photo courtesy of landon speers

teen daze released his a world away ep back in january, a six-track effort that has served as an adequate place-holder for his impending full-length album.  the ep is slated for a march 18th release in japan via plancha records, and the physical copy will double the content with six bonus tracks.  “lights in the palm trees” is a liquid, pensive cut included amongst the six new songs, and plancha has teased the track in anticipation of the ep’s release overseas.  take a listen to a particularly pastoral incarnation of teen daze below.

photo by david szymanski

sometimes incredibly thought-provoking music is simply dropped in your lap.  such was the case with a fault, the dark and disorienting new album from experimental artist adoptahighway that showed up in our inbox early last month.  we recently caught up with adoptahighway’s mild-mannered alter ego, classical musician barry paul clark, via email to talk about a fault, influential composers, and the experimental music sub-culture that has firmly entrenched itself into milwaukee’s expansive music scene.  check out the transcript below.

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there seems to be a lot of disjointed and competing rhythms throughout a fault, especially on tracks like “qualmness” and “defiance,” and those rhythms mirror the disjointed and aggressive undertones of the record really well.  can you talk about your inspirations while writing this record?

the inspiration behind this record had a lot to do with defining and obtaining inspiration – where it is, what it is, how it comes to be, whether or not it can be harbored or contained, and the spectrum of conflicting emotion and self realization that presents itself within that journey.  i know a lot of artists deal with these issues in different ways, so everything i expressed on the subject within the record is very personal.  i’m still unsure if i’ve answered any of my own questions on the matter, but at the very least i made what i consider my most honest material.

i did some internet digging and found out that you spend a considerable amount of time playing classical upright bass in various ensembles.  how does that experience translate to your electronic music, or are do you tend to compartmentalize the two?

yes, i studied and graduated with a degree in classical music performance on upright bass, so outside of adoptahighway, i spend my musical efforts in a handful of regional symphonies, smaller chamber ensembles, jazz and improvised music outfits, and a string quartet i co-founded called the tontine ensemble, which is dedicated to new music performance, mostly by wisconsin composers, as well as our own compositions and improvisations.

i don’t think I necessarily compartmentalize adoptahighway and these other efforts, although i do get a bit of a surprised reaction when i say i’m a classical musician who makes experimental electronic music, or vice versa.  some musicians are totally dedicated to a single craft, which is absolutely amazing, but i use each musical outfit i’m in to express a different part of myself.  it keeps me happy and excited to be able to do that.  i do feel a constant, direct correlation between my classical training and electronic music would be the composition techniques and theory/orchestration studies that I’ve taken part in translate into my work as adoptahighway.

are there any particular composers that have heavily influenced adoptahighway, either throughout the project’s existence or on this album in particular?

i’ve always been inspired by the extreme emotional output of the romantic era to early twentieth century composers.  some of my most fond performance memories, and composers i listen to regularly, are tchaikovsky, mahler, sibelius, and ravel.  i’m also very keen on minimalist composers like glass, reich, cage, john adams and lamonte young; the ability to say very much with sonically very little is very impressive.  i also have a close group of friends through the wednesday sound collective with whom i’ve developed heavily as an electronic musician: my pals lorn, dolor, and 18andcounting.

another project you’re involved in is unrehearsed mke.  can you talk a bit about the experimental music scene in milwaukee?

unrehearsed mke is a project that was started by my longtime friend and frequent collaborator, percussionist devin drobka.  it’s a monthly event here in milwaukee where we, along with the help of composer and saxophonist steve gallam, put together groups of musicians from all fields and disciplines – many of whom have never met or played together before – and ask them to create music on the spot, improvising in a performance setting.  we’ve been doing this for just over two years and it has really brought together and developed a brilliant community of improvisers and artists.  i always equate improvising with speaking.  you’re using the language of your instrument or craft to communicate an idea, just like how you would in any day-to-day conversation.  it’s about speaking clearly, without judgement, and without ego.  there have been some unforgettable and brilliant performances that have taken place this way and part of the magic is that it will never happen again, in light of it being improvised with no prior meeting of the musicians beforehand.

this is only a small facet of experimental music in milwaukee at the moment. another great contributor to the scene for the past several years has been a series called melt, that showcases electronic musicians in a performance setting, curated by my friend the demix.  he’s done a brilliant job advocating and getting support for the actual performance of original electronic music, and not just djs stuck in a booth in the corner of a club somewhere – which is unfortunately what often gets equated with “electronic music” for some people.  melt has been amazing in giving an outlet for many experimental musicians who would otherwise be confined to their studio spaces.

i could talk for hours about more goings on, but i guess the bottom line is that there’s a strong and healthy community of new music happening in milwaukee; you just have to be willing to seek it out.

wisconsin is the rightful beer and cheese capital of the country, and milwaukee especially embodies that stereotype.  what beer and cheese combination do you think would pair best with a fault?

ha!  i haven’t really thought about an edible/drinkable comparison to the record, so i guess i’d go with personal preference of dark beers.  i’ve heard reviews of my music as being dark and heavy, so a porter, stout or black ale seems to make sense.  my girlfriend really enjoys edam cheese, and she enjoys my musical output as well, so there’s that – dark beer and wisconsin edam.

do you have any immediate plans for adoptahighway, in terms of touring, new music, or both?

i don’t have anything necessarily planned outside of a show coming up in milwaukee at the end of march as adoptahighway.  maybe once the snow melts and there’s sun again i will try to string together some shows and hit the road.  i’m looking forward to getting into new music now that a fault has finally been released.  i invested so much time and emotional energy into this record, i felt that i couldn’t move on until it was released and out into the world.  i get very much involved in the concept and expression i’m trying to reach each time i write, so a fault really latched its teeth into me.  it was like exorcising a demon, really, and now that that’s off of me, it’s time to let the next one in.

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the show clark refers to is a stacked bill at cactus club in milwaukee on march 27th, part of the relaunch of melt; if you’re in the area, strongly consider attending.  in the meantime, you can stream and download a fault through the bandcamp link provided below.

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photo courtesy of shervin lainez

speedy ortiz is set to release their second album for carpark records, foil deer, on april 21st.  last month the quartet shared “raising the skate,” a crushing lead single replete with a winding, monolithic guitar riff, and its follow-up is just as good.  “the graduates” hinges less on the size of the riff and more on its harmonic dexterity, affording sadie dupuis’ killer chorus of “i was the best at being second place / but now i’m just the runner up” the space it needs to fully resonate.  if the rest of foil deer has even half the potency of these two singles, speedy ortiz has something really special in their possession.  take a listen to “the graduates” below.

photo courtesy of deirdre o’callaghan

the national has had a profound impact on this site, both directly and indirectly.  our 8tracks account name borrows shamelessly from “vanderlyle crybaby geeks,” and their 2013 album trouble will find me was one of our favorite records of that year.  but the discovery of the band’s extensive catalogue of intricate, melancholy songs was a crucial factor in the creation of this blog, and of a foray into music journalism altogether; their songs were among the first to suggest that pop music could – and should – be digested in a comprehensively analytical manner.  it seems appropriate to highlight the brooklyn quintet at some point during this series.

with such a staggering wealth of material at their immediate disposal, the national no longer need to dig deep to scrape together an hour-long concert.  indeed, most of their recent performances flirt with the two-hour mark, yet they never seem to plod along nor do they come across as long-winded.  take the national’s concert at the sydney opera house forecourt in february of 2014 as an example.  a gargantuan set list approaching the thirty-song mark leans heavily on material from trouble will find me, but that album’s slower, introspective tone is frequently contrasted by staples from high violetboxer, and alligator.  songs like “bloodbuzz ohio” and “fake empire” have aged magnificently, and matt berninger is still capable of conveying post-punk angst on “abel” and “mr. november.”  but somehow, the entire two-hour concert pales in comparison to its final ten minutes; there’s something about watching an entire audience sing along to “vanderlyle crybaby geeks” that just transcends all attempts at adequate articulation.  block out some time to watch the concert below.

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don’t swallow the cap

i should live in salt

mistaken for strangers

bloodbuzz ohio

demons

sea of love

hard to find

afraid of everyone

conversation sixteen

squalor victoria

i need my girl

this is the last time

lean

abel

slow show

apartment story

pink rabbits

england

graceless

about today

fake empire

learning (perfume genius cover)

humiliation

mr. november

terrible love

vanderlyle crybaby geeks

month in review winter 2february felt fluid.  along with a number of pre-planned albums and eps that delivered on most or all of their potential, we were treated to a slew of new singles, new announcements, and that one surprise album that captivated all of twitter.  like always, we’ll tackle the more cohesive releases first before moving on to standalone tracks and general music news.  dig it.

february 10th: quarterbacks – quarterbacks

february 17th: ibeyi – ibeyi

february 24th: diet cig – over easy

this month was a solid showing from bands out of new paltz, with quarterbacks and diet cig both offering up important contributions to the town’s burgeoning diy/twee/what-have-you landscape.  french duo ibeyi managed to wrangle our undivided attention for a good chunk of february as well; the sisters’ self-tilted debut is a whirlwind spectacle of pure artistry and manages to show that the marriage of jazz and r&b still has fresh avenues to be explored.  folk mainstays father john misty and josé gonzález both fired off admirable new albums this month, the former garnering inevitable year-end attention, while mount eerie added to his staggering discography with the haunting sauna.  last but not least, drake unceremoniously dropped if you’re reading this it’s too late on a friday night, thus fulfilling a contractual obligation with cash money.  it’s a very even performance – though not necessarily his best – that simultaneously grants drake complete autonomy with his forthcoming views from the 6.

 

new tracks from clark, yumi zouma, and speedy ortiz graced our presence this month, all of them taken from anticipated upcoming albums or eps.  detroit’s gosh pith continued to churn out excellent content in small doses, this time zeroing in on the straight-ahead ethos found on “prints.”  dimestore saints also played host to a promising pair of songs from newcomer alexei shishkin, a bedroom-confined singer-songwriter with a debut tape due out in april on forged artifacts.  both “goodbye chile” and “santa cruz” are nostalgic odes to shishkin’s former places of residence, and each requires a handful of dedicated listens to properly ingest the subtle wordplay and harmonic structures used.  finally, baltimore’s soft cat shared the second single off of their upcoming third album all energy will rise.  “diana” capitalizes on the collective’s established pastoral tendencies, but it’s arguably neil sanzgiri’s most realized and nuanced piece of work yet.

 

march has a crippling number of new releases to consume, from lady lamb the beekeeper to aeroflynn to yumi zouma to lightning bolt.  heavyweights like modest mouse, death cab for cutie, and sufjan stevens will all have new albums to sift through, while offerings from laura marling and action bronson both carry significant amounts of intrigue and potential.  as always, standalone tracks and singles from forthcoming albums and eps are inevitable; we’ll have you covered on that end as well.  check back this time next month for full details.

clark’s eponymous album that he dropped last fall was a jarring experience, with dark, aggressive tones underscored by fervent drum programming.  his ethos shows no sign of subsiding; a follow-up ep entitled flame rave is due out march 23rd, and it’s prefaced by a new track called “silver sun.”  brash, brassy synths dominate early before losing their sense of identity to a cavalcade of other elements.  the song is an exercise in gradual ambiguity, a concept clark excels at rather well.  take a listen to “silver sun” below.

alexei shishkindespite only having two songs under his belt, alexei shishkin has firmly attached a nomadic element to his persona.  both “santa cruz” and “goodbye chile,” his latest offering, are odes to former homes: places that bred familiarity but not necessarily contentment.  on “goodbye chile,” shishkin waxes nostalgic (“i was moving slow motion all the time / i was living five miles from the ocean side”) over guitar interjections and stabs of liquid synthesizers, the latter perhaps an allusion to the song’s thematic material.  “goodbye chile” is taken from shishkin’s upcoming cassette for forged artifacts, out in april; take a listen below.

diet cigdiet cig crams a lot of material into just ten minutes of music.  the new paltz duo is still green and a bit rough around the edges, but that rawness lends itself well to the bevy of emotions contained inside their over easy ep, out today via father/daughter records.

five tracks is just enough space for alex luciano to run the gamut from sarcastic to shameless to sheer loathing.  “breathless” immediately showcases her wit (“i don’t have any kitchenware / but i can walk around in my underwear / in my first apartment / where i pay so much for rent”), and while a murmuring delivery initially suggests a quaint apathy, the true dichotomy of the duo’s dynamic range is unveiled towards the end of the song.  noah bowman’s floor tom-centric drumming may be an underlying condition but luciano’s unabashed wail is the true catalyst of diet cig’s peak volume, her voice clearly piercing through an otherwise-grainy mix.

“scene sick” is the most sonically polished track on over easy, and for good reason: it contains luciano’s most relevant commentary.  besides airing her grievances pertaining to local music scenes, luciano ruthlessly takes an ex to task on “harvard” (“fuck your ivy league sweater” yelled repeatedly might be the best moment on the entire ep) and shows a similar aversion to inflated egos on “cardboard.”

diet cig sets the bar at just the right height with over easy.  the tempo rarely fluctuates from song to song, easily allowing a cohesive enjoyment of the ep and a general understanding of what the duo stands for.  like almost any act dabbling in pop-punk, diet cig does not abstain from poop references (see: “pool boyz”) nor from taking swipes at exes, but the meat of luciano’s lyrical content is so gloriously tongue-in-cheek and ridiculously on-point that those juvenile transgressions are somehow even more amusing in contrast.  new paltz has been an interesting microcosm of the east coast music scene for some time now, and diet cig only adds to the intrigue.  block out twenty minutes for over easy.

7.9/10

french producer madeon seems to be following in the footsteps of his contemporary, porter robinson, by releasing a debut album with grandiose stadium-pop ambitions.  adventure is due out march 31st via columbia, and madeon sensibly enlisted the help of passion pit’s michael angelakos for the album’s second single, “pay no mind.”  angelakos’ voice fits snugly on top of madeon’s whirlwind of synthesizers like a well-made tupperware lid, and the anthemic qualities of “pay no mind” are only further enhanced by its music video.  set in a futuristic metropolis, the video follows a restless young couple who seem to be looking for a way out of the city’s confines.  it’s also the second part of a purported trilogy of music videos; you can catch up on the backstory with the video for “you’re on” before tackling “pay no mind” below.

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