musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

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Introducing… Soto Voce

Soto Voce

photo by Eddie Chacon

In this stark, chilling video for “Better” — a single released by Soto Voce earlier this year — disturbing images of violence and atrocities around the world becomes the backdrop of a more immediate, front-and-center persecution. The song received some attention when it was used in an episode of the ABC-TV drama series, How To Get Away With Murder, and recently a tech/deep house Speaking in Tongues remix appeared, but the original track is a darkly shaded, angsty stunner that requires no reinterpretation. Enjoy the slow burn.

Soto Voce, now based in Los Angeles, is the collaboration of Kenny Soto, a trans woman from the inner-city of Oakland, California and Miguel De Divo, an immigrant from Colombia. Their music, a smooth yet ferocious blend of R&B, ’80s new wave and ’90s industrial music, with elements of pop and hip-hop, was born of harsh and explosive upbringings. For Soto, it was growing up in tough Oakland schools as a female soul trapped in a male body, and learning to fight back against the constant bullying and persecution. Music became a sanctuary and an outlet. As Soto explains, “By the time I was 16 I had a lot of angst and I was rebelling and music was the thing I could go to to release a lot of pain and anguish and shit like that.”

For Miguel De Vivo (formerly with Villains), musical inspiration came from the sounds of his native Colombia (Spanish salsa, merengue and vayenato), and from family hardships when they were forced to escape to L.A. after his father, a port official, refused to collaborate with Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s trafficking cartel.

Kenny and Miguel were introduced by a mutual friend and immediately bonded over their musical influences. They combined Soto’s soft and sultry to ferocious vocals with Miguel’s shimmering to incendiary synth-fueled production. A furious three-year period of creativity culminated in the birth of Soto Voce. The duo’s name is derived from the Italian phrase sotto voce, which means to purposefully lower your voice for dramatic effect. Says Soto, “there’s also the mafia situation, if the big boss walks into the room it’s like ‘be quiet’ and there’s the idea that me or the band could have that kind of effect.”

Their spirit and sound lies in the duality of what Soto calls her “hyper-sensitive feminine personality” and the resilient varrior who has had to endure life’s slings and arrows. As one grows more comfortable in one’s own skin, power and creativity can take hold and flourish. The message is “perseverance, preservation and positivity.”

Soto Voce will be releasing their debut album in 2017.

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The Rebel Light’s Goodbye Serenade feel-good newsreel

“Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”
– David Bowie, Space Oddity

Are you feeling a little down? Boston lads The Rebel Light have created an amazingly inspirational video for their emotional song “Goodbye Serenade.” As they said in the email accompanying this breathtaking masterpiece —

“It has been a very dark and divided few days, so in the spirit of trying to remain positive in the face of so much adversity and negativity, we would like to share with you the video that we put together ourselves for our song Goodbye Serenade.

“We wanted to visually create something that highlights the power of the human spirit and the incredible accomplishments that mankind has achieved…

“It’s about how great we as a human race can truly be when we focus our energy into creating something positive in this world. It’s also a reminder that regardless of our differences we are all brothers and sisters.

“Our greatest achievements in history have come from tearing walls down… not by building them.”

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Live from the Caprice – Overdue Films’ New Boston Music Web Series

Live from the Caprice

Overdue Films, a Boston-area film collective, is launching a new web series that puts the spotlight on Boston music. “Live from the Caprice” isn’t a slickly produced television music program filmed in a swanky nightclub. Rather, this series documents musicians performing in the back seat of a 1985 Chevy Caprice as it takes us on a guided tour around the Boston area.

Their first installment features indie duo FBGM, who performs three songs while on a leisurely Sunday drive down route 117 from Waltham to Bolton. It’s a low-budget production with lavish musicianship. Check out their first song, “Dog Collar.”

This very cool ‘music on the move’ series was masterminded by filmmaker Jean-Paul DiSciscio and sound designer Ross Matthei. DiSciscio explains how their movable venue came to be.

“Ross and I had the idea to film mini-concerts in my 1985 Chevy Caprice after recording sound effects for our film, Bloody Henry, which features the car prominently. I tried to sell the Caprice for a hot minute, but only received low-ball offers. It made sense to just keep it on the road — it’s pretty much like driving a couch with wheels. The enormous size of the car fits five people, various instruments, and recording gear comfortably.”

And with that, a star was born. And hey, the musicians aren’t too shabby either.

FBGM hails from Arlington, Massachusetts and consists of Matt Jatkola and D. Orxata (formerly of Boston synth pop band, The Bynars). For the cruise in the Caprice, they performed, along with “Dog Collar,” their song “Sassy Fran” and a cover of the Breeders’ “Fortunately Gone.” The rest of the session can be seen and heard on the series’ website.

Follow the exploits of Live from the Caprice for future sessions. Vrrrrrooooom!

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Introducing… Anna Atkinson

In the first single from her new album, Anna Atkinson takes us on a trip down memory lane. Wistful nostalgia never sounded so good, with her angelic voice and sparse, old-timey strings. It’s a quiet story, beautifully told, of being a descendant of family members who were craftspeople and creators, whether it was a pair of shoes, wood carvings, visual art, quilts or a family feast. Through the ages, they survived war, poverty and suffering. As we watch her revisit her family home, now boarded up and derelict, we see a quilt being sewn. It’s sad and hopeful at the same time, filled with sweet remembrance, admiration and a lot of love. It seems to be a celebration of humankind’s enduring spirit, to continue to create through hardship, and especially the idea of creating a vibrant and meaningful life together as a family.

“When we weave our sad stories together
Maybe we could knit a sweater
Gather silk scraps and cashmere
Embroidery threads
Morsels of blankets all tattered, in shreds
And the quilts that our mothers unfurled on our beds
When we were young”

– When We Were Young

As Atkinson explains,

“When I was a child, my mother had a subscription to ARTnews, and one edition had an article about a Canadian artist — Janet Morton — who knit a sweater for a house on Ward’s Island. I thought it was the most amazing concept and it was the initial inspiration for the song — its working title (Sweater For A House) came from that.”

Her new album is called Sky Stacked Full, and it features David Occhipinti. She wrote the songs over a 10-year span and spent five months recording at CBC Studio 211 in Toronto.

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Introducing… Jono Josh

Jono Josh

It’s a confusing exercise, trying to find one’s place in the world and a sense a purpose. All the distractions that take us farther from ourselves, to the point where we have to fight our way back. Jono Josh understands this type of yearning, and it’s what inspired his song “Birds” from his Outside EP, being released this month.

“Birds do not need the world to be explained. But I do.”– Birds

As sung by a cast of friends, “Birds” becomes everyone’s story — a shared experience of one’s search for identity and meaning in a world that can often feel overwhelming and incomprehensible. This yearning is beautifully expressed — when not with raw honesty, with a searing guitar solo.

Musically and emotionally influenced by the time spent with his mother in Canada’s Juno award winning Toronto Mass Choir, Juno Josh sings with an old soul gravitas, infusing his soulful, gospel tinged music with pain, joy and a lot of heart. His musical heroes include Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Son Lux, James Blake and Amy Winehouse, and his mission is to “paint a picture of truth for people to connect to.” In addition to his personal songwriting and heart-tugging vocals, he is also a choreographer and dancer.

As a choreographer, Jono Josh has worked with artists such as Jesse Labelle, manifest and Kirk Franklin, and he choreographed a piece to raise awareness for the problems in Haiti, which aired on Canada’s CBC in 2015. He has performed with a diverse collection of artists including Aleesia, Sean Desmond, Toronto Mass choir, Marianas Trench, Psy and many more. It’s now time for him to step into his own spotlight.


He describes his musical upbringing and explains the meaning of “Birds” —

“I grew up in a family where everything seemed easy. I didn’t know otherwise. It wasn’t until I grew up that my realized how hard my parents worked to put food on the table when I was little. We were always singing and dancing, no matter what happened that’s just what we did. My brothers and I would break dance and my mom would sing to us. Music was our way of pushing through the storm… my song ‘Birds’ is about that —

“When I wrote ‘Birds’ I was looking for answers to questions that I felt most people ask. Looking for an identity, purpose, self-reliance. At times when I asked these tough questions it felt overwhelming but I realized that the only way I would find the answers was if I kept asking and looking. I hope that ‘Birds’ at the very least opens a dialogue about finding resonance in a world of dissonance.” — Jono Josh

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Introducing… Jackson Reed

Jackson Reed

The thing about nostalgia is: it belongs firmly in the past. If it’s a wistful regret, this means that either we’re romanticizing the past or we haven’t put sufficient energy and attention toward creating a satisfying present. If it’s a shuddering remembrance of mistakes made years ago, then it’s time to learn from those mistakes and move beyond them into a wiser tomorrow. In the case of Jackson Reed’s “Generation Vietnam,” it’s a little of both.

JACKSON REED – Generation Vietnam from Southern Souls on Vimeo.

He describes the song as being “about U.S.A’s military conscription in the 1960’s and imaging men my age being chosen randomly for the Vietnam War. Living in the music and drug culture of the 60’s would be fun, but on the other hand, incredibly scary if you were forced to go to war.” Sadly, it seems that our world’s history is built upon the wars fought and as such, a reality where young men (and women) are sent off to fight someone else’s battles is just one dangerous leader and one bad decision away. This simple fact gives a song like this a contemporary dark undertone.

With his solo album The November Gales EP, Reed returns to music after a three-year hiatus. The album was engineered by Jonas Bonnetta at Port William Sound, mastered by Gavin Gardiner at Lacquer Channel and artwork is drawn by Kyle Field of Little Wings. It comes out on October 14 on Deadplant Records.

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Introducing… Dark Mean

Dark Mean

The gentle, laid back Canadian indie folk band Dark Mean must have been named by an anagram aficionado, as they are neither dark nor mean. Actually, Billy Holmes, Sandy Johnston and Mark Dean (a.k.a. Dark Mean, get it?), on their new song “Settle Down,” sound quite light and pleasant, if perhaps a bit wistful. A pretty guitar melody ambles along in a acoustic folksy vein, with a shuffling drum beat and mellow vocals drifting in like a soft daydream. With a simple, sweet piano melody and cymbal flourishes, the dream expands and carries you off. It’s a soothing balm for our harsh, chaotic world.

This past year, the band has been “quietly chipping away” in the studio. Based in Hamilton and Ottawa, they’re accustomed to extended breaks and collaborating via cell phones, Skype calls and filesharing, so coming together for a proper session is something special. For an indie band, balancing everyday life and band life isn’t easy, amidst busy schedules and the occasional show tossed in the middle. But when they do manage to create music together, if the result is something as satisfying as this, then it’s definitely worth the wait.

This new song was recorded, mixed and produced by Michael Kaire and mastered by Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering.

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Introducing… WTCHS

What begins as a deceptively simple gothic minimalist dirge slowly builds into a hypnotic oddessey that travels through exotic goth, free jazz, industrial, experimental noise soundscapes. With a barrage of sound that ebbs and flows like insistent ocean waves, just four words and a few subtle variations on “you own your bones,” the attentive listener is teased, confirmed, queried, seduced, challenged, stirred to action, soothed.” The repetition with its gradually evolving complexity is as revelatory as a classical Phillip Glass or Terry Riley piece. This is headbanging, cleansing, trance-enducing, life-affirming, meditative music of the highest order.

“You Own Your Bones” is from their debut album She Walks, She Creeps, which comes out on October 28 on Sonic Unyon. The vinyl release is limited to 500 copies worldwide, and you can order that or a digital copy (vinyl comes with a digital copy as well), directly from Sonic Unyon. The song was recorded in one take, and is their first new music in more than two years after various line-up changes. The video was filmed and edited by Mitch Fillion, and the music was recorded and mixed by Sean Pearson at Boxcar Studios.

In an Exclaim interview, this Hamilton, Ontario band explained the gestation of their album. “Recording this record become our therapy. We didn’t care about how long or when it was going to be finished. The urgency, the chaos amongst the songs are real. It was our anxieties, our demons that sit amongst the endless layers of frenzied guitars, using suitcases for drums at times, mellotrons, and a brass section to create something that was boiling on the surface. It’s like we were given a second chance, a much needed change to bring an ounce of peace to our aching, tortured souls.”

“acceptance, acceptance of yourself and others amongst the chaos of the universe. you answer to no one but yourself.”

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Bridges and Powerlines’ National Fantasy

photo by Mara Abols

photo by Mara Abols

Brooklyn’s Bridges and Powerlines are releasing a new album in October called National Fantasy (Devise Records). This album was two years in the making. Kieran Kelly, who worked on Sufjan Stephen’s Illinoise, produced it, Mattie Safer (The Rapture) contributed backing vocals, and it’s a lovely thing indeed. In fact, there’s a positive, upbeat vibe here that’s not unwelcomed. A little vintage, easy-going, fuzzy and feel good — not to mention those pretty harmonies throughout.

National Fantasy is their third full-length album. Their debut, Ghost Types was released in 2007, followed by Eve in 2011. They’ve toured extensively with bands such as The Antlers, HEALTH, Chappo and Clues. More recently, while they were working on this new album, they were also building their own professional recording studio and, if that wasn’t enough to keep themselves busy, they opened a live music venue, Gold Sounds, in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn.

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Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys – Up to their Old (New) Tricks with Come Black Magic!

Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys (Courtesy of Jenny Bergman)

Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys (Courtesy of Jenny Bergman)

Performing LIVE at The Sinclair on Friday, September 9 with Ruby Rose Fox and Mount Peru == ::: BUY TICKETS NOW!! :::

Now for something entirely different. Well, not so different if you’ve been a regular reader of Musings from Boston, as we’ve often spoken fondly of Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys. As always, they’ve been up to crazy big doings. Their amazing new album Come Black Magic will be officially unveiled at The Sinclair in Cambridge in what promises to be one of those legendary events that people will bragging about having been at years from now. The new album was premiered with a fascinating profile of and interview with the band by WBUR’s The ARTery.

As I’m racing to get this posted, all I will say about this fine music is 1) It’s ever bit as powerful and completely overwhelming as anything this phantasmagoria of a musical theatre troupe has ever done, and then some and 2) you might not want to listen to it just before you go to bed.

Get thee to The Sinclair on Friday night in your most exotic finery. And sweet dreams.

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