Yumi Zouma 2

photo courtesy of aaron lee

here at the dimestore, we’re just counting down the hours until yumi zouma releases willowbank, their second full-length album in as many years.  the new zealand quartet excels at creating an intimate brand of pop that can switch from microscopic to expansive at a moment’s notice; for a sample, look no further than “half hour.”

the band’s latest single is muted, reflecting the somber subject matter of death and its baggage, but “half hour” opens up into an enveloping entity towards its end, an ensuring, calming embrace.  coupled with the black and white self-directed video found below, “half hour” is a welcomed change of pace for the advanced offerings yumi zouma have put forth ahead of their new album.

willowbank is out october 6th via the inimitable cascine.  check out the video for “half hour” below.

 

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pastel gabriel brenner

photo courtesy of the artist

last month, gabriel brenner released the latest extended play under his pastel moniker.  the los angeles-based artist uses the five songs that span absent, just dust to examine a concept of native erasure that is both familial and personal, a desire that stemmed from myriad recent events.

those familiar with pastel’s earlier work might anticipate another offering of celestial r&b; instead, the intimacy and vulnerability of this project’s subject matter necessitated a shift into a more ambient, experimental realm.  brenner’s commanding lead vocal still haunts tracks, like the standout cut “silhouette,” but absent, just dust is often shrouded in ominous pulses and static found sounds, a malleable canvas onto which brenner can interpret a bevy of emotions.

we were fortunate to catch up with brenner recently via e-mail and discuss all things absent, just dust: from compositional approach to an integration of visual art to brenner’s preference for shorter bodies of work.  a lightly-edited transcript, along with a full stream of the extended play, is presented below.

this new ep is a pretty explicit exploration of erasure.  what was the catalyst to delve into this personal topic?

i recently graduated from the art program at ucla, and i spent much of my last year there making video works largely surrounding my relationship with my native heritage.  these were ideas that i had spent a few years trying to work out (i tried sculpture, poetry, etc), and it just seemed to click with video.

this also happened to be around the same time that the nodapl resistance started gaining national attention.  there was a livestream video that a journalist had set up on facebook one night, showing militarized police cornering water protectors on a bridge, throwing tear gas at them, and spraying them with a water cannon in subzero temperatures.  i felt such a multitude of emotions, but i couldn’t quite put them into words.  or, rather, words just didn’t suffice.

in trying to understand my heritage, i’ve continually arrived at a similar loss.  i’m pima on my mother’s side and cherokee on my father’s.  neither side of my family knows much, if anything, about our people and culture, and it’s largely because of a long history of atrocities like this.  at base, so much of art is about making new language, and when the language wasn’t there for me, it made sense to process this through art, and later, music.

absent, just dust is also a bit of a sonic departure for you.  did the thematic material you explore necessitate the shift, or did the shift lead you to explore this thematic material?

it was a bit of both.  i had made the foundation for “haunt” and “silhouette” 2 years prior to the release, and sat on the music for so long because it was such a sonic departure for me.  it didn’t make sense with the rest of the music i had released prior and i didn’t know what to do with it.  when i started making the videos, the music suddenly made sense when placed within a similar conceptual framework.  from there, i started making the rest of the ep, and it continued to follow in the same sonic footsteps.


i think your project could be described as audio/visual, what with the photo book that accompanied bone-weary and the general thought and care that goes into the design of your cassettes.  how do you approach integrating photography and fine art with your music to create a cohesive whole?

i think because i come from a contemporary art background, i tend to think of music projects as visual art projects, too.  i think of the cassettes as art objects, and thus think it’s equally important that the visuals communicate nuanced, poetic ideas like the music.  i want listeners to know what i’m talking about in my music, and they can’t know deeply if the visuals are communicating something different than the music.

many, if not all, of your releases have been either standalone singles or extended plays.  do you find yourself gravitating towards a shorter format for any particular reason?

i’ve always been enamored by artists that can say a lot with very little.  it’s the difference between félix gonzález-torres and someone like matthew barney.  félix can communicate more to me with just a few light bulbs than barney can in five grandiose feature-length films because félix allows me ample space to sit with the particulars.

i think i always work towards a-lot-with-a-little because it’s so effective.  i’m also aware that my music asks for quite a bit of patience from the listener because it doesn’t reveal itself all too quickly.  i contemplated turning absent, just dust into a full length, but i couldn’t imagine asking a listener to sit even longer with a work that already felt a bit like an endurance piece at just five tracks.

to that end, do you anticipate releasing a full-length in the near future?

i guess it depends; if the work calls for a full-length, then it will be a full-length!  but i do think it’s long overdue, so we’ll see.

this ep is very heavy thematically and that weight manifests itself frequently in the arrangements, but i get an occasional sense of serenity, at least musically.  did making absent, just dust feel cathartic at any point?

“stammer” definitely felt cathartic to make.  i basically just hit record and started singing, and then worked with what i had.  the track is largely about the struggle to communicate without the right words, and letting my voice unfold to fill in the gaps was pretty freeing.

half of all proceeds made from absent, just dust will be donated to freshet collective, an organization providing legal services to the water protectors at standing rock.  a handful of cassettes are still available for purchase through pastel’s bandcamp, where digital versions of his entire catalogue can also be procured.

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Silver Torches

photo courtesy of chona kasinger

erik walters is poised to release his latest album as silver torches, let it be a dream, on october 6th.  after releasing the mid-tempo, melancholic earworm “if i reach” last month, walters and company returned earlier this week with “keep the car running,” a poignant burst that refines a focus on keyboard-driven americana.

the silver torches home base of seattle may not conjure up visions of wide open expanses, but cross the cascades into eastern washington and your tune will quickly change.  “keep the car running,” in all its narrative glory, might as well be wed to that singular desert landscape; between walters’ swaying cadence and a steadfast underlying propulsion, the band’s latest single almost demands to be experienced while meandering through rural america.

take a listen to “keep the car running” below.

Stanley

photo courtesy of the artist

ryan gebhardt recently began crafting a singular songwriting persona under the mononym stanley, sculpting a warm, lived-in iteration of guitar pop perfect for the changing seasons.  though the public unveiling of this project aligns rather nicely with his relocation to minneapolis, gebhardt actually wrote and recorded his self-titled debut full length in various locations on the east coast.

perhaps that’s why tracks like album standout “don’t you know i’m alright,” which comes on the heels of previous singles “daylight sun” and “brewin’ up,” feel like a pair of worn-in shoes, a troubadour’s foresight into a cross-country voyage.

at the forefront of most stanley compositions is a tandem force: gebhardt’s easy-going lead vocal and the bleary guitar melodies that meander in and out of the conversation.  “don’t you know i’m alright” is no exception; a mournful slide guitar swoops and slides across the verses before tightening up into a motif that’s as memorable and assured as the titular refrain.  warmth and ennui rarely collide in such a manner.

stanley is out september 22nd via the joint forces of forged artifacts and king forward records.  “don’t you know i’m alright,” the album’s third single, premieres below.  explore.

“album of the fortnight” is a (recently revived) bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: little kid

this site has extolled the virtues of the toronto-based outfit little kid for much of its existence.  while still approaching the band largely from a recording-project perspective, kenny boothby turned in the heavy, complex river of blood in 2013; last summer, after a prolonged, somewhat frustrating period of dormancy, boothby emerged with the sprawling flowers in hand and a solidified line-up in tow.  the stability of having a reliable pair of collaborators at hand is perhaps what led to the comparatively quick arrival of sun milk, little kid’s fourth full-length album, which the band self-released last week.

although just seven songs long, sun milk is a daunting, though thoroughly rewarding, body of work to consume.  one must traverse all the way to its coda before encountering a track that dips below the five-minute mark, and even then, “like a movie” arguably makes up in gravity what it lacks in length.  an exploration of ambient missives and noisy vamps that began on flowers is whittled down on its successor, maybe not to a more precise formula but certainly to one that breathes with the ease of seasoned veterans.

a self-inflicted allergy to electric guitars that afflicted boothby throughout the duration of flowers is immediately vanquished on sun milk; opening number “the fourth” bristles with saturation, as does the album’s centerpiece, “slow death in a warm bed,” ushering in perhaps the flat-out loudest iteration of little kid yet.  for a band that has long relied on outsized dynamic contrast for maximum effect, this embrace of grit only makes tracks like the lo-fi piano ballad “fog” that much more potent, as if an aural equivalent of the prodigal son returned and immediately became the workhorse of the entire operation.

little-kid

photo courtesy of the artist

perhaps as a reminder that songs do not solely exist within the vacuum of an album cycle, a recent track-by-track guide for gold flake paint deconstructed the various iterations that many songs on sun milk went through, sometimes over the course of years, before arriving in their presently-recorded form.  this copious vat of detailed information (highly recommended if this album resonates with you) serves to further underscore the immediacy that little kid has operated under: recording in quick, concentrated bursts, ensnaring whatever feels natural at that moment.

as little kid approaches a decade of existence, patience seems to be an overarching theme worthy of ascribing to the project.  the acquisition of both paul vroom and brodie germain as stable members – after years of a rotating cast of characters – has yielded two monumental albums in a row; as the songs on those aforementioned albums grow longer, they unfold with care and determination, and loose, meandering passages are seamlessly tightened up when the moment is right; the inner mechanisms of those aforementioned songs are a wonder to unpack, with arduous three-person synth wranglings, carefully-placed tape hiss, and poignant found sounds threading a lived-in, nostalgic narrative.

little kid is methodical, a songwriting refuge equally capable of volatile bursts of energy and muted, minimal passages of restraint.  with sun milk, the trio has crafted its strongest effort yet, a sprawling structure anchored by its sonic forebears and accented with intimate glimpses of a profound lyricist’s tireless explorations.  step inside and stay awhile.