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?
Ren Schofield: 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?
RS: 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 Marcus: 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?
BM: 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 Slade 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?
Jon Slade: 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.
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.
Since the mid-'90s, Ellen Allien has been a staple of Berlin's club scene, gaining early recognition for her DJ sets, which she says are something of an addiction. But that's probably not how you know her name. No, what truly earned Ellen Allien international exposure is her pop music, where she combines a talent for songwriting with cutting-edge electronic production, and often sounds as though it's actually hailing from outer space. Her most recent album-- LISm, released last week on her own label-- is a break from this style though. It assumes the form of a single, 45-minute-long track, originally composed to accompany a ballet at the Pompidou Center in Paris. She adapted the score into a piece that unpredicatably jumps from light-hearted electronica to surfy guitars and ethereal vocal passages. In many ways, it's like the electronic equivalent of Jim O'Rourke's similarly structured epic, The Visitor.
Ad Hoc: Berlin seems to be an integral part of your artistic persona. Berlinette is a defining album, for example.Could you discuss the city's influence on you?
Ellen Allien: Berlin’s wall came down and I saw and felt all the changes. I have seen the club scene moving to electronic music. I built up my own company [BPitch Control]; it is like an island for artists. Today, we are a record company and an international booking agency. In my music I guess you can hear the hope, the melancholy, the radical part, and a female breeze. Stadtkind and Berlinette are about the feeling of being a woman in this city-- as a DJ in a city [that is] changing every minute.
Many creative people are moving to Berlin and expressing themselves. In Berlin, you don’t feel the commercial pressure. It is not important to be rich or famous, or to have a super job. Meeting people here is easy; they don’t tell each other their business plan or ask if you are this or that kind of person. As long as creative people are moving to Berlin and the government lets the creative world grow, Berlin will be amazing and special.
As with any iconic vision of noise, Pete Swanson's is idiosyncratic. Noise sprung from subversion-- by terminology alone, noise is music's waste, or at the very least, music's other-- and its progenitors were often obsessed with power dynamics. For Whitehouse, it was society's institutional power. For Boyd Rice, it was the performer's power over audience. The 00's noise scene saw a plurality of new voices, few of them reverent to the genre's genesis. But then again, a strata that's so anarchically diverse barely allows for reverence. In both Yellow Swans and his own solo work, Pete Swanson has repurposed noise's power as power over self: power to induce ecstasy, to foster catharsis, sometimes to just get trippy and have some fun.
Swanson's history is very tied up in reformulations of noise. The Jyrk collective that he helmed with Eric Dreg and fellow Yellow Swan, Gabriel Saloman, supported the likes of Axolotl, John Weise, Grouper, White Rainbow, and Xiu Xiu. You could not name a more disparate group of musicians, but Jyrk's catalog is a reminder that noise was never a prescription for sound, instead a grounds for diverse and radical exploration. In truth, you'd be hard pressed to call more than a handful of Jyrk affiliates noise-- if anything, their tie to the supergenre is in the community of a scene which itself couldn't be called much else besides noise.
As Hospital Productions stalwart, Kris Lapke has made aesthetics of oppressive power his bread and butter. Thanks to brutal noise and violent imagery, this power is inherent to all the strains of music that Lapke aligns himself with-- power electronics, industrial, harsh noise wall. This manifests in his live show, an occasion that he'll describe as militaristic-- indeed his beats are strict, his shouts commanding, and his appearance cartoonishly authoritative. If you had to give his look a name, it would be "dystopian cop." But if Lapke's schtick is vintage noise, his music as Alberich is some of the most forward thinking industrial music that exists, incorporating the rhythmic complexity of modern day techno-- German and British-- to make scary music that's, well, catchy. Alberich may not be a name you recognize, but it's one to get familiar with if you're looking for some irresistable extreme music.
Ad Hoc: Could you talk about your time spent in Rhode Island?
Kris Lapke: When I was living there, it was the middle of that big boom with Lightning Bolt and Load Records. It was a good time to get to know all the folks who were involved with Fort Thunder and all that sort of stuff. I occasionally go back there to record bands just because I met so many people who actually have spaces to record in, which is nice compared to New York where nobody has any space at all. But there’s really not a heck of a whole lot going on there right now which is a shame because it was a really cool underground scene with a lot of different things going on.