The new video for latest single "Taxi Driver" is streaming below via Youtube.