morly

photo courtesy of david lekash

katy morley’s work has always been arresting.  under the mononym morly, she has thus far produced two swirling, ethereal extended plays, 2015’s in defense of my muse and last spring’s something more holy, collections that paired a strong pop sensibility with the catharsis of sparse, minimalist dance music.

next month, morly will release sleeping in my own bed, a three-song 12″ single that gravitates towards a more organic approach to songwriting.  the end result is gorgeous; “sleeping in my own bed” finds morly’s aching lead vocal more prominent than it’s ever been, working in tandem with a sprawling acoustic piano accompaniment to create a plaintive, comparatively straightforward pop song.

despite a new focal point, morly’s sonic touchstones continue to be integral to this permutation of her aesthetic: the rhythm section takes a supporting role this time around, but still stretches out when necessary, and choral pads swell to add a celestial veneer to the track’s more expansive moments.  regardless of which facet she explores, morly proves time and again that the precise combination of simple ingredients will yield a downright magical product.

sleeping in my own bed is out august 25th via cascine.  take a listen to its title track below.

Lushloss-1-Credit-Brit-Hansen

photo courtesy of brit hansen

lushloss is the moniker of seattle-based producer and songwriter olive jun, who will release her debut album, asking/bearing, on july 28th digitally via hush hush records.  it’s a double-record of sorts; the contents of asking allow jun to introspectively sprawl out as a songwriter and vocalist while traversing weightier topics like the intertwining of death, familial relationships, and identity, whereas bearing delves unabashedly into jun’s affinity for balmy instrumental hip-hop.  bearing closes out the project, but its contents actually came first.  the construction of its seven tracks ultimately compelled jun to venture into a more direct, vulnerable aspect of songwriting; asking is the phenomenal end result.

strung throughout asking is a skype conversation jun recorded with her mother, who lives in korea.  the conversation was a prime influence on jun while sculpting the album, and portions of it appear at the end of tracks, codas of sorts that often explore the album’s overarching themes in more explicit details.  such is the case with “sisters,” the third and final single from asking/bearing, which premieres below.

“sisters” feels as intimate as anything else found on asking, jun’s glitchy, pitch-shifted vocals skittering across a warm, sparse soundscape.  the track’s opening moments evoke a gentle plaintiveness and nostalgia intrinsically linked to music boxes; an innocent, consonant motif chimes throughout, occasionally bolstered by a gentle beat that jun guides through the chorus.  as “sisters” reaches its natural apex, jun correspondingly pushes her vocals into the realm of distorted agitation, an aural foreshadowing of the conversation jun and her mother will have soon after.

“‘sisters’ was the first track i started when writing the asking side of the album,” jun says when reached by e-mail.  “i was staying in a hot room in richmond, virginia at this queer diy house called ‘3 moons’ ran by my friends, and i wrote and recorded this there.  it was the summer of 2016 and very hot.”

cassette orders for asking/bearing have already begun shipping from hush hush records.  listen to “sisters” below.

Florist

photo courtesy of the artist

emily sprague’s output as florist is unparalleled.  across last year’s debut full-length, the birds outside sang, and its preceding extended play, 2015’s holdly, sprague created a perfect niche to lay her thoughts bare, one where sparse acoustic narratives can be processed alongside full-band ventures and more ambitious expeditions led by modular synthesizers.

“what i wanted to hold,” the first offering from florist’s upcoming sophomore album, skews more towards the former, with naught but soft strumming, root-note reinforcement, and some well-placed swells accompanying sprague’s vocal.  the end result is a singular environment, an invite-only expanse of pastoral fields filled with hues of the colors sprague explores throughout her lyrics.

if blue could be happiness is out september 29th via double double whammy.  listen to “what i wanted to hold” below.

 

IMG_0061.JPG

photo courtesy of the artist

alisa rodriguez has been building sprawling, droning landscapes under the moniker of apollo vermouth for the better part of a decade now.  armed usually with little more than her guitar and a sampler, rodriguez sculpts titanic walls of sound that are often as pensive as they are crushing.

after a rapid-fire succession of releases between 2012 and 2014, apollo vermouth’s output slowed considerably; crashing into nowhere, rodriguez’ first full-length in more than three years, came out last friday via orchid tapes.  its seven songs should supply familiar touchstones for long-time followers of the milwaukee-based artist, but a handful of new tracks meander into new territory with wondrous results.

we recently caught up with rodriguez via e-mail to chat about the evolution of songwriting, milwaukee’s experimental music scene, and translating ambient albums into a live setting.  check out the transcript below.

to the casual observer, milwaukee seems to have a flourishing music scene, and especially, a vibrant experimental/ambient niche. what’s your perception of the scene? what kind of cog is apollo vermouth within that machine?

i have sort of a love/hate relationship with milwaukee’s music scene.  it’s really hard to stand out with the music i make, but i think that can definitely be a good thing.  i try not to be afraid of coming off vulnerable.  i want people to have a reaction to the music, but it’s tough in milwaukee because it’s such a party city.  people have a tendency to turn a show into a social event and treat the music as background sound.  most experimental musicians i talk to around here feel the same way, especially at bar venues.  it’s sort of a great excuse for us to play louder.

your newest album, crashing into nowhere, is out on orchid tapes.  how did you connect with the label for this release?

i’ve known warren for years.  i first heard about his project foxes in fiction in the mid-2000s via a deerhunter fan message board.  i was a huge fan of his first album, swung from the branches, when it came out and have been following orchid tapes since he started it back in 2010.  we finally met in person in chicago when he was on tour opening for owen pallett.  warren is one of the most humble and sweetest musicians i’ve ever met.  about a year later, he contacted me about putting out an album on his label.  i was so flattered and practically jumped out of my chair when he asked.

has your songwriting process changed over time?  do you perceive any marked evolution?

definitely, yeah.  i took a break from songwriting after putting out fractured youth.  even where there were instances where i wanted to make music, i’d try, but i wasn’t making anything worthwhile.  i started questioning ending the project, but i didn’t feel comfortable ending apollo with an album like fractured youth.  it also feels like apollo vermouth will never really end; it’s sort of something i feel like i’ll always come back to, even when i’m taking a break working on something else.

it took about three months to make crashing into nowhere.  i recorded a few tracks at my practice space and the rest of the album was done at my house.  i typically use the first take with each track i work on, but this time i wanted to do the best that i could.  no more amateur hour.


“always there” and “reflections of” feature prominent vocals, a bit of a departure from this project’s vernacular.  “reflections of” in particular feels like a very singular component of your catalogue.  what was it like to approach a few apollo vermouth tracks from a collaborative standpoint?

after finishing fractured youth, i thought a lot about collaborating with other musicians i’m good friends with.  my boyfriend has always been my number one collaborator, but i wanted to work with friends that i admire a lot.

travis johnson of grooms is someone who i’ve admired for years, even before we became friends.  travis has such a distinct voice that feels like you’re listening to your guardian angel singing.  he’s a big influence on me, musically and spiritually.  i was excited to have him on board to sing on one of my songs.

i got one of my oldest, best friends, eli smith, to work on the song “reflections of.”  i gave him my guitar track and told him to do whatever he wanted with it.  he came back with something out of this world.  i was so pumped on his part and couldn’t get over the orchestral samples. he’s without a doubt the most talented musician i know.

the dense textures of ambient and drone music sometimes necessitate an approximation in a live setting, but i get the sense that your approach to composition is already often pretty minimalistic.  does the gear you use to record differ much from the gear you use when performing live?

not at all.  the only thing that’s slightly different for the live shows is that sometimes i can’t always emulate the recording due to me not remembering how to play a certain part, or even the whole song.  it’s partially my fault for only recording a song on the first take and ending it there.  i always admired the idea of certain musicians like william basinski and electronic artists who only play new music live or take songs to another level, like changing the progression.

you were actively plugging the documentary who took johnny” a year or so ago on twitter.  it’s an incredibly profound film that i don’t think i would have discovered without your social media connection, and you seem very invested in the issue of missing and exploited children overall.  does this advocacy extend to and become intertwined with your music?

yes.  it’s something i care a lot about and it can sometimes be emotionally challenging.  i won’t get into personal reasons why, but i think it’s important to help people.  a month ago, i was driving towards downtown milwaukee and i saw a billboard that read, “wisconsin is the 3rd highest in the nation for sex trafficking.”  it made my heart sink.

it’s sickening how big the trafficking industry is.  it happens in places you’d never think it would happen; it could happen down the street from your parents’ house.  it’s messed up.  who took johnny really opened my eyes to this terrible part of society.  i have a tendency to even get frustrated with people who don’t open their eyes and look around. it’s like i’m roddy piper from they live, with the sunglasses.  no one deserves to be taken advantage of, especially young children.

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space mountain forged artifacts

photo courtesy of the artist

space mountain is the artistic vessel for boston’s cole kinsler, one that has yielded a handful of introspective, folk-rock-oriented albums over the past few years.  kinsler will return with his latest, supermundane, out august 4th via the always-reliable forged artifacts.

an early sampling of supermundane suggests that the album will do anything but live up to its name; “white light” is a rambling, compelling introduction, one that fuses kinetic acoustic guitars and swirling organ leads with gusto before kinsler’s deep, distinctive warble consumes the track.  his baritone, replete with the slightest twang, is a compelling narrator, although the fuzzed-out melodic figures that percolate to the surface momentarily give the lyrics a run for their money.

“white light” is ripe for consumption at any time of day, as is riding this project’s namesake.  take a listen below.