The songs of Philly-based foursome Palm rarely end where they begin, taking on tricky time signatures and hairpin melodic turns without sacrificing hooks and songcraft. Their lyrics can be similarly hard to follow: the group’s dual vocalists embrace abstraction, with heavy vocal filters and inventive word games. Still, they get an awful lot across while saying very little—especially during their live sets, which can resemble a performed conversation in a private alien language.
Rock Island, their brightly lit sophomore full-length for Carpark Records, feels like a slight change of pace for the group; with Palm’s introduction of MIDI sampling and other electronic manipulations, it can sound at times like straight-up dance music. In advance of their record release show at Market Hotel on February 9, we chatted with guitarist and singer Kasra Kurt about the band’s ever-growing musical dexterity.
AdHoc: Palm spent time in New York before moving to Philly. How would you describe the difference between the music scenes there?
Kasra Kurt: Well, Palm has actually never been based in NYC. [Drummer] Hugo [Stanley] and [guitarist and vocalist] Eve [Alpert] have lived there in the past, but the “New York” in palmnewyork.bandcamp.com or email@example.com refers to the Hudson Valley, three hours north of the city, which is where we went to school and where we started playing together. I might be wrong, but I think we used New York in the Bandcamp link in the hopes that people would book us there...intentionally vague. It’s hard to stress how influential the scene upstate was on all of us. Bard had a really strong community of bold and adventurous musicians and artists. I’d go to a lot of shows, and my entire conception of music was being challenged all the time. I think it instilled in all of us a particular creative mentality, where nothing was off limits.
After college, we moved a little further upstate and spent a couple years writing and developing together. We started touring a little, but it was mostly an opportunity to retreat and figure out what we wanted to do.
Philadelphia is different. It’s a big city, for one, so it was something of a transition from country living. There’s so much happening—I highly recommend checking out Ada Babar and Old Maybe, for starters—and [so many] cool spots to play. To me, at least, it doesn’t feel competitive at all; people are supportive. Honestly, I don’t feel super comfortable talking about the Philly scene, because we’ve only been here a couple years and we’re away on tour so much of the time. But we love it here, and we feel really lucky to be a small part of the scene.
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.
Repent and confess, sinners who dare enter the world of Ronnie Stone & the Lonely Riders. It's a bold opening sentence, sure, but it feels appopriate for the subject matter at hand. No emerging Brooklyn act has accumulated the obscene levels of feverish admiration and unwavering intrigue that Ronnie Stone & the Lonely Riders has. To put this in the most simplistic terms imaginable: no one's operating on their level. They're a band that claims to have transcended time-- futuristic beings with their roots planted firmly in the past. Everyone plays a part and commits to it without hesitation, band and audience alike; the dress code for their upcoming show permits the following items: "...leather.lace.lashes..., 1820's goth/2060's cybergoth, ,,,black.boysenberry.bloodred..., ...And when in doubt wear all black."
At some point, the music becomes a minor fraction of the experience-- but the music's strong enough to draw people into the group's leather-clad world. Convincing world-building, as any writer of a television show can tell you, is an intensely difficult task to pull off; however, Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders have earned the admiration of many by doing it with aplomb. To heighten the sense of mystery, they've managed to achieve this in relative secrecy, only occasionally coming out of their hive to reveal their works to the public. When those events happen, there's a strict set of rules that the audience members are encouraged to follow that tend to fit thematically with what the band has in store for the evening. On Saturday, the band will once again strike up another gathering and unveil their songs as part of an inspired rollout campaign for their forthcoming Motorcycle Yearbook, which is destined to be one of the most-discussed records to come out of Brooklyn in 2015.
AdHoc recently jumped at the chance to pry as much information as I could out of the band's enigmatic leader, Ronnie Stone, and was met with a series of cryptic answers that seemed carefully designed to reveal as much as possible about the world the band inhabits through a winking subtext rather than a surface statement. Everything the band's done up to this point has operated along the same lines, leaving a breadcrumb trail in the hopes that people follow it to their surreal temple. It's not just Stone in this mode, either. When I asked the band's manager for a list of The Lonely Riders I was granted the following information: Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders are a boogie-funk supergroup from the future. The members consist of Ronnie Stone (shoulder synth), Emerson Steele (drumset), Rocko Grande (guitar), CJ Sweetie (synthesizer), and Johnson Gauge (synth-bass).
Over the past few weeks, I've had a few opportunities to speak directly with the veiled figure; but for this particular interview, the veil was strengthened through a faceless correspondence that allowed Stone to articulate his responses in a manner that felt consistent with what the band hopes will be a truly immersive experience. Stone at one point brings up Giorgio, who is a keeper of secrets for the band and exists primarily in the shadows, who delivers answers with an even greater cryptic flair than the project's mastermind. They're a deceptively literate band, forcing the people they've attracted to their world to read into just about everything for greater meaning if they choose to follow that route. For others, it's merely enough to relax and enjoy the hyper-realized ride.
Below is a transcription of a Q&A where no true names are revealed, the real driving motives behind Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders' mission is provided via hints, and all of the answers are coded. The real question is whether or not seeking for their layered meanings is really an answer at all. Dive into the world of Ronnie Stone & The Lonely riders by coming out to Aviv for Ronnie Stone & The Lonely Riders: The Confession on Saturday, July 18. Make sure to come prepared. Get into the forthcoming show's spirit by reading some of Ronnie Stone's confessions below.
Matana Roberts' artistic practice exists at the intersection of various established traditions without expressing slavish devotion to any particular musical lineage. She plays saxophone and has been classified as a jazz artist, but she is also signed to Montreal-based Constellation Records; a label renowned for their association with post-rock juggernaut Godspeed! You Black Emperor, but increasingly a haven for uncompromising artist-driven projects whose only stylistic affinity is a relentless desire to push the boundaries of genre. She is a Chicago native, cutting her teeth in that city’s illustrious improvisation scene, and although she has called New York City home for over a decade, she shies away from the endless self-promotion that many of the city’s creative types use for their careers. Roberts maybe an avid Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr user, but she resides on a boat in Sheepshead Bay, far away from the more happening enclaves of Manhattan and North Brooklyn. Following the release of COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile in 2013, Matana's career entered a new phase of visibility and cultural impact in 2014, when she received the Herb Alpert Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award.
The stage was set for Robert’s most ambitious COIN COIN release to date, COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee is the latest installment of a twelve-part series, and the first solo chapter after two previous ensemble-based chapters. The conceptual background of river run thee incorporates a sojourn through the American South, the discovery of a 200-year-old ship captain’s diary, and seamlessely layered graphic scores, spoken word and live overdubs. In the hands of a lesser artist, these disparate elements might result in a confounding cacophony or simply a well-intentioned but over-ambitious "difficult album," but Roberts grounds river run thee in the human and the narrative, weaving her voice and a variety of melodies through the "panoramic sound quilting" that distinguishes her work. river run thee is another work of visceral sonic power and staggering depth from one of the continent’s most profound experimentalists (her term). AdHoc spoke with Matana by telephone while she endured a typically frigid January afternoon on her boat.
COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee is released Tuesday, February 3 on Constellation Records. Matana Roberts will play a record release show at Union Pool with Rain Machine and Ryan Sawyer/Nate Wooley/C.Spencer Yeh trio that night.
How did you end up living on a boat in Brooklyn?
I moved here in October. I spend a lot of time on the waterways, away from music. I kayak and surf and learned how to paddleboard through some free programming that happens on the Hudson. I got really into the water community in New York City, and you get into this thing where you start geeking out about water craft. I woke up one day last year and I was like “OK, I wanna get my Skipper’s License,” not knowing that many months later I would move onto a boat. There’s a boatel community in Queens, and I was curious what people were doing out there. One late night I just decided to look for a boat for rent. I’ve always wanted to live on a boat and it just so happened this whole last year I’ve been spending dealing with this Ship Captain’s diary and getting better at being out on the water myself. Being a New Yorker, it’s just hard to do stuff. So I thought living on the boat would also give me a chance to combine some things that I’m really into, and live in a way that is more reflective of my core values of caring about the environment and looking at the direct impact that I have as a human.
I’ve always tried to live in a way so that I go toward the things that happen, not navigate them.. When I started working on this record I had no idea that it would end with me being finished with the record and then a month later moving on to a boat. I couldn’t plan that if I tried!
I was living in Harlem and it was not a very positive space and I had to get going. Originally I was looking into the Rockaways but I’m still in Brooklyn. I’m in Sheepshead Bay, on the bottom [of the borough]! It’s far, but Brooklyn is so popular now and I wanted to get an experience of what Old Brooklyn is like. I love it, but I also feel like I'm in a foreign country because it’s a cinematic version of a Brooklyn I’ve never known. There are just so many things that I’m learning every day about this city that I thought I knew that I didn’t know.