Photography by Marco Hernandez
Danny L Harle is an experimental pop musician intimately connected with the London-born PC Music label. As a producer, he crosses international borders, collaborating with artists from Asia, Europe and the US and creating a unifying, global pop sound in the process. His latest EP, 1UL, showcases his production skillset and inclinations: maximalist, sugar-sweet melodies with expressively pitched and edited vocals. Danny spoke to AdHoc about his music and his vision for the future of pop ahead of his Halloween show at Brooklyn Bazaar on Friday, October 27.
AdHoc: What are your thoughts on how PC Music has grown over the past four years, and where do you see it going?
Danny L Harle: There are always a lot of big exciting projects in the works, and that’s how we always operate. For me, the goal has always been to make music which is accessible, but is also deeply experimental in its heart and is an expression of things that I love. For example, releasing the Carly Rae Jepsen track is one of the pinnacles of what I’m setting out to achieve: it has its heart in the sort of trance music I love, and the kind of clarity of expression that I love. It’s just very exciting dealing with the pop industry, because there’s an open-endedness to everything.
There are various TV/film/game ideas that are always in the works. I’ve always loved kids’ TV, and I’ve always been into the fact that you can be completely experimental and kids basically don’t know what’s going on, especially under the age of three. I’m really into that, and I’m really into storylines of TV shows in that world—like the illogic of them [laughs]. That’s the kind of level that I’m at in terms of following narratives. I get it when there’s a funny monster that runs really far away then back to the front of the screen—like, very simple ideas. I’m into extremes of simplicity and I think kids are on that level as well. And really funny stuff, like the sort of thing that kids would find funny so it has to be really clear.
A long-range goal is sort of to infiltrate the world of pop music and push it over the brink of insanity. I like when pop delves into the realm of fantasy–I feel that pop music, and culture in general, points toward either reality or fantasy, and I really like that as an idea. I’d say pop at the moment is a reflection of post-EDM culture, which is like, “We’re done with the electronic stuff, let’s get real, with real sounds and with real people singing about real things,” but it’s a pendulum that swings from side to side, because of course this “real”-sounding music is just as fake as the EDM.
Ultimately, my heart lies in the more honestly fake-sounding music. I’ve been writing some Japanese pop music that’s coming out soon, and their aesthetics have been in that world for a long time. They can have a pop star like Hatsune Miku do a sold-out live show, and no one bats an eyelid. Whereas if she does a show in the UK, it’s presented as a more of an art [thing]. In Japan it’s just a live show from a pop star, even though she’s completely fake. I like that kind of pushing against reality, and it would be fun to push things more in that direction, both working with artists and with major label stuff as well.Read More
Paul Simon - "Slip Slidin' Away"
So heartbreaking when he sings, “A good day is when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.”
Ancient Ocean's music swells with gravity and delicacy, pummeling with subtlety. His upcoming release, Titan's Island, invokes the sublime vastness of the cosmic across its intimately otherworldly four tracks. It makes for gorgeous listening just as calming in the background as affecting in the foreground. The project's mastermind, J.R. Bohannon, spoke with AdHoc about composition and spaces, both familiar and extraterrestrial.
Let’s talk about your approach to composition. Do you start with a concept and build a sound and atmosphere around it? The opposite? Somewhere in between?
It generally changes. With this record, I actually spent a lot of time taking out layers from the compositions to open up the overall landscape. I spend a lot of time just tracking ideas and, over time, a complete vision starts to reveal itself—and thats what seems to make up a full album.
As bonecrushing as it is beautiful, Ian Chang's music tremors with pure percussivity. On Spiritual Leader, his debut solo EP, Chang employs groundbreaking Sunhouse Sensory Percussion to bring a distinct physicality to beat-based music: what bangs throughout the record are splices of sound collected by Chang and played—virtuosically—on his hi-tech setup. Before Ian Chang unleashes his explosive live set September 27 at Baby's All Right, he took a moment to speak to AdHoc about musical geographies of taste and his innovative process.
Spiritual Leader is your first release as a solo artist, but, in addition to this project, you play in Landlady, Son Lux, and moonlight in other bands. How do you approach these projects compared to this new solo material?
For me, making music with others is a form of empathy, while playing solo is more of an introspective meditation. Collaboration has always come very naturally to me. I love inhabiting and contributing to other peoples' artistic visions. Embarking on a solo project has been a great challenge. I haven't made any music of my own since high school. The thing that I couldn't find was a good seed—a central concept from which everything could grow and flourish naturally. With this EP, I have found a seed, and, hopefully, with the right attention, it can grow nicely from here.
Despite lineup changes and stylistic shifts, Cold Beat stays true to its name. Over the course of three full-lengths, the band has never abandoned its signature icy coldwave jaggedness and sensuous pulse, illuminated by Hannah Lew's celestial vocals. On the band's latest effort, Chaos By Invitation, Lew establishes herself as a gracefully multifaceted songwriter, combining emotive lyricism, affecting guitar work, and electronic flourishes. Before she and a new touring band unleash a muscly, fleshed-out incarnation of the new record on September 21 at The Park Church Co-op, Lew spoke to AdHoc about the importance of connecting with one's emotions in a time of crisis—both personal and political—and resisting commodification.
AdHoc: Chaos By Invitation showcases real stylistic fluidity, both within the record and in comparison to your previous releases. What other artists or genres have helped facilitate this shift?
Hannah Lew: When I’m in a writing zone, I tend to only listen to what I’m making. I get really insular and I almost don’t even listen to music while I’m recording. But I think that the process is what really led the songs to the more singular style. I was just writing a lot at home with a computer. It made for a more solitary process, in which I was zoning out in a computer program a lot more—and then fleshing it out from there. It was a tunnel-vision way of doing things.
Actually, one of the songs, “Strawberry Moon,” my husband Andrew helped me write, just at home. I was like, “I’m struggling with this song!” and he helped me finish it. We then toured with it as a band and added things to it. It’s been an interesting process: I recorded things at home and brought the sessions into the studio [from there]. At a point, I didn’t really have a band. One of my bandmates was having a baby, and the other one was in five bands, and it was a lull. [Cold Beat guitarist] Kyle [King] was half-in, half-out; he came to the recording session for a day or two, but, for the most part, I was just sort of in there. I did some post-production stuff with Mikey Young [of Australian post-punk outfit Total Control]. But, for the most part, it was an in-the-computer process.
Since the formation of the [touring] band, there’s been so much fleshing out, and people have brought so much of themselves to it, that it’s like the live version is its own incarnation. For that reason, we’re bringing this exclusive tour tape with us on the trip—that’s the Part Time Punks sessions that we’ve done that are different versions of the songs. The album is kind of like the demo, and the Part Time Punks versions are the band playing the songs.
How has this more electronic approach changed your relationship to your songs in a live setting?
The live set has definitely changed. The songs were written, and then they really came to life when people brought so much to them. There’s even new parts on the album that we played live—I’m like, “Damn, I wish that we’d played these for years before I wrote the album.” But it’s just it’s own thing. But it’s definitely what makes it worth seeing us play live. The people in the band right now make us the best lineup.
Why would someone choose to listen to Xiu Xiu?
With its blend of dissonant guitar clashes, raging synth chords, and frontman Jamie Stewart’s morbid imagination, Xiu Xiu is daring in a literal sense: it dares listeners to keep their headphones on and endure—rather than necessarily enjoy—what Xiu Xiu has to offer.
But it’s that challenge—the masochistic exercise of listening to a Xiu Xiu record, paired with moments of undeniable beauty—that makes their music all the more alluring.
As a songwriter, Stewart tends to be drawn to more disturbing subject matter. Over the course of 13 albums, Stewart has sung extensively about incest, suicide and other nightmares, like the true story of his friend being sexually assaulted by a police officer while in custody.
While previous Xiu Xiu records veered toward the chaotic—a sudden, clattering noise here, a lyric like “cremate me after you cum on my lips” there— the group’s latest release Forget holds together as a catchier affair.
“Wondering” features Stewart’s signature, trembling vocals imploring listeners to “swallow defeat” as a pulsing, club-ready beat chugs toward something of a rarity in Xiu Xiu’s catalog: a bonafide pop chorus.
But groovier tunes don’t necessarily mean Stewart is beginning to lighten up. At its core, FORGET is ultimately an exploration of frailty and loneliness, ending on a poem read by the drag artist Vaginal Davis. The poem closes with lines that are peak-Stewart: “It doesn't matter what you think/ Do anything you like/ Because I was born dead/ And I was born to die.”
Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Stewart seems reluctant to explore the roots of his fascination with darker topics, less because he's scared and more because he's worried it could ruin his creative process.
“A lot of ‘whys’ in music I think fuck music up,” he says
Xiu Xiu will play Villain in Brooklyn on Sepember 23 with Noveller and Re-TROS.Read More
Photography by Nick Karp
Last Thursday, Brooklyn's DIIV took to the majestic Murmrr Theatre stage to perform a delightful unplugged set of covers and new music—all gorgeously captured by Nick Karp. Relive the night and check out DIIV's video for their cover of Sparklehorse's iconic "Cow" below.
Photography by Roxanne Clifford
Flesh World purvey a muscly sort of post-punk, spurred into gear by Scott Moor's high-octane, high-feedback guitar and Jess Scott's spat-out vocals. But the musculature that Flesh World flexes is not one of aggressive machismo, but rather one of corporeal connections fostered, a press release for the band has said, in the nurturting spaces of "the punk show, the gay world, and the rest of the environments Flesh World insulate themselves in for survival." They're a band threaded together by this bodily interaction—Flesh World's Jess Scott and Scott Moore met while "loitering around [San Francisco's] Panhandle district"—as well as a physical sound.
Flesh World's Jess gathered up some of their disparate influences into a playlist for AdHoc. Check out the lead single for their upcoming full-length Into the Shroud, out September 8 via Dark Entries, below, and catch Flesh World perform September 23 at Silent Barn with Home Blitz.
Jess Scott: The theme of this is strange girls from around the globe—artists active from 1956 to present, from Tokyo to Berlin to Australia to Montreal to Los Angeles, from women from prison camps to women in my living room. These are sounds from strange girls with strange histories, making everything from early French goth to italo to contemporary house to avant-garde compositions in strange places.